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What to Know About the Flexitarian Diet

cooking healthy on a flexitarian diet

If you care about the environment or feel bad for animals, but yearn for that juicy steak, there’s a diet out there that lets you choose healthful and sustainable meals without giving up on meat entirely. Many people have heard of diets such as vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian, but have you heard of a flexitarian diet (FD)? There seems to be so many new terms popping up, it’s hard to keep up with all of them. People who have the desire to switch to a flexitarian diet do it for environmental reasons, health reasons, or just for the sake of animals. Whatever your reason is, it is important to know what the diet entails before jumping right into it.

The definition is actually in its name, flexible plus vegetarian. The diet sticks to a vegetarian one that occasionally includes meat, fish and poultry. Being a flexitarian gives you the wiggle room of being a vegetarian without strict limitations. So, enjoying a burger every now and then won’t affect your conscience. The diet is appealing because there are no real rules to becoming a flexitarian. The basic idea is to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts in your diet while reducing the intake of animal-based foods. If you have chosen to switch to an FD, you can experiment by starting with a Meatless Monday, since skipping meat once a week may be an easier transition.

The health and environmental benefits of flexitarianism aren’t as prominent as they are with strict vegetarian diets, but there are still many valid reasons for eating meatless meals more often. A study published in 2016 found that although a strict vegetarian diet can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 34 percent, a flexitarian diet can reduce the risk by 20 percent. Another study released in 2016 predicted that a flexitarian diet could reduce global mortality by up to 10 percent and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 percent. The bottom line is that you don’t need to eliminate meat entirely to reap the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The flexibility of the diet may lead individuals to actually stick to it in the long run.

Written by: Michelle Tran, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.

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