Today, the abundance of dietary plans allows the weight-watchers among us to choose what they like most of all. There are those diets for people who don’t eat certain food groups, such as carbohydrates or animal products. There are even diets that include only drinks and exclude foods. This is why sometimes it is quite hard to understand which diet is better to choose and which one could be dangerous for your health. This article can inform you of another nutrition plan, that keeps gaining in popularity in the modern wellness world. What is a flexitarian meal plan? What are its risks and benefits? What foods to eat? Here you can find the answers to these and many other questions concerning this meal plan. Let’s start!
What Is A Flexitarian Diet?
We can see that vegan and vegetarian eating patterns are getting more and more common. These dieters are attracted by their benefits for weight loss, overall health and environment. However, for some people it is quite hard to keep with such diets, as they restrict one from some of the essential food groups. There are also people who would like to follow these meal plans, but cannot do it because of some potential effects on their health. If you are one of them, the flexitarian diet could be perfect for you. Basically speaking, this is a more flexible vegetarian diet (flexible plus vegetarian is flexitarian) than most. This diet was created by Dawn Jackson Blatner. It can help one to lose weight and offers some nice health benefits (4).
The premise is that the followers of this meal plan can both get all the benefits the vegetarian diet offers and consume animal products (including meat) in moderate amounts. This means you should just eat mostly plant based foods (fruit, veggies, grains and more) and eat animal products from time to time. You should also avoid sweets and added sugars, as well as limit your consumption of processed foods. As you can see, this can be called a semi-vegetarian eating pattern. This diet has no strict rules and the dieters can make some changes in the meal plan to make it more suitable for them.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of A Flexitarian Diet?
When you get going on a diet, it is vital to know about all its risks and benefits. In this way people can understand whether or not the meal plan will help them to achieve their fitness goals and whether it will be safe for their health or not. Below you can see a list of pros and cons of the flexitarian meal plan. So, what are the benefits of eating less meat? And what are the drawbacks? Read on!
There are not many studies concerning the benefits of this diet in particular. However, the studies about other plant-based diets can help us to highlight the benefits of the flexitarian meal plan as well.
May Help To Peel Off Unwanted Pounds
Most people start following some sort of dietary plan in order to get rid of excess weight. Flexitarian diet can be helpful in your fight with reducing excess inches too.
Yes, eating more plant based foods can help to slim down, as they are lower in fats and calories. According to several studies, the individuals who keep with plant based meal plans may lose more weight than those having a regular diet (3, 12).
No matter which way you may take, it is still important to make smart eating choices. Your foods should be minimally processed and should be prepared in a healthy way. If you decrease your meat consumption but still include junk foods loaded with salt, unhealthy fats and sugars, you aren’t likely to lose weight (5).
Supports Your Heart Health
According to a study, meal plans rich in dietary fiber and healthy fats can help to support your cardiovascular health (6). The followers of the vegetarian diets have a significantly lower risk of getting cardiovascular disease, compared to the meat eaters. The thing is that plant based diets provide the dieters with antioxidants and fiber. In this way you can decrease bad cholesterol levels and lower your blood pressure (8).
Helps To Fight And Prevent Serious Diseases
Environmental issues, constant stress, lack of sleep and many other factors impact your health negatively. They can lead to a number of dangerous diseases that are quite hard to treat. Two of the most widespread medical conditions are cancer and diabetes. The good news is that a proper diet can help to combat and prevent them.
The best thing would be to opt for a plant-based diet. Basically, this is because such diets help people lose more weight and maintain healthy weight. According to one study, people who mostly follow plant-based diets are less likely to have type 2 diabetes than people who are on non-vegetarian diets (9).
Vegetarian diets can also significantly lower the risks of cancer. Those who follow mostly vegetarian diets have an 8% lower chance to get this medical condition compared to the non-vegetarian dieters (10, 11).
Helps To Live Longer
According to research, plant-based diets are associated with reduced all-cause mortality (2).
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And what about the cons? The flexitarian meal plan can be classified as a healthy one, if you follow it wisely. It is important to plan your meals and to make sure there are all necessary nutrients on your plate. Let’s be clear, everything depends on your eating choices. If you don’t plan your menu and opt for junk food (French fries are plant-based, but they are hardly healthy food), you’ll face some issues. The main possible drawback of this dietary pattern is related to nutrient deficiencies.
For instance, you may face protein deficiency, if you don’t replace the protein you get from meat with plant based sources. If you don’t plan your diet properly, you may also experience omega-3 fats, vitamins B12 and D, calcium, iron and zinc deficiencies (7).
