Written by Cloé Vaz-Wiggins
Image by @aimazin
In a world where dietary choices are as diverse as the cultures that define them, the flexitarian diet has emerged as a balanced and flexible approach to eating that combines the best of both worlds. This diet offers a compromise between the benefits of plant-based eating and the occasional inclusion of animal products. If you, like I, are intrigued by the idea of a flexitarian lifestyle, let’s embark on a beginner’s journey into the realm of mindful, sustainable eating.
At its core, the flexitarian diet is a predominantly plant-based eating pattern that allows for occasional consumption of animal products. Unlike strict vegetarian or vegan diets, flexitarians have the flexibility to tailor their meals according to personal preferences and nutritional needs. This approach promotes a balanced intake of nutrients while reducing the environmental impact associated with intensive animal agriculture.
Not to mention, the health benefits:
Heart Health: A flexitarian diet is typically rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins, all of which are associated with improved heart health and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Weight Management: The emphasis on plant-based foods can contribute to weight management and may even aid in weight loss, as these foods are often lower in calories and saturated fats.
Digestive Health: The high fiber content of plant-based foods supports a healthy digestive system and promotes regular bowel movements.
Reduced Chronic Disease Risk: Plant-based diets have been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and hypertension.
And the cherry on top, the environmental benefits:
Lower Carbon Footprint: Plant-based diets have a lower environmental impact, as they require fewer natural resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to diets heavy in animal products.
Reduced Land and Water Usage: Animal agriculture demands substantial land and water resources. Opting for more plant-based meals helps conserve these valuable resources.
Now, if you like me, feel a little overwhelmed as to where to start and what to actually eat, here are a few ideas:
What to eat more of:
Fruits and Vegetables: Fill your plate with a vibrant array of fruits and vegetables, aiming for a variety of colors and nutrients.
Whole Grains: Incorporate whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat into your meals for sustained energy.
Plant-Based Proteins: Include legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), tofu, tempeh, and nuts to meet your protein needs.
Healthy Fats: Avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil provide essential fats that support overall health.
What to eat less of:
Red Meat: Limit red meat consumption, opting for leaner cuts when you do indulge.
Processed Meats: Minimize or avoid processed meats like sausages, bacon, and deli meats due to their links to health risks.
Sugary Snacks and Drinks: Reduce your intake of sugary snacks, sodas, and sugary beverages.
Refined Grains: Limit refined grains like white bread and sugary cereals, opting for whole grains instead.
Embarking on a flexitarian journey is an opportunity to prioritize both your health and the health of our planet. By embracing plant-based foods while maintaining flexibility with occasional animal products, you can create a sustainable eating pattern that aligns with your values and wellness goals. Remember, every meal is a chance to make a positive impact, both on your own well-being and the world around you. It’s also important that you take this step feeling prepared and able, so reach out to your doctor or a nutritionist before making any decisions to ensure you’re ready to do it in a way that will serve and benefit you.