You may thought of going vegetarian or vegan after hearing about all the health and environmental benefits. But hamburgers are just so darn good, you can’t stand the thought of giving them up for good. If this refrain sounds familiar, then the flexitarian diet may be the perfect solution to your dietary woes.
Combining “flexible” with “vegetarian,” the term “flexitarian” became “a thing” around 2012 when it became an entry in the dictionary. The word is defined as a person “whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.” That diet sounds a lot easier for many people than reading labels and eschewing products that include meat and animal by-products.
True to its meaning, the flexitarian diet is flexible and allows for the possibility of numerous recipes whether you choose to follow those in cookbooks devoted to the practice or create your own. You have no rigid guidelines to follow. You simply eat vegetarian or vegan most of the time and don’t stress if you “slip” and enjoy seafood or steak on occasion.
Rather than trying to avoid meat, the flexitarian diet encourages eating more vegetarian and plant-based meals. This plan can also help your mindset as you move away from meat and start enjoying more plant-based sources of protein such as beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy. And the diet doesn’t mean that you have to get creative when you order out or enjoy social functions where animal proteins may be served.
To start, experts recommend skipping meals that contain meat just two days a week and decreasing your consumption from there. You can also follow the advice of other flexitarian experts who encourage you to eat vegan all day but enjoy steak or chicken for dinner. Generally, most meat portions are supersized, so you can break them up into several servings of only 3 to 5 ounces each.
The flexitarian diet plan is rated as the number three diet plan overall by U.S. News, following on the heels of the top-ranked DASH and Mediterranean diets. The benefits of a flexitarian diet are very similar to those of vegetarian or vegan diets: a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) and lower risk of serious diseases and health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. While vegetarians and vegans often need to worry about protein sources and augmenting their diet with B12 supplements, flexitarians are able to obtain protein and vitamins naturally, through food sources.
For people who are used to calorie counting, the flexibility of the flexitarian diet can seem a little loose. But because the plan is flexible, you can still count calories and use the plan as a way to lose weight, increase your veggie intake, or reach any other of your health and diet goals.
Another benefit of the flexitarian diet is that it’s fairly easy on the wallet. While other diets often require you to purchase specific guidelines or invest in specific foods, the flexitarian diet should keep your grocery bill about the same or a little less since you buy less meat in favor of cheaper and healthier protein sources.
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