In the past few years we’ve seen a growing interest in nutrition and various diets as veganism, paleo or more recently peganism. We could link the emergence of these diets to a rising consciousness on health and environmental issues. Flexitarianism is another of these new “diets”, usually defined as “semi-vegetarian”. However, I believe that this definition is a lot restrictive compared to what being flexitarian truly means.
Fundamentals of flexitarianism
When searching on internet, you’ll see that a flexitarian basically is a “semi-vegetarian”, as if we were making half of the effort. So let me explain a little further: a flexitarian is someone who reduces drastically it’s meat consumption because they are conscious of the health and environmental issues related to nowadays global food habits. Flexitarianism largely relies on a plant-based diet which integrates from times to times animal sourced products.
Much more importantly, the flexitarian tends to adopt a responsible consumption mode applying not only to meat, but also fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. There is a real consideration for the product’s quality and then a motivation to reduce the environmental impact (making the least damage possible).
The idea of flexibility is key here. One of the best things about being flexitarian is that you are not restricted, it is all about conscious inclusion and balance. Even though vegan options are flourishing, trendy diets can be restrictive, meaning that your social life is directly impacted and can bring frustration for some people. I trust that eating is an important aspect of our lives and that it should remain a pleasure to have a meal with family and friends, rather than a hassle.
Responsibility is key to flexitarianism. As flexitarians we are concerned by the impact of what we eat on the planet. In the past years, the medias relayed infos on food scandals or sanitary issues so that they are impossible to avoid. We all now realise that livestocks are requiring a lot of water and are responsible for 15% of the world greenhouse gas emissions.
Hence, this diet leans towards a higher respect for our planet being more seasonal and local than ever before. Here again, it is not only applied to meat, but to any other products mostly fishes for which the seasonality isn’t yet very well-known. By selecting more seasonal products, the quality will directly be improved, going local can potentially mean a higher quality as you will have access to the production techniques and will have a smaller impact on the planet. However, it is a matter of doing your best because we will never grow an avocado or banana in France!
Sustainability not only considers the environment but also economic and social matters. By eating less meat, you can enhance your participation to the local economy as less imports are needed to answer the demand. Hence, your earnings are re-injected in the country’s economy and by selecting smaller productions you help farmers sustain: a virtuous cycle!
By being flexitarian, you keep on making the farmers work. And even greater, you can vary the type of meat you consume. While chicken tends to be over consumed and is the specie most fed with antibiotics and intensively produced, some meats as duck or rabbit are not consumers friendly. Try to diversify the meats you eat, this is another way to contribute.
Flexitarianism and diets
As flexitarians are mostly plant-based, my first tip is to learn about the different diets that are existing because you’ll need them. Reducing your animal products consumption causes a loss of some nutrients, mostly proteins. The mistake when turning flexitarian is not to replace these nutrients with some found in plants products. I particularly like sourcing ideas in the vegan diet which provides carefully thought alternatives to meat as cereals or grains.
Secondly, open your mind on new food! Sometimes we are not imagining how nutritious plant-based products can be. A little comparison (for 100g): Chickpeas provide 19g protein and 6g of fat (0.6g saturated) versus Chicken provides 27g protein and 14g of fat (3.8g saturated). So, yes, it’s less protein but way healthier fat – and you should be happy reading this :). Learn how to cook vegetables, they are sooo tasty and full of nutrients and minerals. Try out some vegan blogs or restaurants too, you’ll get a crazy amount of ideas and trust me many are easy to reproduce at home!
A lifestyle rather than a diet
Finally, I wouldn’t say that turning flexitarian is adoting a new diet, because you are eating what you like without precise boundaries. It is more about upgrading the way you eat for yourself while improving sustainability. Open up your mind peeps, the one meat a meal era is totally out of fashion!