Not Ready To Go Vegetarian? Go Flexitarian Instead!

Many people are interested in the health benefits of vegetarianism, but giving up meat completely seems difficult.  So, if the idea of going full-on vegetarian is just a little overwhelming for you, consider something a bit more flexible.  Go flexitarian!

Scientists and health professionals alike are raving about a new food movement called flexitarianism.  A flexiterian eats a diet made up primarily of veggies, fruits and grains, with the occasional protein like lean meat, fish or poultry thrown in for good measure.

I recently found out I am, in fact, a flexitarian.  I had no idea I was so chic.

Being a flexitarian is really about adding foods to your diet rather that eliminating them.  For instance, a flexitarian would add more plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, nuts and seeds–as alternate protein sources.  But flexitarians still have the option to indulge in a juicy burger occasionally.  Or a chicken breast or a nice piece of fish if they want–Perfect!

Many celebs, like Beyonce, are touting the health benefits of flexitarianism.  The term was created about a decade ago as a hybrid between the words flexible and vegetarian.  In 2009, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner published The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life.  The book promotes the idea that you don’t necessarily have to give up meat completely to reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Interestingly, a quarter of all Americans already fit this description.  Many of us consume meatless meals at least four days a week, according to the American Dietetic Association.  Although with recession and rising meat prices, I wonder if that stat is based on choice or necessity.

I’ve been a flexitarian all my life.  I come from a long line of flexitarians.  Growing up in south Mississippi, we didn’t really have a choice.  Meat was an extravagance.  We existed primarily on what we grew in the garden.  And old habits die hard, as they say, though it’s no longer a matter of practicality.

But health-wise, Flexitarianism is a good way to move away from animal proteins as a major source of calories in your diet.  And since protein is an important element of any healthy diet, supplementing with the occasional animal protein–whether it’s lean meat, fish, poultry or that juicy burger– fits the bill.

Not surprisingly, it might be a good choice for your waistline, too.  According to U.S. News and World Report, Flexitarians weigh 15 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts.  They also have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  And as an extra bonus, they live longer.

So, whether you consider going flexitarian for health reasons or economic ones, flexitarianism is good for both you and your pocket book.

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