One Diet For All?

The Flexitarian Diet promises to help you drop pounds, live healthier and potentially add years to your life, all the while making your fridge — and tastebuds — happy.
Text by Sandy Lindsey | June 15, 2018 | Lifestyle

Flexitarian is more than just a trendy new catchphrase. It incorporates many of the significant health benefits of being a vegetarian without excluding meat altogether. This means it is a much easier diet plan to start and actually maintain for most people. “This is an inclusive eating plan that doesn’t take away foods but rather adds new foods to those you already eat,” explains Dawn Jackson Blatner, Registered Dietitian & Author of The Flexitarian Diet. “Flexitarian is the hot new term for healthy dieting that minimizes meat without excluding it altogether.”
The idea is to progressively introduce more vegetables and fruits into daily meals while still enjoying favorite meats and other ingredients not found on the fad diets that come and go more often than the semi-celebrities on reality TV shows. “Flexitarians weigh an average of 15% less,” says Blatner of the benefits. “They have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and live 3.6 years longer than their carnivorous counterparts.”
The trend, which originally went by the more cumbersome title of semi- or mostly-vegetarian, traces its roots back to a publicity exercise in the wellness-conscious ‘90s to draw more people into a vegetarian lifestyle. Its more recent revival in 2009 is credited to the Meat-Free Monday campaign of Paul & Stella McCartney. It’s now embraced by top names such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz and Richard Branson. Internationally, the movement has become so significant that the term Flexitarian was added to the 2012 edition of the Miriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
One significant advantage to the Flexitarian Diet is that it doesn’t require total immediate change of eating habits but is divided into Beginner, Advanced & Expert levels. Each level requires participants to further reduce their meat consumption by an additional day or two per week. Beans make a practical substitute for beef in the recipes to further ease the transition. Reduced meat consumption is linked to a lowered risk of certain cancers/diseases and well as lowering one’s carbon footprint.
But all this doesn’t mean that discipline isn’t required. This is a serious lifestyle change. “Occasional” meat doesn’t mean visiting the Argentinean steakhouse 5 nights a week just because you had a fruit and veggie breakfast or lunch. Plus, some members of the vegetarian/vegan community feel that the Flexitarian option distracts people from what they see as more pure and wholesome vegetarian and vegan options.
Still, it’s hard to go wrong with a diet that focuses on vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, yet remains open to fit a modern lifestyle and our natural desire to gnaw on a little flesh every now and then.