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the flexitarian diet blueprint: is it healthy? the pros and cons


A lot of people nowadays are wondering about the flexitarian diet and ask: what is it? What are its pros and cons? How I’m going to be sure that is healthy to be on this diet?…

More of these questions we are going to answer in this ultimate guide to being in flexitarian diet article.

At the end of this guide, you’re going to be able to see why a flexitarian diet might be your chosen diet. Let’s dive right in!

  • what is the flexitarian diet?
  • what are the pros and cons of a flexitarian diet
  • is the flexitarian diet healthy?
  • How does the flexitarian diet work exactly?
  • The flexitarian diet food list (foods to eat and foods to minimize)


what is the flexitarian diet?

The Flexitarian Diet is mainly a plant-based food while allowing meat and other animal products to be consumed moderately.

It’s more flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan diets.

If you’re looking to add more plant foods to your meal while not completely cutting out meat, going flexitarian may be for you.

The Flexitarian Diet was established by the dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. The reason behind it was to enable people realize the rewards of vegetarian eating while they still can enjoy animal products in moderation.

That’s why the name of this diet is a mix of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.”

Why is this diet considered an entryway to your plant-based diet?

Vegetarians avoid eating meat and some other animal foods, while vegans refuse completely meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and any other animal-derived foods.

Because flexitarians consume animal products, they are not considered vegetarians or vegans. There are no clear-cut rules or suggested calorie and macronutrient amounts in the Flexitarian diet. In fact, it’s more lifestyle than a diet.

It’s a vegetarian that occasionally incorporates meat into their diet. The flexible diet has no hard and fast restrictions; instead, it allows you to reap the health benefits. Associated with vegetarianism while providing some wiggle room for the odd steak.

What are the pros and cons of a flexitarian diet?

flexitarian diet pros:

Emphasizes nutritious foods

Since the flexitarian diet comprises all food groups, it’s possible that you’ll meet all your nutrient requirements on this diet (maybe with a little effort to ensure sufficient iron consumption).

Strict vegetarian and vegan diet may be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, notably DHA, which is present in fish.

Here is the deal:

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; more than half of the vegetarians in a group had a DHA intake of zero. A flexitarian diet provides persons with the freedom to continue eating fish on a regular basis while also providing a better overall nutrient balance.


Nothing is taken out of the flexible diet. Rather, the focus should be on increasing plant-based diets while lowering the consumption of animal-based foods.

Because all foods fit within this diet, it’s incredibly easy to make lifestyle changes and design meals around items you enjoy. You can even go to a friend’s dinner party or visit a restaurant while still focusing on the core principles of this diet.


This plan does not necessitate the use of expensive meal replacements or special recipes. Instead, you can select meals that suit your pocket.

Though you may spend more on produce each week, it tends to balance out because you may be spending less on meat each week.

Weight Loss

Several researchers have suggested that semi-vegetarian diets are linked to lower body weight.

A 2015 study published in Clinical Nutrition Research shows that postmenopausal women who followed a semi-vegetarian diet had lower body weight (BMI) and body fat percentage when compared to non-vegetarian women.

Another study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014, discovered that semi-vegetarian had lower obesity rates when compared to non-vegetarians.

Reduced risk of Diabetes

Eating a flexitarian diet may help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.

Three different studies: one from 2009 in Diabetes Care,9 one from 2011 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases,10 and one from 2014 in Nutrition Journal11—found that a semi-vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to non-vegetarian diets.

flexitarian diet cons:

May Be Difficult for Daily Meat-Eaters

It may be difficult to transition to a more vegetarian diet if you grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household.

The flexible diet, on the other hand, is about finding a way of life that works for you, which could include eating meatless two days a week and enjoying your beef, chicken, or pork on the other days.

In addition, current research suggests that modifying mixed dishes to make them more vegetable-centric is a good idea

Try mixing chopped mushrooms into your burger, going half-and-half on meat and lentils in your burrito bowl or adding more veggies and less pork to your homemade ramen.

Potentially Low Iron Intake

In a study of Australian women, researchers discovered that semi-vegetarian women had higher incidences of low iron levels, iron deficiency and anemia more than non-vegetarian women.

Depending on how often you include meat in your flexible diet, you may need to pay special attention to adding additional plant-based iron source. Soy, lentils, beans, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains are among them.

Additional guidance for Those With Diabetes

A flexitarian diet has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, according to research.

Those with diabetes, on the other hand, may want a little extra guidance when following the diet. Many plant-based protein sources, such as beans and lentils, are also high in carbohydrates.

You might notice that the total carb count on your meal is a little higher, which could alter blood sugar levels.

is the flexitarian diet healthy?

According to Blаtnеr, the Flexitarian diet emphasizes preserving and eating produce, which will likely cut down on the consumption of processed and packaged foods that are often packed with extra salt and sugar.

“It’s ideal for someone who doesn’t want to be too strict about not eating their favorite animal-based meal,”

The semi-vegetarian Flexitarian Diet focuses on healthy plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant-based foods but encourages meat and animal products in moderation.

Eating flexitarian may aid weight loss and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. It may even be good for the planet. However, planning your flexitarian food choices well is important to prevent nutritional deficiencies and reap the most health benefits.


How does the flexitarian diet work exactly?

“You may think of this diet as a ‘vegetarian-ish’ style of eating because it incorporates the core principles and benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as the incorporation of some animal proteins to a reduced extent,” says Dawn Jackson Blаtnеr, RDN, a Chicago-based author of The Flexitarian diet.

