Everything…with some foods consumed in moderation. Flexitarians focus on plant and fungi foods like vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, alternative proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds while limiting animal products like meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. Some flexitarians also limit their intake of added sugar and ultra-processed foods and beverages.
Flexitarian Diet 101: Clearing Up Confusion, and Benefits
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Flexitarian Diet 101: Clearing Up Confusion, Benefits, & Meal Plan
by Carley, Move to Root
The term “flexitarian diet” has been used habitually by the health, wellness, and food industries for many years now. We’ve seen it in blog posts and advertisements, on product packaging, and to describe celebrities and socialites. But do we even really know what “flexitarian” means?
There seems to be some confusion around the flexitarian definition and we’re here to clear some of that up. We’ll also provide insight into the various benefits of a flexitarian diet as well as a sample flexitarian meal plan. Let’s dive in.
Flexitarian Diet: What is it?
As you likely gathered from its name, a flexitarian diet is a flexible vegetarian diet. A flexitarian may refer to themself as a semi-vegetarian or quasi-vegetarian. Unlike many other eating patterns, a flexitarian diet is described more accurately by what its observers do eat rather than the foods they choose to omit. In general, it can be thought of as a plant-heavy diet that incorporates animal foods in moderation. What is considered “moderation,” you may wonder? Well, that depends on who you ask. Most flexitarians consume between 9 and 28 ounces of animal meat per week, and many also choose to limit their intake of dairy as well as other animal products1.
What does a flexitarian food list consist of?
A typical flexitarian will consume a wide range of foods. This makes the flexitarian diet one of the most appealing and easy-to-follow dietary regimens. Many people are drawn to it because it’s simple, versatile, and encompasses all types of foods to some degree. For these reasons, the flexitarian diet is ranked as the #2 Best Diet Overall on U.S. News’ Best Diet Rankings after the Mediterranean Diet1.
Most flexitarians primarily eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, alternative proteins, oils, moderate amounts of eggs and dairy products, and, as we mentioned, a limited amount of meat and ultra-processed products.
Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas)
Nuts and nut butters
Alternative proteins (plant-based, fungi-based, algae-based, and lab grown)
Oils, herbs, and spices
Eat in moderation:
Poultry and meat
Added sugar and ultra-processed foods & beverages
Flexitarian Diet: Pros & Cons
There are numerous benefits of a flexitarian style of eating. Most revolve around health, ethics, and accessibility. Let’s explore some of the most significant advantages.
Potential Health Benefits
For optimal health, dietitians across the globe recommend increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, and fungi like mushrooms or Nature’s Fynd’s Fy Protein™. A flexitarian diet consists precisely of that. A plant (and fungi!)-forward diet such as the flexitarian diet that focuses on reducing meat intake boasts health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and several types of cancers2. And the perks of a flexitarian lifestyle don’t stop at human health. Reduced meat and dairy intake also go hand-in-hand with environmental and animal welfare improvements.
Environment and Animal Welfare Advantages
It’s no secret that the health of the environment is in jeopardy. There is indisputable evidence illustrating that the Earth is heating up at an alarming rate—a consequence primarily due to human activity3. A significant portion of environmental destruction is due to factory farming to produce animal products. Animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—more than the combined exhaust from all modes of transportation4. A desire to offset these damages is one admirable reason why some individuals choose to transition to a flexitarian diet. Research indicates that adopting a more plant and fungi-focused flexitarian diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52 percent5.
Ease of Compliance
Perhaps the most attractive characteristic of the flexitarian diet is its pliability. Rather than adhere to a strict set of rules, most flexitarians prefer to focus on one overarching goal: to reduce their consumption of animal products. What this means differs widely from flexitarian to flexitarian. Some may consume meat once or twice per week, while others choose only to eat animal products when no other options are available. Contrasted with more rigid diets like vegetarianism and veganism, the distinctive flexibility of the flexitarian diet makes it easy to follow and reduces pressure on its participants.
What foods do flexitarians eat?
How often do flexitarians eat meat?
It varies by individual. Most flexitarians consume between 9 and 28 ounces of animal meat per week6.
Do flexitarians eat dairy?
Some do, and some don’t. Most flexitarians try to limit the amount of dairy that they consume or aim for consumption of dairy from local vendors7.
What are the disadvantages of the flexitarian diet?
As with any lifestyle change, shifting to a flexitarian diet may take some time and energy. Until it becomes ingrained in your life, you might find that you’re prepping and cooking more than previously due to the increase in fresh food consumption. But don’t let that dissuade you! The benefits are likely to far outweigh any challenges.8
A flexitarian diet is an easy-to-follow regimen that can help improve your health, the health of the planet, and the welfare of animals. Whether it is your first step towards completely cutting out meat or your end goal, a flexitarian diet is, no doubt, a fantastic choice for you.
Unsure of where to go from here? Start experimenting with some of our delicious fungi-based, flexitarian-friendly recipes!