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We all know that a full-fledged vegetarian or vegan diet is great for our health (and the environment). But then there’s that whole no meat thing, which is a dealbreaker for a lot of people. Enter the increasingly popular flexitarian diet.
A portmanteau of “flexible” and “vegetarian,” the flexitarian diet allows people to eat more nutritious food while indulging in meat products only on occasion. But this diet is less about restriction and more about addition — specifically, adding live, plant-based foods to your routine.
Interested in trying the flexitarian diet? We’ve got all the details, plus some of the best meal delivery plans to help you get started.
What Is a Flexitarian Diet?
The flexitarian way of eating, also known as a semi-vegetarian diet, is a term and practice coined by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2009 book The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life.
A flexitarian diet can be customized so that you consume as little or as much meat as you’d like. However, most flexitarians typically choose to eat meat less than once a week.
The flexitarian diet number was ranked number two in U.S. News and World Report’s rating of both Best Diets Overall and Best Diets for Healthy Eating.
Is the Flexitarian Diet Healthy?
Eating more plant-based foods and less meat is a suggested diet for those who want to lose weight and eat healthier. Reducing the consumption of meat products may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and some cancers, according to The American Heart Association.
However, removing meat from your diet doesn’t mean avoiding protein altogether. Replacing meats with foods such as beans, mushrooms, lentils and tofu can be helpful when it comes to adding protein to the flexitarian diet. The American Heart Association also notes that vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, spinach, asparagus and corn are also easy ways to consume protein while following a flexitarian diet.
Tips for Maintaining a Flexitarian Lifestyle
When making a shift towards healthier eating, start by thinking of the change as a lifestyle and not just a temporary diet. Once you get into regular practice, these eating habits will become part of your everyday life.
Keeping fresh fruits and veggies in the house and learning to make substitutions when dining out will make living a flexitarian lifestyle simpler to manage.
If you’re not quite up to the full challenge of only consuming meat once a week but still want the health benefits of flexitarianism, know that it’s okay to start slow. Ease into the flexitarian diet or design your own version of it. That’s the greatest thing about this lifestyle change: It doesn’t follow a one size fits all approach. If you want to eat less meat, start by eating it four to five times a week and then transition to eating it once or twice a week or occasionally, as desired.
Pros & Cons
- Healthier food choices
- Supports healthy weight loss
- May reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers
- May initially be difficult for regular meat-eaters to follow
- Potential for B12 and iron deficiency
Flexitarian Meal Plans
Thanks to its popularity, many meal delivery plans support flexitarian eating. Here are a few of our favorites.