This means that while vegetarian staples such as tofu, ԛuіnоа, tons of produce, and other veggie-focused favorites may be the stars of your diet, no foods are taken away or strictly forbidden. But the flexitarian the label isn’t equivalent to “lazy vegetarian” — instead, it’s an approach that advocates actively decreasing meat consumption.

Advanced Flexitarian

The next tier, Advanced Flexitarian, cuts meat consumption down further by suggestion people follow a vegetarian diet three to four days a week and consume no more than 18 oz of meat total during the rest of the week.

Expert Flexitarian

The final level, Expert Flexitarian, requires five meat-free days but allows 9 oz of meat during the other two days. (It’ѕ worth noting that at any tier of this diet, the days that you do eat meat do not have to be consecutive). If thinking about ounces of meat per week confuses you, using the following guidelines instead may be helpful:

  • Beginner: 6–8 meatless meals/ 21 total meals each week
  • Advanced: 9–14 meatless meals/ 21 total meals each week
  • Expert: 15+ meatless meals/21 total meals each week

These guidelines, set out by Blаtnеr, are what separate the Flexitarian Diet from other meat-containing eating plans like an omnivore diet. While flexitarians prioritize vegetables, omnivores can eat as much meat as they please and have no intention of making the majority of their meals veggie-forward.

It’ѕ also worth noting that you can follow Blаtnеr’ѕ regime at your own pace by slowly adding in meat-free meals, or even full days as in the case of Meatless Monday or Tofu Tuesday.

The flexitarian diet food list (foods to eat and foods to minimize)?

Foods to eat:

Flexitarians emphasize plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant foods while limiting animal products.

Foods to eat regularly include:

  • Proteins: Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, legumes, lentils.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: Greens, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower.
  • Starchy vegetables: Winter squash, peas, corn, sweet potato.
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, berries, grapes, cherries.
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, teff, buckwheat, farro.
  • Nuts, seeds and other healthy fats: Almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanut butter, avocados, olives, coconut.
  • Plant-based milk alternatives: Unsweetened almond, coconut, hemp and soy milk.
  • Herbs, spices and seasonings : Basil, oregano, mint, thyme, cumin, turmeric, ginger.
  • Condiments: Reduced-ѕоdіum soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, salsa, mustard,
  • nutrіtіоnаl yeast, ketchup without added sugar.
  • Beverages: Still and sparkling water, tea, coffee.

When incorporating animal products, choose the following when possible:

  • Eggs: Free-range or pasture-raised.
  • Poultry: Organic, free-range or pasture-raised.
  • Fish: Wild-caught.
  • Meat: Grass-fed or pasture-raised.
  • Dairy: Organic from grass-fed or pastured animals.

Foods to minimize:

The Flexitarian Diet not only encourages limiting meat and animal products but also limiting highly processed foods, refined grains and added sugar.

Foods to minimize include:

  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, bologna.
  • Refined carbs: White bread, white rice, bagels, croissants.
  • Added sugar and sweets: Soda, donuts, cakes, cookies, candy.
  • Fast food: Fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, milkshakes.


A Sample Flexitarian Meal Plan for One Week

This one-week meal plan provides you with the ideas you need to start eating flexitarian.

  • Monday:
  1. Breakfast: Steel-cuts oats with apples, milled flaxseed and cinnamon.
  2. Lunch: Salad with greens, shrimp, corn, black beans and avocado.
  3. Dinner: Lentil soup with whole-grains bread and a side salad.
  • Tuesday:
  1. Breakfast: Whole-grain toast with avocado and poached eggs.
  2. Lunch: Burrito bowl with brown rice, beans and vegetables.
  3. Dinner: Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce and white beans.
  • Wednesday:
  1. Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with bananas and walnuts.
  2. Lunch: Whole-grains wrap with hummus, vegetables and chickpeas.
  3. Dinner: Grilled salmon, baked sweet potato and green beans.
  • Thursday:
  1. Breakfast: Smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk, spinach, peanut, Butter and frozen berries.
  2. Lunch: Kale Caesar salad with lentils and tomato soup.
  3. Dinner: Baked chicken, quinoa and roasted cauliflower.
  • Friday:
  1. Breakfast: Greek yogurt with blueberries and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Lunch: Chard wraps with mixed veggies and peanut dipping sauce.
  3. Dinner: Lintel stew and a side salad.
  • Saturday:
  1. Breakfast: Over-easy eggs with sauteed veggies and fruit salad.
  2. Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich with crushed berries on whole-grain bread.
  3. Dinner: Black bean burgers with avocado and sweet potato fries.
  • Sunday:
  1. Breakfast: Tofu scramble with mixed veggies and spices.
  2. Lunch: Quinoa salad with dried cranberries, pecans and feta cheese.
  3. Dinner: Stuffed bell peppers with ground turkey and a side salad.

Eating a flexitarian diet is about limiting the consumption of meat and animal products while focusing on nutritious plant-based foods.

Some people may choose to eat more or fewer animal products than shown in the above meal plan.

What’s the bottom line?

It’s completely up to you on how quickly you make the jump to a flexitarian diet. Though Blаtnеr recommends that beginners start with two meatless days per week, before moving to three to four, and eventually to five days without meat every week.

As the founder of several vegan concepts, Gen. T honouree Kelly Chen is a vocal advocate for plant-based living. She says the key to success is to take it slowly and to not—if this isn’t an inappropriate idiom— go cold turkey. “First, try to change one of your daily meals to be plant based, “she says. Then, after time, make the move to eat a vegetarian diet one day a week.

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