The Flexitarian Diet is a type of eating strategy that leans toward vegetarianism but without being strict about it. Its name was created as a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” Overall, people who follow this diet will eat considerably less meat than the average person, but don’t completely give it up.
The concept was created by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet book. The book provides a short eating habit assessment that allows the reader to choose how they might want to start with this type of diet lifestyle.
When following the Flexitarian Diet, there aren’t any foods that are actually off limits. However, the overall goal of this eating strategy is to eat considerably more plant-based food overall while reducing the amount of meat being consumed. A beginner flexitarian is someone who has two days per week in which they do not eat any meat. That said, an advanced flexitarian is someone who does not eat any meat for 3 to 4 days per week. The highest level of flexitarian is an expert, who is someone who eats a minimum of 5 meatless days per week.
The main purpose of the Flexitarian Diet is to reduce the number of meatless days you have every week. That said, this can be a goal the follower reaches over time. There is an understanding that gradual changes are better than going cold turkey, so to speak, as making changes too quickly can be overwhelming to many people.
According to Blatner’s book, there are several shifts people can make in order to add additional meatless meals to a day and more meatless days to the week. There are also a number of recipes offered throughout the book to help support the addition of plant-based meals for people who need additional inspiration because they’re used to cooking with meat most days of the week.
The main limitations associated with this diet have to do with the degree of change needed in order to replace meat based meals with plant based ones. For some, this change comes quite naturally and involves the inclusion of familiar foods, but for others, this requires a dramatic change from the types of recipes they use the most. Therefore, there is a significant learning curve, including a broad discovery of new ingredients and recipes as well as the sources of those new additions.
Many people find that once they come to know the ingredients they want to start using for their new plant based recipes, the cooking and meal preparation habits don’t have to change very much. They may involve different ingredients, but they don’t require any more or less time than they previously required.
As this diet is less restrictive than a more traditional form of vegetarianism, many people find that it is easier to adopt and stick to over the long term. It means that they can focus on eating primarily plant based meals without having to give up some of their favorite meat-based options altogether. It is the flexibility of the Flexitarian Diet that helps it to work for many people.