Flexitarian Diet: Your Starter’s Guide and Sample Diet Plan
By Joe Leech
While there are many health benefits to being vegetarian, some of us don't want to completely cut out meat.
This is the idea behind the flexitarian diet, which reduces meat intake instead of avoiding it altogether.
This article discusses the potential benefits and risks of following a flexitarian diet to help you decide if it's a good plan for you.
What is a Flexitarian Diet?
"Flexitarianism" is essentially what it sounds like: a flexible vegetarian diet.
A person who identifies as flexitarian might eat meat occasionally, but does not include it as a regular part of their normal diet.
Most often, those who prefer not to eat meat do so for health or ethical reasons (or both). The same can be said for flexitarians looking to improve their overall health and lessen their impact on the environment.
Summary: Flexitarianism means eating a flexible vegetarian diet, which reduces meat intake instead of completely cutting it out. This may be a decision based on health or ethical reasons (or both).
Will a Flexitarian Diet Promote Weight Loss and Improve Overall Health?
In short, yes, if we first look at the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Studies have found that those who eat a vegetarian diet are more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) that falls within the normal range.
This may be because vegetarians are likely to consume more fruit and vegetables, which are low in calories and high in fiber—two major components in promoting weight loss.
Additionally, vegetarians tend to have an increased life expectancy compared with meat-eaters. Several studies have found that people who eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains have a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and cancer—two of our biggest killers (1, 2).
Meanwhile, observational studies indicate that eating red meat may lead to an increase risk of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Avoiding or limiting red meat can help reduce this risk (5).
That said, compared to a vegetarian, a flexitarian will benefit from getting important nutrients—such as protein, vitamin B12, and iron—that are highly concentrated in meat.
So it seems a flexitarian eating pattern can be healthy for a range of people. As you'd expect, those who eat a semi-vegetarian diet tend to have lower BMIs, lower risk of breast cancer and lower blood glucose levels compared to those who eat meat often (9).
Summary: Flexitarians may experience similar benefits as vegetarians, who typically weigh less and have higher life expectancies. Eating a diet low in meat is also linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Health Risks of Flexitarianism
Changing your diet in any way may come with some unexpected risks.
As mentioned above, meat is an excellent source of dietary protein, as well as zinc, iron and vitamins like B1, B2, B3 and B12.
This means flexitarians need to be sure they're getting these nutrients from other sources when cutting down on meat.
For example, limiting red meat may increase your risk of iron deficiency anemia. Flexitarians may want to increase their intake of plant foods like soybeans, chickpeas, quinoa and lentils—all good sources of iron (9).
You'll also want to seek out high-protein plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, lentils, tofu and beans. This graph gives you an idea of the protein content of many plant foods:
Summary: Eating a flexitarian diet may lead to deficiency in iron, as well as other essential nutrients like protein, zinc and B12. Flexitarians need to be sure they're getting these nutrients from both meat and plant sources.
Who Should (and Shouldn't) Consider a Flexitarian Diet?
If you are overweight, at increased cardiovascular risk (including those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or people with a family history of metabolic health issues) or have ethical concerns about eating meat, you may benefit from adopting a flexitarian lifestyle.
However, you should discuss this diet with your doctor or dietitian if you have:
- Iron deficiency or any other type of anemia
- Dietary allergies or intolerances that limit your intake of non-meat foods
- A history of eating disorders or drastically restricting your diet (10).
Summary: Those who are overweight or at increased cardiovascular risk may benefit from following a flexitarian diet. Anyone with existing health problems should discuss the decision with their doctor or dietitian first.
How to Become Flexitarian
If you currently eat meat, it's best to make small, gradual changes to your diet.
Consider tracking your meat intake for one week. Write down every portion of meat consumed for seven days.
The following week, aim to reduce meat intake by around one serving (approximately 85 grams or 3 ounces). Continue doing this week by week until your weekly meat intake equates to less than five servings per week.
It's useful to observe when your largest intake of meat is likely to occur. For most people, this will be dinner. Replace meat in the evening meal with vegetarian options or meat substitutes.
