With more freely available information than ever on what we need to do and eat to try to stay healthy, many people with aspirations to become vegetarian or vegan just can’t quite make the full commitment.
There’s a solution to this: the flexitarian diet encourages eating mostly plant-based foods, while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.
It is more flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan diets, so you can add more plant foods to your diet without cutting out meat completely.
Searches for flexitarianism were up 2,200 per cent ahead of National Vegetarian Week this week, with data showing many more people are trying out this way of eating.
Food experts Green Chef found people are also turning to TikTok for ideas on how to take up the diet as #flexitarian videos have 19.4 million views.
Famous names to have taken up the trend include Adele, Gordon Ramsey and Michelle Obama, among many others.
It suits anyone who is keen to adopt a healthier diet that also benefits the planet, can aid weight loss, and, judging by a recent study showing 71 per cent of women are seeking new diets ahead of the summer, it’s a diet formed with health and not just cutting calories in mind.
Flexitarian diets can encourage people to eat a wider range of foods, which means their nutrients and vitamins go up too.
Those using the plan tend to limit high calorie, highly processed foods and eat more plant foods, and research shows that people on plant based diets are likely to lose more weight than those who aren’t.
As regards the environment, it’s thought that if everyone ate 20 per cent less beef, deforestation rates in 2050 could be reduced by as much as half.
No foods are forbidden but there are guidelines about how much meat to eat.Dawn Jackson Blatner, the American author of the original flexitarian diet book, suggests that beginners should forgo meat for two days a week, with no more than 26 oz of meat in total for the other five days.
Advanced flexitarian recommends a vegetarian diet three to four days a week and no more than 18 oz of meat on other days, and the expert flexitarian requires five meat-free days with 9oz of meat over two days.
It’s great for people who are curious about vegetarianism, or for former vegans or vegetarians who may have struggled to fulfil nutritional needs when completely meat-free. Flexitarians have a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes and lower BMIs when compared with non-vegetarians.
A large study found people who followed a flexitarian diet had lower risk of heart disease and stroke, and may live about three-and-a-half years longer than bigger meat eaters.
To begin, simply buy less meat, poultry, and fish, and replace with loads of fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and tofu. Buy with the seasons to cut back on costs, and frozen veg is fine.
Then bulk up the veg on your plate to around 50 per cent of your meal, ideally with 25 per cent whole grains, then meat, or its replacement on non-meat days. Use versatile mushrooms, lentils and chickpeas in dishes.