Embracing the Flexitarian Lifestyle

As the granddaughter of a proud Polish woman, I was brought up with a love of all things meat. Going to visit my dad’s family always meant two things: spending quality time with my relatives, and devouring as much Polish ham as possible before my uncle Czes ate it all. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I never showed any interest in voluntarily eating a vegetable. Instead, my parents would put mounds of broccoli on my plate, and I had to stay at the table until I’d forced it down, interjected by copious complaints.

To this day, broccoli remains my arch nemesis. But living with vegetarians at university has really broadened my horizons when it comes to appreciating vegetables, to the extent that I would now consider myself a flexitarian. This entails eating a predominantly vegetarian diet, and is a much more achievable goal than cutting out meat cold turkey, so to speak. If you’re planning on reducing your meat and fish consumption for ethical, economic or health reasons, or want a transitional period before you fully embrace the vegetarian lifestyle, flexitarianism is ideal.

Before any of my vegetarian friends call me out on my self-professed flexitarianism, it has to be said that if I’m eating out, I’ll still choose a meat or fish option. In my opinion, that says a lot more about the limited choice that vegetarians and vegans have in most restaurants than my failure as a newfound vegetable fan. The one veggie option is nearly always an overpriced wild mushroom risotto, or some form of goat’s cheese tart, neither of which are particularly appetising to me. I’d much rather cook vegetarian meals at home, using the money saved from spending on poor quality meat to enjoy a delicious steak. However, I do love a good vegetarian/vegan restaurant, because there’s so much to choose from – Bristol favourites include Falafel King and Café Kino.

Becoming flexitarian hasn’t just involved trying new vegetables, but a whole host of essential meat substitutes, to ensure that I consume enough protein. Chickpeas are now a firm favourite of mine, especially in a curry with sweet potato and spinach. Even kidney beans, which I once despised, are enjoyable in a well-seasoned veggie chilli, just as long as it’s covered in mounds of cheese (veggie meals aren’t necessarily healthy meals). Despite being a picky eater, incorporating all these new foods into my diet has been made much easier thanks to my vegetarian flatmates. Their inventive ingredient combinations mean that the flavours tend to be much more interesting than a standard meat-and-two-veg meal.