Because the flexitarian diet is, by definition, flexible, you can choose how much meat you wish to consume. Continue to gradually lessen your meat consumption until you reach a point that feels right to you.
See below for ways to incorporate this idea into a meal plan.
Summary: To adopt a flexitarian lifestyle, gradually reduce meat intake by cutting out one serving a week.
2-Day Sample Flexitarian Diet Plan
Breakfast: Omelette with eggs, cheese and selected vegetables as desired (e.g. mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers)
Lunch: Sandwich on wholegrain bread with cottage cheese, lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, cucumber
Dinner: Pasta with vegetarian sauce
Snacks: Fruit, nuts, yogurt
Breakfast: Rolled oats with milk and berries
Lunch: Sandwich on wholegrain bread with egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, beetroot
Dinner: Roast vegetables with tofu and couscous
Snacks: Fruit, nuts, yogurt.
Is a Flexitarian Diet Right for You?
There is no one perfect diet.
In fact , the best diet for you may very well be different to me.
What I like about the flexitarian diet is that it allows for flexibility.
This places the diet among the more sensible and sustainable methods of eating (unlike the ketogenic diet) as it doesn't require strict dietary restriction.
Overall, reducing meat intake may offer many health benefits, particularly if you are already overweight or experience metabolic health issues. Meat is high in calories so reducing your intake will be beneficial.
To start, try cutting out one serving of meat (about 3 ounces) every week. But note that those with existing health problems, including iron deficiency or other anemias, should talk to their doctor or a dietitian first.
Making these types of slow, gradual changes to your diet will lead to longer lasting changes and hopefully a beautiful relationship with food and your health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Diet vs Disease.
- Soy Meat Is Soy Yesterday: 5 New and Better Options ›
- World Food Day: 4 Easy Ways to Make a Difference ›
- 11 Edible Flowers With Potential Health Benefits - EcoWatch ›
By Astrid Caldas
As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.
A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA
The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. NOAA
- Tropical Storm Theta Is Record-Breaking 29th Storm of 2020 ... ›
- Hurricane Delta Breaks Record for Earliest 25th Named Storm ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dana Drugmand
An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.
The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
‘Protect Our Future’<p>Cláudia Agostinho (21), Catarina Mota (20), Martim Agostinho (17), Sofia Oliveira (15), André Oliveira (12) and Mariana Agostinho (8) are <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/09/03/youth-climate-lawsuit-portugal-33-european-countries" target="_blank">bringing the case</a> with nonprofit law firm Global Legal Action Network (<span style="background-color: initial;">GLAN</span>), arguing that none of the countries have sufficiently ambitious targets to cut their emissions.</p><p>Portugal recently sweltered through its <a href="https://www.ipma.pt/pt/media/noticias/news.detail.jsp?f=/pt/media/noticias/textos/resumo-clima-julho-20.html" target="_blank">hottest July in 90 years</a> and has seen a rise in devastating heatwaves and wildfires over recent years due to rising temperatures. Four of the applicants live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the forest fires that killed more than 120 people in 2017. </p><p>Responding to the development, André Oliveira, 12, said: "It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognise the urgency of our case." </p><p>"But what I'd like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future. Until they do this, we will keep on fighting with more determination than ever."</p>
‘Highly Significant'<p>The decision represents a "highly significant" step, <a href="https://www.glanlaw.org/about-us" target="_blank">GLAN</a> Director Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn said in a <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/" target="_blank">press release</a>.</p><p>"This is an appropriate response from the Court given the scale and imminence of the threat these young people face from the climate emergency," he added. </p><p>By suing the 33 countries all together, the youths aim to compel these national governments to act more aggressively on climate through a single court order, which would potentially be more effective than pursuing separate lawsuits or lobbying policymakers in each country.</p><p>If successful, the defendant countries would be legally bound not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change including those of their multinational enterprises.</p>
‘Major Hurdle’<p>The <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/the-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries targeted</a> include all of the European Union member states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, none of which are currently aligned with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/paris-agreement">Paris agreement</a> target to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).<a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> </a></p><p><a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Action Tracker rates</a> most of Europe as "insufficient" in terms of its emissions reduction policies based on the Paris target, while Ukraine, Turkey and Russia are assessed as "critically insufficient" – meaning they are on track for a warming of 4 degrees C or higher.</p><p>The European Union has pledged to slash its emissions by <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/2030_ctp_en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 55 percent by 2030</a>. But the Portuguese youth plaintiffs are calling for cuts of at least 65 percent by 2030, a level that <a href="http://www.caneurope.org/energy/climate-energy-targets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">European climate campaigners say</a> is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees warming limit.</p><p> The 33 countries must each respond to the youths' complaint by the end of February, before lawyers representing the plaintiffs will respond to the points of defense. </p><p>"Nothing less than a 65 percent reduction by 2030 will be enough for the EU member states to comply with their obligations to the youth-applicants and indeed countless others," Gerry Liston, legal officer with GLAN, said in a press release.</p><p>"These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts."</p><p><span></span><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/11/29/court-advances-landmark-youth-climate-lawsuit-against-33-european-nations" target="_blank">DeSmog</a>. </em></p>
Will concern over the climate crisis stop people from having children?
