What Is the Flexitarian Diet (and Should I Try It)?

What Is the Flexitarian Diet (and Should I Try It)?© Unsplash

Pescatarian, vegan, vegetarian and pegan. With so many diets to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down which ones work (and which will leave you totally hungry and miserable). One promising option? The Flexitarian diet. Here’s what you need to know.

What is it? Flexitarian is a portmanteau of flexible and vegetarian, and it pretty much means going meatless most of the time, but occasionally indulging in small amounts of meat. Popularized by registered nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2010 book The Flexitarian Diet, the diet—as its name implies—is all about flexibility and giving you lots of options. According to Blatner, you’re considered a beginner flexitarian if you go meatless two days a week, while advanced flexitarians skip meat three to four days a week and experts are fully plant-based five or more days a week.

What are the perks? We checked in Kellilyn Fierras, a registered nutritionist, dietitian and instructor at NYC’s EverybodyFights, who told us, “This diet allows for more ‘flexibility’ in what foods one can choose. Rather than being completely restrictive to plant-based proteins, this diet allows for one to get his or her protein from animal sources in limited quantity.” Plant-based diets, she told us, “have been associated with improved health outcomes, including lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, and lower total mortality.” Not too shabby.

But what *can’t* you eat? Actually, nothing is off limits. The diet emphasizes adding more plant-based foods to your diet, but doesn’t label any foods (or food groups) as totally off limits.

Is it safe to try? In general, yes. Fierras told us, “I would consider this diet to be safe due to the numerous options of food groups to choose from to create a well-rounded eating routine.” She added that while she would recommend flexitarianism to her clients, she “would be overly cautious of making sure they are consuming enough protein and iron.” 

Roger that.

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