The flexitarian diet aims to eat a balanced, mostly vegetarian diet, while still occasionally consuming animal products.
It is a popular diet, ranking as one of the most favoured just after the Mediterranean diet.
Keep reading to learn more about this eating style, including its benefits and impact on weight loss.
The flexitarian diet is a combination of the words ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’. It has been adopted by many people trying to reduce their meat intake without giving up animal products completely.
It’s straightforward and doesn’t involve counting calories or any other strict rules. It focuses on balance, letting you enjoy meat or fish in moderation. If you’ve been considering vegetarianism, the flexitarian diet can be an ideal first step.
There are, however, some guidelines around the quantity and type of meat you should eat. On the days you decide to eat animal products, choose organic, free-range meat and wild fish (wherever possible).
There are 3 different stages to the flexitarian diet. Each stage prompts you to decrease your meat intake little by little:
When going flexitarian, you should include less meat and more nutrient-dense foods. This includes:
Examples from each of these food groups can be found in the following shopping list:
It’s also important to consider which condiments you add to your food. Instead of sauces like ketchup and mayonnaise (which are high in sugar, salt, or fat), consider opting for:
When following a flexitarian diet, it’s best to avoid:
Remember to limit meat and fish depending on which stage of the diet you are in.
The main benefits of a flexible vegetarian diet are health-related. A review ofon this specific diet found that it has the potential to:
- improve cardiovascular health
- lower the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes
- offer potential benefits for IBD patients
- lower the incidence of cancer
- cut down the chances of developing obesity
- promote better skin health
These results are based on the fact that the diet contains a lower intake of meat.
Below is a table highlighting some pros and cons of the flexitarian diet:
|Health and variety - it pushes you to add more vegetables and other healthy grains to your diet||Nutrient deficiencies - cutting down on meat and fish can result in lower iron, B12, Omega 3s, zinc and calcium|
|Price - as you cut down on meat and fish consumption, you will reduce the most expensive items on your shopping list||It can be a challenge for daily meat eaters - this is why it’s advisable to follow a staged approach where you cut out animal products slowly|
|Reduced social unease - you don’t feel like the odd one out at social events as you can still enjoy meat or fish from time to time||Potential for disordered eating - there is someto suggest that diets which restrict certain foods are more likely to cause eating disorders|
|Environment and ethics - lower carbon footprint (resulting from a lower intake of meat)||Lack of protein - by cutting down on meat, you might struggle to find vegetarian protein replacements, opting for carb-heavy meals instead|
Please note: Although this diet has been found to prevent many chronic health conditions, it is advisable that people who already have diabetes seek more personalised advice before deciding to follow this diet.
The flexitarian diet can help with weight loss, however, it isn’t guaranteed. It largely depends on the types of food you choose to consume in replacement of meat and fish.
For example, if you switch to fresh vegetables and whole grains instead of processed vegetarian products, you are more likely to lose weight.
The main focus of this diet is to reduce your meat intake. But, weight loss can be a positive and unexpected outcome if you eat mostly non-processed foods.
The flexitarian diet is quite similar to the more well-known Mediterranean diet. While there are some subtle differences, both diets focus on promoting whole foods and avoiding anything ultra-processed.
Overall, both diets have been linked with successful health outcomes and can promote weight loss when calorie control is considered to a certain degree.
If you’re considering reducing your meat intake, try to follow these top tips to make the most out of the flexitarian diet.
The following meal plan is based on stage 2 of the flexitarian diet. Three days are vegetarian and the others incorporate some meat or fish.
The flexitarian diet promotes a more vegetarian way of eating, giving you the flexibility to include meat, poultry or fish on occasion. There are no strict rules or calorie counting.
However, if you are thinking about following this plan for weight loss, then portion control is also an important factor to consider.
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