What does it mean to be flexitarian?

Photo of food placed on a dish
This is not a medical journal. Always consult with a medical profession before embarking on any dietary changes.

It’s the beginning of 2021, and everyone is very “New Year, new me.” Everyone could (and can) agree that 2020 was on very special year, leading many people to binge on basically everything. Since we’ve been staying home more, food has become even more of a centerpiece in our lives. I, for one, have gained some weight that I knew I would need to shed (I recognize that my metabolism is slowing down). That being said, I still ate all the Dominican pastelitos (empanadas) I could get my hands on during that odd time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (even after, if I’m being honest).

But, I knew that I’d have to course correct in 2021 because a sis cannot live like that and not reap the consequences later on. I am not a “fad” diet person, mainly because I don’t think they work. To me, they’ve always seemed like a bandaid to a much bigger problem — people’s overall relationship with food. Based on my personal philosophy and what I’ve actually seen work for myself, I’ve approached that issue with the idea that I can still eat what I’d like but that I’d have to make swaps elsewhere to offset the occasional savory treat (not one for sweets, really).

A few years back I heard about the flexitarian diet (which in my opinion is more of a lifestyle change), and really liked it. When I first mentioned that this would be what I was doing to my cousin, one who had never heard of it before, made fun of it (rightly so, as it is an odd word). What really spurred my push in that direction was an article I read about Meghan Markle’s philosophy on food and overall diet, one that mirrored that of the flexitarian philosophy.

Enough fluff. What does it mean to be a flexitarian?

According to Healthline, being a flexitarian is a fancy way of saying that you’re a vegetarian but with less stringent rules when it comes to eating meat and animal products. I grew up eating meat, and I am of the kind of gente that loves to bite into a juicy burger or toasting a small piece of baguette and topping it with butter. In all honesty, 2020 was the year of the carb for me and I knew that had to change. Following a version of the flexitarian lifestyle has helped me be more conscious of just how much of everything I was eating. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still eat my pasta, but I’ll offset it with more veggies and fruits throughout the day.

Who invented the flexitarian diet and why?

Healthline reports that it was created by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian, for the purpose of allowing folks to reap the joys of eating both meat (in moderation) and loads of veggies. She also published a book with 100 recipes that’ll get you started, while her blog boasts a repertoire of great additional recipes you can try. The Spruce Eats calls this the “semi-vegetarian” diet due to how it mixes both food elements (with more of the greens, obvs). The publication cites that flexitarians can decide how much meat and animal products they want to have throughout the week: as little as once a week to once a day. Healthline explains that this way of eating focuses on eating more greens and grains (fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains), decreasing the levels of processed foods and sugars, and getting your protein kick from plant-based foods with the occasional incorporation of animal products.

Okay, but what are the overall pros and cons of this thing?

This is one of those things that is [seemingly] has more pros than it does cons. Very Well Fit states that overall there are many benefits because it focuses on higher consumption of foods that are good for you that are rich in nutrients, amino acids, etc. It also asserts that it is a great philosophy if you are looking for a sustainable way of eating that is budget-friendly and aids in weight loss. Some cons? Very Well Fit states that it might be a somewhat tough adjustment for hardcore meat eaters because of the decreased intake of meat and that it can contribute to lower iron levels. In my case, I am doing more leaner meats that I incorporate throughout the week. But, like most things when it comes to nutrition, consult with your doctor first. Always.


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