What It Means to Be a “Flexitarian"

For most of my life, I’ve been extremely picky when it comes to meat. I would practically dissect each piece of meat I encountered to make sure there wasn’t anything “weird” about it. Any trace of fat and I would not eat it.

I don’t really know where this pickiness came from, but it’s definitely affected my eating choices as I’ve grown up. In the past few years, I’ve tended to stray towards vegetarian options when I’m cooking or going out. The only food with meat I order are burgers, chicken, and sometimes sausage or turkey. Whenever someone asked me if I’m vegetarian, I wouldn’t really know how to answer. I’d say something like, “Most of the time, but I still eat some meat.”

I recently learned from a nutrition class that there are in fact many different ways you can describe your particular veggie diet. There’s vegetarian, vegan, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, etc. One of them was “flexitarian” which is another term I’d never heard of before.

Flexitarian basically means you’re a flexible vegetarian. Your diet is mostly plant-based but with an occasional meat item. I thought this was cool because I used to think that you can only be a full vegetarian or not one at all.

According to Healthline, the flexitarian diet is based on the following principles:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

  • Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.

  • Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.

  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.

  • Limit added sugar and sweets.

It can be difficult to incorporate enough protein into your diet when you don’t eat much meat. Some of my favorite ways to get protein in my body without eating meat include eating beans, tofu, eggs, dairy products like cheese and yogurt, and power bars. My go-to meal is a brown rice bowl with beans or tofu, sauteed veggies, and a fried egg on top. Another way I get protein is from almond butter or peanut butter. I spread some almond butter on toast in the morning with sliced bananas and it’s the perfect breakfast. Sometimes I’ll make protein smoothies too which are a refreshing and convenient way to get the most nutrients.

Image via Unsplash

Being on the flexitarian diet is said to help with weight loss and prevent heart disease and diabetes. However, it’s especially important for a flexitarian to incorporate the essential nutrients they might be lacking due to less meat consumption. They’ll have to consume as wide a variety of food as they can, and if they still feel like they’re missing some nutrients, it’s perfectly fine to take supplements as long as it’s in moderation. Healthline has a list of the best foods to eat on the flexitarian diet, which include eating nuts, seeds and healthy fats such as avocados, olives, and peanut butter.

I’m glad I finally have a word to describe my eating habits because it’s always been confusing to me and other people. I don’t think I’ll ever be a big meat consumer, but I love me a good burger once in a while. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat, but I believe in making humane decisions when eating meat. It’s important to not buy from factory farms or anywhere in which they harm the animal, and I think we should all limit our meat consumption in general.

It’s a personal choice whether you’re a vegetarian or not; both are valid choices. We should be able to eat what we most enjoy and what makes us feel the healthiest. I’m happy with being a flexitarian because it literally allows me to be flexible with my diet and to not have to go completely one way or another. What matters most is that we’re getting the right nutrients from whatever foods we decide to eat.