The flexitarian diet isn’t that restrictive as, for instance, vegan diet, so you can easily make it perfectly balanced. For instance, you can get omega-3 fatty acids and zinc from seafood. Dairy can provide you with calcium. Protein can be found not only in meat, poultry and eggs, but in oats, tofu, lentils and broccoli as well. You should consult a registered dietitian to get more detailed information about nutrients.
As you can see, this diet is more about smart eating choices than about eating less meat and other animal products.
Flexitarian Diet Recipes
First, you can see a sample shopping list that will help you to understand what foods should be included to your menu. As for the animal products, you should include eggs, dairy, poultry, fish and lean meats in limited amounts. You can drink tea, coffee and water. Plant-based proteins include lentils, legumes, tofu and more. It is also important to eat whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and more. Fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, as well as milk alternatives should be incorporated in your diet too.
As for the recipes, everything is up to you. Just remember that you should mostly eat plant-based foods. But if you need a sample, below you can find a flexitarian meal plan simple recipes of breakfast, lunch and dinner, that will help you to build your menu.
You can select traditional breakfast recipes, such as oatmeal with berries and peanut butter. Whole grain toast with egg, avocado and spinach and your favorite smoothie would be a nice option as well.
You can try to cook Buddha Bowl (1). You’ll need ¼ avocado, ¾ cup canned black beans, ¼ cup hummus, 2/3 cup cooked quinoa, 3 tbsp pico de gallo, 1 tbsp lime juice and some chopped cilantro. Mix hummus with lime juice and some water to make the seasoning. Take a bowl, mix rinsed beans with quinoa and add the seasoning. Add pico de gallo, avocado cubes and cilantro to finish your meal.
This is just a sample of Buddha Bowl. The best thing is that you can change the ingredients and make an entirely different meal.
You can cook a super simple and delicious dinner in just 10 minutes. You’ll need 2-4 large sweet potatoes (depending on the amount of portions you want to cook) and 2 tbsp of olive oil. You should also take salt, ground black pepper and dried oregano, 2 pinches each. First, you should preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take a pan and coat its bottom with oil. Then you should peel and cut you sweet potatoes. Place the pieces into the pan and mix them well, so that they are coated with olive oil. Add the spices. Bake for an hour until the potato pieces get soft.
You can choose your favorite nuts, fruits and yogurts and eat them between your major meals.
So, as you can see, the recipes are pretty simple. You can create your own or use your favorite ones to make your menu diverse and delicious.
How To Start A Flexitarian Diet?
The best thing about this dietary plan is that it doesn’t require some fundamental changes in your lifestyle. The first steps towards this nutrition plan are quite simple. For instance, when you go to the grocery shop, make sure to buy more plant-based foods, such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, tofu, nuts, seeds and more. You can go for frozen and canned fruits and vegetables as well. You might also try some non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, coconut milk and more. It is also important to buy fewer animal products, such as meat, fish or dairy.
Another piece of advice is to pay attention to the portions of certain food groups. You should reduce your portions of meat and other animal products and increase your portions of vegetables and fruits. To simplify this, you can divide your plate into 4 parts. ¼ of your portion will be for meat, fish and other animal products, another ¼ – for whole grains, and ½ for fruits and vegetables. You can also create your own flexitarian weekly meal plan.
You can start on the flexitarian diet meal plan gradually and carefully in order to avoid unnecessary stress for your body. If you are a beginner, you can avoid meat two days a week and eat only 26 oz of meat during the rest of the week. When you maintain this diet for a longer period of time, you can go vegetarian for 3-4 days a week and eat 18 oz of meat products during the rest of the week. And finally, when you totally get used to this eating pattern, you can increase the amount of “non-meat” days to 5 and consume only 9 oz of animal products during the remaining 2 days.
In conclusion, as you can see, a flexitarian meal plan can bring you a bunch of benefits, if you keep to it properly and “wisely”. You should help your body meet its nutritional needs, so your diet must be well-balanced. Make sure your flexitarian meal plan includes all necessary food groups so that your body can get essential nutrients. You also shouldn’t forget about working out on a day-to-day basis and drinking necessary amounts of water. These simple lifestyle changes will help you achieve your fitness goals and support your overall health. Make it a rule to talk to your doctor before making some serious adjustments in your diet and workouts routine in order to avoid medical issues and injuries. Take care of yourself and prioritize your health.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Black Bean-Quinoa Buddha Bowl (2017, eatingwell.com)
- Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: a randomized controlled trial of five different diets (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview (2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (2015, link.springer.com)