Thinking about reducing your meat intake but not sure if you can fully commit to a 100% vegetarian or vegan diet? Don’t worry—reducing your meat consumption doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game!
Lettuce introduce you to the flexitarian diet, the meat-reduced dietary lifestyle that may be your perfect match.
Also known as the semi-vegetarian diet, flexitarianism emphasizes reduced use of processed meat and other animal products and greater intake of plant foods. It is a type of vegetarian diet (well, mostly vegetarian) that lets you reduce your diet’s environmental impact while still allowing you the flexibility to have meat or dairy products on occasion. Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner created the term in
her 2009 book Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life.
Flexing the Benefits
Your life doesn’t become boring when you give up your favorite cuts of red meat—quite the opposite! There are endless possibilities when it comes to vegan and vegetarian cuisine, from wraps to burgers to nachos. That all means that you won’t be stuck with the same three meals day in and day out.
Of course, if you really can’t see yourself giving up the occasional steak, a flexible diet allows you to cut back on the total amount of meat you consume, meaning you can still reduce your impact on the environment in a thoughtful, sustainable way. And, because this diet is less restrictive, it feels more accessible than a totally meatless diet while also making it easier for you to ensure you’re getting all the nutrition you need from every food group.
Not convinced yet? Don’t just take our word for it; according to “Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature,” there are some serious potential benefits for your health when you enjoy a flexitarian lifestyle compared to traditional omnivorous diets, including:
● Weight loss and lower risk of obesity
● Healthier blood pressure readings
● Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
● Decrease in cholesterol intake
● Better metabolic health markers
Plant-Based Substitutes We Need to Taco ‘Bout
Some people may think that “plant-based diet” automatically means “healthy diet.” However, simply forgoing animal products alone may not be enough to be healthy. If you’re a beginner to the reduced-meat lifestyle, then you need to know alternate ways to keep getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients you need to stay happy and healthy.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to find new sources of protein when moving away from a traditionally omnivorous diet. Great plant-based protein sources include legumes like black beans, lentils, and chickpeas. In fact, you probably already incorporate these legumes into your diet already if you enjoy burritos, sprouted grain bread, and hummus! Legumes aren’t the only great meatless sources of protein, either. It’s also easy to get this nutrient from potatoes, nuts, and soy products like tempeh (how about a tempeh taco night?).
We all know that carbs are delicious. But did you know that carbs are the fuel your body needs to get through the day? Our menu includes items that contain whole-grain carbs like brown rice and quinoa, such as our scrumptious orange cauliflower bowl and our mouth-watering cauliflower chickpea shawarma wrap. These high-quality carbs can fuel your body and leave you feeling energized throughout the day. Some carbs, like quinoa, even pack a protein-rich punch!
We all know that too much fat can increase the risk of heart disease and other negative health outcomes. But what many people don’t realize is that you need some fat (and preferably more of the “good” kinds, or unsaturated fats) in your diet. When enjoyed in moderation, sources of natural fats that can be part of a healthier diet include avocados, nuts and seeds, and tofu.
Other Essential Nutrients
Animal protein is rich in essential nutrients like iron and other animal products, like dairy, are high in other necessary nutrients like calcium. And some essential nutrients, like vitamin B12, are only found in animal products. That means it’s vital to ensure that a meatless (or mostly meatless) diet contains these
crucial nutrients from other sources. Calcium, for example, is easy enough to find in dairy products, leafy greens, edamame, and almonds while iron is plentiful in lentils, broccoli, beans, and nuts. Other nutrients, like B12, are a little trickier to incorporate into a mostly meat-free diet, although not impossible. Vegetarians can still get this vitamin from dairy products, eggs, and seafood. Vegans, however, need to find vitamin B12-fortified foods like certain cereals and nutritional yeast. If all else fails, supplements are also an option!
Flexitarianism and You – The Perfect Pear?
A lot of people give up on vegetarianism or veganism because they find these diets to be too intimidating, too restrictive, or too difficult to follow. If you’re in that boat, don’t worry. Plenty of other people have bean there, done that—which is why flexitarianism may be your match made in sustainable eating heaven. You can eat less meat and do it in a way that is easier to stick to. Less stress, less environmental impact, and potentially more health benefits? Whether you use flexitarianism as a means unto itself or as a stepping stone on your path to a totally vegetarian or vegan diet, you can’t deny the serious benefits of this dietary lifestyle.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that, done right, this diet is downright delicious. Even if you’ve been a total meat eater who doesn’t like veggies in the past, there are plenty of ways to reinvent your favorite meat-based dishes using meatless alternatives that taste as good as (or even better than) the real thing.
We believe that this is where our menu comes into the picture. We didn’t design our meals just for vegans; we designed them for everyone who enjoys good-tasting food, from burgers to nachos to plant-based chicken tenders. Take a bite of our constantly changing menu, and you’ll see just how enjoyable a plant-based lifestyle can be!