The Flexitarian Diet Explained

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Written By: Suzanne Kvilhaug

You know when you get this idea in your head of how you’re going to eat and you’re determined to make it happen. Time to eat a vegan diet. Or a keto diet. Maybe even a vegan keto diet. The new you is off and running, watch out world! But then you try it out and your enthusiasm turns into displeasure. World, I mean out now because I’m irritated! You quickly realize it’s not going to last much longer, but you really want to make some healthy changes. So it’s back to the drawing board.

If that scenario has happened to you before, the Flexitarian Diet may be the diet for you. As cliche as the saying, “you need to make healthy eating a lifestyle” is, it’s true. And the Flexitarian Diet is definitely more of a lifestyle than a diet. It focuses on eating a lot of plant-based foods but you’re not limited to eating only plant-based foods because nothing is off limits.

I used to eat chicken at almost every meal of the day and loved an occasional Arby’s roast beef sandwich until I decided to go entirely vegan, so I know from experience how difficult it can be to never have meat again. Society is definitely not suitable for vegans yet (but it is getting there!). Cookouts, you’re the odd man out. Most restaurants, you’re the odd man out. Holidays, forget about it - you’re definitely the odd man out. And of course by odd man out, I mean “odd” man out. There’s nothing odd about a plant-based diet or veganism but you get the point. Then there’s the learning, planning and giving up so much of what you have known, loved and grown attached to. If you aren’t going vegan or choosing to eat all plant-based for ethical and spiritual reasons, it may be too difficult to stay 100 percent vegan, 100 percent of the time. The Flexitarian Diet could be ideal for some people because it centers around eating meatless most of the time, but not all the time.

The Flexitarian Diet

Flexible + Vegetarian = Flexitarian. The term Flexitarian was created by Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner in her book, The Flexitarian Diet. It’s been described as a mostly vegetarian way to be healthier, lose weight, prevent disease and add years to your life.

The basic principles of the Flexitarian Diet are

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes

  • Eat more plant-based proteins

  • Focus on whole foods

  • Incorporate animal-derived foods occasionally

  • Limit processed foods and sugar

What to eat on The Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian Diet is all about incorporating these five food groups into your meal regimen:

  • “New meats” (tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and eggs)

  • Fruits and veggies

  • Whole grains

  • Dairy

  • Healthy spices, sweets and condiments

The Flexitarian Diet book provides over 100 recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so you have many options to choose from. In the Flexitarian diet, there is a five-week schedule with sample daily meal plans that can be mixed and matched. As for numbers, it’s recommended that you have three meals and two snacks a day. It’s suggested to follow the 3-4-5 calorie system: 300 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, 500 calories for dinner and about 150 calories for each snack. The 1500-calorie diet is just a suggestion with wiggle room; your calorie needs depend on how active you are, your height, gender and weight. And your personal preferences because this is what the Flexitarian Diet is about, what works for you.