What is a flexitarian? How to eat less meat and have a more eco-friendly diet
By Maryam Sheikh
My Explore page on Instagram is constantly made up of recipes from various different food bloggers and health specialists. I’m quite the foodie, so this doesn’t surprise me; however, the number of different diets out there does!
I’ve come across vegan, gluten free, paleo, keto, and dairy free diets, just to name a few. While it can get confusing at times, it amazes me how creative people can get with their food choices! Experimenting with different meals can add an element of joy to your day, and finding recipes that can help you lead a healthier lifestyle is always a plus. Recently, I have seen an increase in plant-based diets, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about them.
People choose to go plant-based (or meat/animal product free), for a variety of reasons. Some have allergies or environmental concerns, others adhere to religious guidelines, and some simply strive to shift towards a healthier lifestyle.
In this article, I will provide an overview of the “flexitarian” diet and provide some tips on reducing meat intake in order to shift towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
For starters, let’s discuss where the term “flexitarian” originates from. The term is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian,” essentially indicating that those who follow a flexitarian diet try to limit their meat intake and instead focus on plant-based meals.
The flexitarian diet provides a great solution for people who want to be more conscious of their impact on the environment without requiring an intensely restrictive approach. Eating out and consuming meat/animal products from time to time is completely allowed.
So, when exactly did the flexitarian diet become popular? It all started when Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian nutritionist, coined the term in her book called The Flexitarian Diet. It was ranked a top plant-based diet by US News & World Report. Her book includes recipes, meal plans, grocery lists, advice, strategies for healthy living, and more.
The diet promotes protein through the consumption of foods other than meat, such as beans, lentils, peas, nuts, and seeds. It also places an emphasis on eating a plethora of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other legumes. A low intake of red meat can potentially lead to low iron levels, so it is recommended that flexitarians incorporate alternative sources of iron in their meals.
The flexitarian diet is a great option for individuals looking to slowly decrease their animal consumption. It encourages people to focus on eating natural food instead of processed food. It also limits added sugar and other sweets. In addition, it can help in protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions along with land and water use.
Overall, the flexitarian diet targets people looking for an eco-friendly, healthy, and flexible lifestyle. It can be adapted to each individual’s personal needs, making it accessible and comprehensive. Moreover, it is not restrictive, which helps those interested in adapting it at their own pace. Meal options are endless and many recipes average five main ingredients.
How does one get started? I’ve gathered some tips that can help!
- Reconsider portion sizes.
- Change your meal portions so that meat isn’t the focal point of your meal. Instead consider including it as a side dish and opt instead for veggies or lentils as your main dish.
- Add a twist to longtime favourites.
- Think about how your favourite dishes can be tweaked to allow for less meat intake. For example, consider replacing beef or chicken in tacos with beans or tofu!
- Spice up your grocery list.
- Look for new food items to add onto your list. Gather inspiration from food bloggers, websites, and cookbooks. This way, you will be excited and motivated to alter your diet!
Remember, each person has different dietary needs! Always remember to nourish your body with what is best for you. Trying something new once in a while doesn’t hurt, but please ensure that you are proceeding with a lifestyle that ensures you get all the energy you need to function optimally.