What is a Flexitarian Diet?
A Flexitarian Diet is a combination of the two words 'flexible' and 'vegetarian' and the term was coined by dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner in 2009 to help people enjoy the benefits of vegetarian meals while still enjoying their favourite animal-based products, in moderation.
How can a Flexitarian Diet be compared to a Vegan or Vegetarian one?
A flexitarian diet is more flexible than a vegetarian or vegan diet. If one wants to add more plant-based foods to their meals but doesn't want to completely miss out on meat, then a flexitarian diet may be one's best bet.
What is the difference between a Flexitarian, Vegan or Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarians primarily base their meal plans on plant-based foods:
- A Lacto vegetarian eats dairy products but no meat, poultry, fish or eggs
- A Lacto-Ovo vegetarian consumes dairy foods and eggs but no meat, poultry or fish.
Veganism excludes animal foods, clothing or any items related to the cruelty and/ or exploitation of animals. Meat, dairy, eggs, leather and even honey are excluded.
A flexitarian diet is a plant-based diet that allows for some animal protein. The flexitarian diet is convenient for those wanting to include lots of plant based foods but who do not want to miss out on any nutrients from an animal based diet.
Which meats may be included in this diet?
Some examples are: organic, free-range, grass-fed meat and dairy, pastured chicken and eggs, and wild-caught fish. It's best to ensure that any animal products consumed are of superior quality.
- When it comes to fish, wild-caught salmon has been shown to have a healthier ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats to omega-6 than farmed salmon.
- Pasture-raised chicken is a better option because it contains 50 % more vitamin A compared to conventionally raised chicken. It is rich in omega-3 fats and has a lower risk of foodborne illnesses caused by unsanitary farming conditions.
- Organic or grass-fed beef is much leaner than farm fed beef. It also contains the essential nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, and a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that has been found to boost immunity and has anti-inflammatory benefits.
How much meat should a flexitarian consume (compared to a regular meat eater?)
In her book "The Flexitarian Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide," Registered dietician Jackson Blatner suggests that one who just begins on a flexitarian diet, should have 2 meatless days a week and divide 26 ounces of meat over the remaining 5 days of the week.
She also notes that those following a more advanced flexitarian diet should spend 3-4 days of the week consuming vegetarian food and consume 18 ounces of meat or less over the remaining days of the week.
Flexitarians who have reached a higher level of expertise should consume no more than 9 ounces of meat 2 days a week and should completely avoid it for the remaining 5 days of the week.
Suggestions for a regular Canadian Meat Eater:
A recent government survey on nutrition suggests that Canadians who follow a normal meat-based diet should consume between 3-4 servings of meat per week (or 288 grams on average). 3 meals could be portioned out as 1 lunch and 2 dinners as an example.
How to ensure you get all of your essential nutrients on a Flexitarian Diet?
A properly planned and executed flexitarian diet can be very healthy and nutritious. The following are some of the nutrients one should pay particular attention to when switching to or following a flexitarian diet.
- Protein. High-quality flexitarian protein sources should be included in the diet. Organic meat products are a great source of protein and can be easily added.
- Iron. Vegetarians may experience lower iron levels as the iron from plant foods is not as well absorbed as the iron from animal foods. Since the flexitarian diet does not completely eliminate animal foods, iron can still be obtained from red meat. 10
- Vitamin B12. Our bodies derive vitamin B12 from animal foods in our diet. It is unlikely that a flexitarian will be deficient in vitamin B12 as animal products such as eggs, milk and other dairy products are still included.10
- Calcium. Calcium is most commonly found in dairy products. You can add both plant-based (Soy, almond or rice milk – fortified with calcium) and animal-based dairy products (grass-fed cow milk) into your diet to provide your body with all of the calcium it needs.
Health Benefits of the Flexitarian diet
Eating the flexitarian way may offer several health benefits.
- Cardiovascular Health. Foods that contain healthy fat and those that are rich in fibre are heart healthy and contain antioxidants that aid in lowering blood pressure and help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Vegetarians are less likely to have heart disease when compared to meat-eaters.
- Weight Loss. The Flexitarian diet tends to contain more plant-based foods, which are naturally low in calories. This means that you can eat more and feel fuller while maintaining a lower calorie load, which helps in weight loss.
How to ensure sufficient protein in a flexitarian diet?
Plant based protein makes up a large part of a flexitarian diet. Natur's nut butters are loaded with healthy protein.
- Almond butter is high in vitamin E, iron, calcium, fibre and monounsaturated fat. Natur's almond butter can be consumed either before or after physical activity to replenish and nourish protein stores.
- Natur's Peanut butter is a great choice as it contains healthy fats and plenty of calories, and is filling and satisfying. It provides a considerable amount of protein, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, magnesium and phosphorus.
How a flexitarian can benefit from Organic Vegetable and fruit juices?
Drinking fresh juices is a wonderful way to obtain sufficient nutrients, vitamins and minerals in case someone may be deficient while on a flexitarian diet. Organic vegetable and fruit juices such as those in the Biotta range help one to consume many nutrients at once in liquid form.
The flexitarian diet relies on nutritious plant proteins and organic plant-based foods, and at the same time allows for the consumption of meat and animal products in moderation. A successful Flexitarian diet must be well-planned and executed in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies and enjoy abundant health benefits.