A Mostly Meat-Less Diet
A growing number of people are now going flexitarian. A sort of umbrella term for a wide variety of diets, flexitarian refers to someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet. For some this may mean cutting back to one meat dish a day, for others it might mean eating a meat dish once a week, once a month, or even once a year. It might also mean restricting oneself to eating only white meat, eating only fish, or eating only egg and dairy products, and once again this may apply to all meat dishes or just most. Go figure, the most appealing trait about flexitarianism is its flexibility. To some vegetarians, flexitarianism is just being lazy, but because it relieves the pressure of converting and sticking to a strictly vegetarian diet, flexitarianism makes eating a healthful, vegetable-based diet accessible and appealing to more people than ever before.
For Health Benefits
People are turning to flexitarianism for a variety of reasons. Most appreciate the diet for its health benefits as science has shown: the more a diet tends towards vegetarianism, the better. A vegetarian diet is known to:
- Boost the immune system
- Improve digestion
- Lower cholesterol - 14% lower than meat eaters
- Lower weight - a person may expect to lose up to 30 pounds within 6 - 12 months of switching to a vegetarian diet!
- Prevent artery damage that can lead to back problems
- Promote a longer life span - 7 years on average!
- Reduce bone loss in women over 65 - from 36% to 18%
- Reduce the risk of breast cancer by 20-30%
- Reduce risk of heart attack - 50% of meat eaters will die of heart disease, compared to 15% of vegetarians
For Animal Rights
For others, the decision to go flexitarian has more to do with ideals. Often the treatment of animals is a concern for flexitarians. For these people, the decision to eat meat may be determined by:
- The intelligence of the animal - opting for chicken or fish instead of beef or pork.
- Where it came from - opting for free-range, well-treated pastured animals.
- What it was fed - opting for animals that are fed a natural diet, free of unnatural foods, hormones or antibiotics.
For Environmental Benefits
Another concern for flexitarians is our environment. Producing vegetable protein as opposed to animal protein has the following benefits:
- Requires less fossil fuel - animal protein requires 8 times more energy than vegetable
- Requires less water usage - 441 gallons to produce a pound of beef, 14 gallons for a pound wheat
- Requires less land usage
And on top of all this, reducing the amount of meat in your diet will save you money. Vegetarians save about $4,000 dollars on average every year!
Do It Your Way
The best part of being a flexitarian is that an individual can make their own diet guidelines based on what makes sense and is important to them. If you are considering going flexitarian, start by setting realistic goals based on what is important to you. The transition can be difficult for some, so you may want to ease yourself into it. A good start may be replacing one meat meal a day with a vegetarian one. Experiment with different sources of vegetable protein - organic soy products, beans, and lentils for example, and try out different recipes for preparing them. Once you have a good sized repertoire of vegetarian dishes that you like, you may choose to replace two meat meals a day, or opt to eat meat only once every other day. Go at your own pace and if you slip, up don't sweat it. Flexibility is what being a flexitarian is all about.