- 'BirthStrike' Movement Encourages People to Stop Having Children ... ›
- Should You Have Kids Despite Climate Change? - EcoWatch ›
By Liz Kimbrough
Six grassroots environmental activists will receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a virtual ceremony this year. Dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize," this award is given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continents.
Kristal Ambrose, the Bahamas<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzI3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM5NTk5MX0.fdMrrUqf0HvWq0Uh0Ii3mXxJczHPyN1jcnSsQoXoerE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b9e66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b8b8777f7964bb7100672b3be0abf3fe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Kristal Ambrose. Goldman Environmental Prize
Chibeze Ezekiel, Ghana<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTgzOTE3OX0.KoEZr3oMPKbeG2uT8q-ZsGPOGtIZ3l6V6NXEK5U90FU/img.jpg?width=980" id="65224" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6ec640a8ba56a4db22b57e4f8734a7a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chibeze Ezekiel. Goldman Environmental Prize
Nemonte Nenquimo, Ecuador<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzYxODYwM30.cys5ZsFGd75UcjybADGBPFt20jrzgrsFujoj_qMTK4E/img.jpg?width=980" id="96b5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0778ab7334e3297e0ead52d5fd1499e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Nemonte Nenquimo. Goldman Environmental Prize
Leydy Pech, Mexico<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkzOTYzOH0.uHlN2FQoJJ_KFJWTn4oL__lDyjA0-HDnxewBhwgQRVg/img.jpg?width=980" id="9ab07" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc347126d4ce9ddbb3b9c1b4673391b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Leydy Pech. Goldman Environmental Prize
Lucie Pinson, France<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NzE0NTU1NX0.OutmX3sfl4pMaoYssTQ4zk7Y14_hans7-Z-0B0xsjfM/img.jpg?width=980" id="4bcd7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4bff14750dc0a70fc79e9484ea2bdbd4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lucie Pinson. Goldman Environmental Prize
Paul Sein Twa, Myanmar<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDAyNjU0MH0.DHrKykngmcJyJ5rn4r91ANH7FmQ7Us6ZMEOis8yAzGY/img.jpg?width=980" id="8fa36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e703d62288df00931cd678c861c6e0b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Paul Sein Twa. Goldman Environmental Prize
- 'Erin Brockovich of Slovakia' Becomes Slovakia's First Female ... ›
- 'Work Together' or 'Destroy it': Goldman Prize Winner on World's ... ›
- World's Largest Environmental Prize Honors Historic Number of ... ›
- 'Moved and Inspired': Meet the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize ... ›
A large volcano in Indonesia erupted Sunday, sending a plume of smoke and ash miles into the air and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate the region.
- Australia Is Burning. Jakarta Is Drowning. Welcome to 2020 ... ›
- Scientists Weigh Volcano's Global Impact as Bali Residents Evacuate ›
- 1,400 Dead, 70,000 Homeless After Earthquake and Tsunami in ... ›