14 Jul What is the Flexitarian Diet and Should you be following it?
What do you get when you combine flexibility with a vegetarian diet? The Flexitarian Diet! In her 2009 book “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life”, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner explains how you can incorporate the benefits of a vegetarian diet without feeling deprived of meat. Ranked #2 in Best Diets Overall by U.S. News World and Report, this meal plan includes adding five food groups to your diet: “new meat” (vegetarian protein sources like beans, peas or eggs); fruits and veggies; whole grains; dairy; and sugar and spice. Benefits of this flexible approach to eating suggest that people may not only lose weight but can also improve their overall health, lower their rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and live longer. So, should you be following the Flexitarian Diet? Here are some pros and cons to find out if it is right for you.
- Flexibility: Since the meal plan encourages you to incorporate more vegetables and plant-based proteins while still allowing meat consumption, you can honor cravings for meat without feeling deprived. Aim to make 25% of the plate meat, poultry, or fish; 25% whole grains such as brown rice or whole grain pasta; and 50% veggies. The diet emphasizes flexibility so that you don’t have to stick to any rules all day, every day.
- Affordability: Most plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils are more affordable than red meat and poultry. Since you also don’t need special food and can work with your current meal plan, this diet proves to be more affordable.
- Weight Loss: Some research shows that vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body mass index than those that eat meat regularly. If you consume lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains on this meal plan, you’ll likely feel full on fewer calories than you’re accustomed to. Combined with increased physical activity, this may result in weight loss.
- Easy: Dawn Jackson Blatner provides a ton of healthy recipes in her book without an excess amount of prepping involved. On average, each recipe calls for only 5 main ingredients and grocery lists are provided in the book. Eating out at restaurants socially with friends and family is also allowed, with tips in the book on how to manage it while sticking to the diet.
- Lack of nutrients: Vegan and vegetarian diet followers may not be getting enough vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and omega-3s. Registered dietitians can help clients meet diet preferences with appropriate education and guidance. When preparing meals, make sure to get a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fats from a variety of food groups so you don’t lack essential nutrients.
- Generalized: The average number of calories for the Flexitarian meal plans is around 1,500 calories per day, which might be too low for some people to maintain. Book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD/RDN) to get a more individualized meal plan to make sure you are getting enough for your lifestyle.
- Non-Intuitive: It can be difficult to tune into the body’s own cravings and intuitions such as hunger and fullness when following a meal plan. Try to maintain a balance of using the Flexitarian guide without ignoring your own intuition.
Here is what a sample day looks like when following a flexitarian diet.
- Breakfast: Avocado Toast (sprouted whole grain toast with avocado, spinach, and egg);
- Lunch: Kale Ranch Bowl (chicken or chickpeas, chopped kale and tomatoes, roasted sweet potato cubes, and ranch dressing)
- Dinner: Tacos (seasoned whitefish or lentils, corn tortillas, cabbage slaw, guacamole, and salsa)
- Snack: Apple and pecans and/or cucumber plus hummus.
The Flexitarian Diet is one that allows you to determine how flexible you want to be. You can eat more or less animal products– whatever you desire, within reasonable limits and calories, of course.
TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the flexitarian diet?