Flexitarian and Why You Should Consider It
Recent studies suggest our consumption of meat must drastically reduce to help avoid perpetuating the ever growing environmental impacts of climate change. Going Flexitarian is a start and can help significantly.
What is a Flexitarian?
Recently, I had a Skype call with my parents back home. I left England back in late 2016 and transitioned to veganism whilst in Vietnam, of all places. We don’t speak as much as we probably should and so we had not yet had a proper conversation about my veganism.
The conversation started as most discussions with vegans do. Questions such as:
‘but what will happen to all the animals if we stop eating them?’
‘what about protein?’
After a small debate and clearing up some of the common misunderstandings of veganism I told them that they do not need to stop eating meat and cheese right now. That actually, all I am suggesting is they reconsider the number of animal products in their diet. The conversation ended with my Mum saying she would try to eliminate some products and find alternatives.
The next day I got this message from my Dad:
What is a Flexitarian?
The flexitarian definition reads ‘a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish’ or as I see it, anyone who actively reduces animal products in their diet. This could be for the animals, their health, the environment or any other reason.
I was flexitarian for 2 months before going plant-based without even knowing it was labelled a flexitarian diet. It kind of makes sense. You start to eliminate animal products from least consumed to the product you favour the most. In my case, this was cheese and mayonnaise. At the time, I remember thinking ‘what is a sandwich without cheese and mayo’? Then I discovered vegan nut cheese and learnt how to make my own vegan mayo in just 5 minutes.
The word flexitarian has been thrown around a lot in the media recently, ever since the latest research demands that we start to significantly reduce our meat eating. ‘In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.’
It would appear that our eating habits need to change and quickly. As a vegan myself, you might think I desire everyone to go vegan overnight (I don’t). I do, however, believe cutting around 50% of the animal products in your diet is a good and fairly reasonable start.
I think back to my youth in Manchester and my daily eating habits looked a bit like this:
Breakfast: Cereal with milk. Tea with milk.
Lunch: Ham and cheese sandwich. Yoghurt. Tea with milk and biscuits.
Dinner: Piece of meat with two veggies. Yoghurt.
Supper: Crumpet/toast with butter
There are 10 foods above all made from an animal product in just one day. It’s excessive, no? Try to think about your daily food now and see how many animal products you can identify. It’s probably a few too many if you are being honest with yourself.
How to go Flexitarian?
First, track your normal diet for one week and write all the animal products eaten down on a piece a paper.
Then, go through the list. I recommend you aim to eliminate 50% of all animal products in your diet when you start. This can start as simple as cutting out dairy and meat from breakfast and lunch.
For breakfast, opt for oats with mixed nuts or fresh fruit with one of over 9 milk alternatives. Oats are really cheap and they keep you full for longer each day. When lunch comes around, ditch the sandwich filled with processed meats and opt for grilled mushroom, tofu, roast veggies and hummus instead.
You can find a more in-depth flexitarian diet plan here.
Committing to a flexitarian diet can be a great stepping stone to vegetarian and eventually a plant-based diet. It allows you to discover new ways of cooking and different foods you can bring into your new diet.
A full guide to flexitarian is available via Healthline.
Physical benefits of adopting a flexitarian diet are most likely to be weight loss due to cutting out a lot of fatty meat and dairy products. Studies have shown vegetarians and vegans lose more weight than those with meat and dairy in their diets.
If you consider the extra amount of fiber you will be eating you will give your heart a better life. Studies have shown those who eat more fiber in their diet have 32% less chance to get heart disease.
Following a flexitarian diet also benefits the environment. Livestock is the second highest leading cause of greenhouse emissions on the planet (more than all transportation).
Reducing your meat intake by 50% can make a big change. In fact, a recent study suggests that moving to a flexitarian diet can decrease your personal carbon footprint by up to 7%. Doesn’t sound much but consider the work we have to do as a planet to reach 2050 targets..every little bit helps.
Why is a Vegan Promoting Flexitarian?
I believe all people have different needs in the approach of changing their diets, especially when moving towards a plant-based diet. Not everyone can go cold turkey like others. In my experience so far, people I speak to seem much more at ease in making a gradual transition. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to suddenly stop eating all animal products. In a recent poll, I saw on Twitter, 72% of vegans that responded said they were vegetarian before going fully plant-based including myself.
For lot's of information and guidance for transitioning to a plant-based diet please check out my personal blog www.memanmevegan.com