For many years, people have been trying to go into a more vegetarian way of eating, but haven’t been able to fully commit to never eating meat. These types of people didn’t have a name until the early 2000’s when the term Flexitarian was born. It was the perfect word to describe people that try to stick with a vegetarian diet while still offering some wiggle room to leave in a little bit of meat.
People have practiced semi-vegetarianism for different reasons, with some using personal reasons such as religion or animal rights, but lately more have been trying it out due to this type of eating supposedly being a good way to lose weight. There hadn’t really been a fully fleshed out weight loss plan using a Flexitarian diet until 2010. That’s when registered dietician released the book “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life”.
The book ended up being a success, and more people have been adopting the Flexitarian lifestyle. While it might not be the easiest diet for some people to follow, there have been plenty of success stories using the Flexitarian plan. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about the Flexitarian Diet before trying it out for yourself.
Why Lower Your Meat Consumption?
You are not encouraged to cut out meat completely from your diet on the Flexitarian program, but there are different stages of avoiding meat. Blatner has said that too much consumption of red meat can increase your chances of heart disease and cancer, and there have been plenty of studies to back that up. We do know that there are healthier meats out there, however, so it’s encouraged to still use those.
The stages of meat consumption in the Flexitarian Diet fall into three different categories. The beginner level of being a Flexitarian allows you to eat a maximum of 26 ounces of meat each week, spending two full days without meat. The next level (Advanced) limits you to 18 ounces per week, skipping meat on three or four days. The final level gives you just nine ounces of meat in an entire week, which is spread out over two days in that week.
What’s On the Menu?
When it comes to the meat that you’ll be eating as a Flexitarian, it doesn’t matter what type you are eating, as you just need to focus on the ounces of consumption. There is a full eating plan with the diet, making it easy to follow and you can also substitute food items if you wish. The two main rules that you want to follow with the Flexitarian Diet are the meat consumption guidelines and the calorie guidelines.
For breakfast, you are limited to 300 calories per meal, 400 calories at lunchtime and 500 calories at dinner. There are also two snacks throughout the day that are 150 calories each, giving you a total of 1,500 calories per day. That’s a bit on the high side for some of the more popular diets out there, and you may need more or fewer calories throughout the day, so you can adjust the snacks accordingly.
Unlike some diets where you are encouraged to take away all of the foods you have been eating, the Flexitarian Diet encourages you to add five food groups that you should be eating from every day. Here are those groups in order:
Group One – Meat Alternatives (Beans, Tofu, Eggs, Nuts, Peas, etc.)
Group Two – Fruits and Vegetables
Group Three – Whole Grains (Wheat, Corn, Oat, Pasta, etc.)
Group Four – Dairy
Group Five – Natural Flavor Enhancers (Cinnamon, Spices, Sweeteners, Ketchup, etc.)
Blatner has come up with a five week plan that offers a full shopping list, which can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never tried eating at home too often. Each week shows exactly what you will need down to the exact measurement. For example, week one says that you need just one hamburger bun, ¼ cup of pineapple juice and one orange. You might find yourself having to buy too much compared to what you’re used to at the store, but you will likely be using the leftovers, so don’t fret.
So what does a sample day of eating look like on the Flexitarian Diet? Blatner has laid out a sample plan that would stick to your 1,500 calorie per day plan:
Breakfast – Green apple with sunbutter toast
Lunch – Southwest guacamole burger
Dinner – Cilantro peanut stir fry
Snacks – Peach and raspberry crepe, cracked pepper and salt pita chips
There are more than 100 recipes in Blatner’s book, which can be found for under $15 in most book stores and online. Some of them involve a little more prep work than others, so thankfully there is plenty to pick from depending on your type of mood.
How to Lose Weight with Flexitarian
Since a large portion of the Flexitarian Diet deals with counting the right amount of calories, you can expect to lose weight on the program. At 1,500 calories per day, that should help you lose one to two pounds of weight per week depending on your size. Blatner has said in her book that Flexitarians weight 15 percent less than those that eat a diet that consists mainly of meat according to her studies. She has also said that there is a reduction in chances of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, with an increased lifespan of 3.6 years.
Another important aspect of the Flexitarian Diet is getting off of the couch and getting active. You should be getting 30 minutes of physical activity per day, though it’s encouraged to get around 60 minutes since the calorie count might be considered a bit high compared to other diets. One complaint that people have about dieting is that it’s too hard to stick to a plan and their cravings get the best of them. Fortunately, the Flexitarian Diet lays out exactly what you can and can’t eat, while also leaving plenty of wiggle room to make this one of the easier plans to follow.
Having to completely cut yourself off from alcohol and eating out can be hard to follow, but both of those things are allowed in the Flexitarian Diet. Just make sure to check the menu of where you are heading before eating out so that you can check the nutritional values, sticking to the plan. As for alcohol, you can have a total of seven drinks in a week if you’re a woman, and 14 for men. Just make sure that they are double digit calorie drinks such as light beer or a shot of liquor.
Health Values of Flexitarian
The recipes in the Flexitarian Diet, as well as the flex zones that you should be adding, will improve your overall health. Blatner made very sure to design a plan that allowed you to hit all of your nutrients without adding too many foods that can have negative effects on your health. One large study that was released in 2015 said that those that ate a mostly vegetarian diet would have a 20 percent reduction in their chances of heart disease.
There is also the factor of preventing diabetes thanks to the low sugar values in the foods on the program. Those that have already been diagnosed with diabetes won’t have a problem following the Flexitarian plan thanks to these low sugar options. There are also plenty of lactose and gluten free options, helping those with allergies. Just to be safe, Blatner has also said that taking a daily multivitamin while on the Flexitarian Diet is recommended.
Breaking down the Flexitarian Diet shows that you are never going above the suggested values for anything like fats, carbohydrates, calories, sodium and sugar. There could be more protein, but you are hitting the minimum requirement in that department while still getting enough calcium and Vitamin B-12.
Summing it Up
If you have spent much of your life eating mostly meat, then this might not be the easiest diet for you to follow, especially at first. Your body will have to adjust to eating a small amount of meat compared to what you’re used to, which can be uncomfortable at first. However, that will pass and the plan will be much easier to follow. You also get eased into the Flexitarian Diet at the beginner level, so the adjustment won’t be too bad.
There are plenty of delicious foods on the Flexitarian Diet, so while you are eating a lot of vegetables, you won’t exactly be munching on nothing but carrots and celery during the day. It’s an easy plan to follow, albeit a bit pricey judging by the checklist. It’s also not a short term diet, which is why it has drawn good reviews by dietician experts who have ranked it in the top 10 diets out there, promoting its ability to follow in the long term.