The Beginner’s Guide to Being Flexitarian
Thought of being vegetarian but feel you need a little less restriction and more flexibility?
Well then, the flexitarian diet may be for you.
Being a flexitarian is a great way to be healthier and eat more plant-based foods, yet still suit your lifestyle without too many dietary restrictions and impositions.
Vegetarians vs Vegans Flexitarian: What is the Difference?
Vegetarians do not eat meat, chicken, or fish.
Depending on their personal restrictions, they may be ovo-vegetarian (eat eggs), lacto-vegetarian (eat dairy) or lacto-ovo-vegetarian (eat both dairy and eggs).
Vegans take it one step further and do not eat any animal or animal product at all, including eggs and dairy.
For ethical reasons, most vegans will also not eat honey, an animal-derived product.
Flexitarians are neither vegetarian or vegans, and sometimes called semi-vegetarians.
Due it’s flexible nature, it’s more of a lifestyle than a strict diet per se and has become a popular choice for those wanting to ramp up their health without the restrictions.
What Are the Health Benefits of Being Flexitarian?
Since the term was coined in 2014 in the Oxford English dictionary, more and more research has started to support the great health benefits associated with this style of eating.
Here are just some, according to research:
- Flexitarians are less likely to be overweight or have high blood pressure.1
- Research from the Adventist Health Study-2 found that cases of diabetes are low in flexitarians.2
- Flexitarians have the lowest energy intakes (1 713 calories per day).3
- Flexitarian diets have been shown to help prevent the relapse of symptoms in those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).4
- In a 7-year study in 78 000 people, flexitarian eaters (compared to non-vegetarians) were 8% less likely to get colorectal cancer.5
- Those who follow flexitarian diets have a lower death rate, and these results appear to be stronger in males.3
Are There Any Other Benefits to Being Flexitarian?
Many people choose to be flexitarian for health reasons. However there’s a continually growing following for flexitarian eating because of the environmental benefits.
We know that producing plant protein (like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soy) uses 11 times less energy6 than producing animal protein (like chicken, meat, and fish).
Swapping out meat for more plant protein can therefore help save the planet, with as much as 7% less greenhouse gas emissions7 flooding the atmosphere.
How Can I Become Flexitarian?
The great thing about being flexitarian is it is super flexible. You don’t need to say goodbye to your beloved fillet steak or lamb chop.
Rather, it’s about eating less meat, chicken, and fish over the course of a week.
Save your meat-eating opportunities for special times, like at a sociable braai, and focus on a plant-based way of eating most of the time.
- Bulk up meat-based meals with plant proteins. For example, add extra lentils to the Grandma’s Mince Curry or more chickpeas to bulk up the Mediterranean Chicken with Brown Rice and Vegetables.
- FitChef challenges you to add just one vegetarian (or vegan) meal each week, supported by our range of healthy vegetarian meals and the convenient Vegetarian Kit.
- Learn how to substitute meat in your favourite recipes. For example, replace minced meat with black beans to make vegetarian chilli con carne, or make wraps with hummus, or do a tofu stir-fry.
- Make a point of trying a vegetarian meal when eating out.
Want to try your hand at being flexitarian? Set up a recurring order with a convenient FitChef Flexitarian Kit can you help you get there.
- Wozniak H, Larpin C, de Mestral C, Guessous I, Reny JL, Stringhini S. Vegetarian, pescatarian and flexitarian diets: sociodemographic determinants and association with cardiovascular risk factors in a Swiss urban population. British Journal of Nutrition. 2020; 124:844–52.
- Tonstad K, Stewart K, Oda K, Batech O, Herring RP, Fraser. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2012;23(4):292-99.
- Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabate J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fan J, Knutsen S, Beeson L, et al. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(13):1230-38. Doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.
- Chiba M, Abe T, Tsuda H, Sugawara T, Tsuda S, Tozawa H, et al. Lifestyle-related disease in Crohn’s disease: Relapse prevention by a semi-vegetarian diet. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(20): 2484–95.
- Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabate J, Fan J, Sveen L, Bennett H, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):767-76.
- Sabate J, Soret S. Sustainability of plant-based diets: back to the future. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014;S100:476S-82S.
- Aleksandrowicz L, Green R, Joy EJM, Smith P, Haines A. The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review. PLOS One. 2016;11(11). e0165797. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165797