What Does a Flexitarian Diet Include?

May 16, 2021
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A Guide to Flexitarianism & Its Key Benefits

It’s difficult to navigate the internet without seeing an article or blog post telling you how to eat and how what you’re currently eating is wrong. Most times these are not supported by scientific studies or experts on nutrition. If you love food and flavor, a diet can seem synonymous with abandoning that love.

A flexitarian diet has the science and accessibility that the trendy diets don’t. Flexitarians have a variety of choices of foods and flavors to build their diet. It won’t force you to give up your favorite dish and settle for flavorless substitutes. In addition to the personal benefits, it's a diet that can improve our impact on the environment.

What Is Flexitarianism?

So, what does it mean to be a flexitarian? You may already be one without knowing it. Flexitarianism focuses on moderation, specifically when it comes to meat. The guiding philosophy is that we as humans are natural omnivores and benefit from the inclusion of meat in our meals. However, the amount of meat that is healthy to consume is much less than what is encouraged today.

There is no hard specification as to how much meat you need in your diet. Everyone’s body may have different nutritional needs. For some, this moderation may look like smaller portions of meat with their meals, or it could be having meat with only one meal a day, others it may be once a week. It is not a competition for who can eat the least animal product, but rather a personal journey as to what your body will thrive on. 

If you’re wondering the difference between flexitarian vs vegan, in veganism, all animal products are cut out of the diet, where flexitarianism allows meat in moderation.

Can I Be a Flexitarian?

The answer to this is one you get to decide, however, it is possible, doable and even easy. Master’s of Science student,  Kathryn J. Ver Schage, describes in her study “Identifying Commonly Perceived Benefits and Barriers to Vegetarian and Flexitarian Diets,” that participants’ top concerns were really about the habits of their family and friends who regularly ate meat. They felt awkward in the face of social norms. Given the benefits, these are not huge barriers. 

The openness of the flexitarian practice allows for a diverse set of dishes and your current favorites in your diet. Instead of abandoning these favorite meals, it encourages exploration into more plant-based substitutes. 

At Arlene, our chefs are breaking down these barriers that may deter you from low-meat diets. Arlene’s meals are examples of the possibilities offered by flexitarianism. Our plant-based options offer flavorful additions to a fully vegetarian diet and a flexitarian one.

What Are the Health Benefits?

There are great potential health benefits to a flexitarian diet. Nutritionist, Dr. Emma J. Derbyshire, documents these benefits in her study “Flexitarian Diets and Health: A review of Evidence-Based Literature.” Derbyshire describes how “It [the flexitarian diet] also considers evidence that long-term consumption of increasing amounts of red meat and particularly processed meat may increase the risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer such as colon cancer.”

Vegetarianism and Flexitarianism have positive impacts on individuals body weight, can reduce the chances of certain cancers, lessen diabetic instances and  metabolic syndrome, improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). In addition to specific health conditions benefiting from this diet, there was an overall improvement in individuals meeting their nutritional needs.

Specifically, improvements were seen in the macronutrient profiles and Diet Inflammatory Index scores. While there are still more studies being done, there is a clear correlation between reduced-meat diets and improvements in individual’s health.

In recent years, there has been a lot of research done that indicates the benefits of the flexitarian diet for athletes. Athletes are able to get their key nutrients by eating more plant based food while supplementing their nutrition with meat products.

Can Flexitarianism Help the Environment?

Beyond the potential of improving our individual health, flexitarianism has the potential to improve the health of our planet. As Doctor Dana Hunnes states when describing University of California Los Angeles’s (UCLA) push towards plant-based eating, “If each and every person in the United States gave up meat and dairy products on one or more days of the week…  we would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions.” 

The full environmental impact goes beyond reduced carbon emissions. It includes saving previous water, space for animals and plants to thrive and more. As a flexitarian, by substituting plant-based foods for meat once a week, you could be a part of something that could change our relationship with our environment for the best.

A Diet Food Lovers Can Love

Across cultures and traditions, food can hold a special place in our lives. Whether a family recipe or your go-to order at your favorite restaurant, it’s not something we can give up easily. However, the beauty of flexitarianism can be found in the name itself. The diet is, as you may have guessed, flexible and you don’t have to give up the food you love or your love for food. 

Through moderation of meat and exploration of plant-based substitutes, it’s possible to achieve better health and leave a positive impact on their environment. Arlene is an example of where love and plant-based foods meet. With a variety of options that don’t compromise on flavor, our chefs have made food for food lovers. Flexitarianism can be an easy transition for anyone looking to reduce their consumption of meat and favor plant-based foods.