A recent study showed that the vegetarian diet is better for weight loss than the non-vegetarian diet. Studies have also confirmed that the vegetarian diet is associated with numerous health benefits. From reducing risk of hypertension, to diabetes, to the recent study showing how the plant-based diet reduces risk of colorectal cancer. (1)
For some people, the idea of committing to a vegetarian diet is somewhat of an internal struggle. They enjoy animal proteins, and the thought of giving up meat indefinitely is hard to swallow. These folks may instead want to consider the “flexitarian” diet. This is a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. Flexitarians are not repulsed by meat and even have cravings for meat. (2)
Flexitarian diet may offer the health benefits of the vegetarian diet, with the freedom to eat meat occasionally
With the abundance of vegetarian cookbooks and different meat-free products in stores and restaurants, it is much easier to be vegetarian than it was a decade ago. Flexitarian is not a new term, but one that may grow with the rise of grass-fed, pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats. Americans are getting more connected with their food sources, and are growing in their understanding of how foods we eat impact our long term health. The flexitarian diet stresses the importance of eating healthy, consuming high amounts of nutrient dense vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, while also allowing yourself to occasionally enjoy meat. (2)
>With the rise of ethically raised meat, some vegetarians are reconsidering their food choices!
For many vegetarians, the availability of ethically raised meats has been a game changer. When looking at the ingredients in meat replacements, vegetarians are beginning to think that the ethically raised real meat may be better for health. Actress and model Mariel Hemingway, who is also the author of Healthy Living from the Inside Out, shared, “When I was vegan, I was super weak. I love animals, and we should not support anything but ethical ranching; but when I eat meat, I feel more grounded. I have more energy.” Mollie Katzen, chef and author of popular vegetarian cookbook, Moosewood Cookbook, announced that she too is experimenting with ethically raised meats. (3)
How can you increase your vegetable intake and still have flexibility to enjoy meat?
If you desire to gain the health benefits of the vegetarian diet, while retaining some flexibility to enjoy meat, consider these tips: (1)
- If you enjoy large meals, use a big plate and fill the plate three-quarters full of vegetables, saving the last quarter for protein. You will feel full when you are finished, and in one meal, will have gotten one-third of your veggies for the day!
- Swap out meat for a plant-based protein. Rather than eating a protein for all three meals, seek out plant-based proteins such as quinoa, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Be watchful that you don’t become a pastatarian! It is possible to gain weight when switching to a vegetarian diet if you load up on pasta and breads. Instead, consider the goals of eating healthy, plant-based options. (1)
Remember, the ultimate goal is to be healthy by making healthy choices; you don’t have to fit into a certain group perfectly. Listen to your body, make healthy choices, and be confident in the face of judgement.