The flexitarian diet is the most convenient strategy to reduce meat consumption.

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The flexitarian diet: The easiest way to cut down on meat consumption

Alexander Spatari

Adopting a plant-based diet is one way to help the world. Plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses (beans and legumes), and whole grains, are prioritized in a flexitarian diet, although meat, dairy, and other animal foods are also included. According to the most recent U.S. News & World Report Best Diet Rankings, this eating pattern, specifically the one outlined in registered dietitian nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner's book "The Flexitarian Diet," came in second overall (tied with the DASH diet) and was considered one of the easiest to follow.Adopting a flexitarian diet is a wonderful strategy to consume more plants and minimize your meat consumption if you're actively seeking for ways to do so. Before you begin, here's what you should know.

What are the advantages of a flexitarian diet in terms of health?

You'll reap substantial benefits if you increase your intake of plant foods while decreasing your diet of red and processed meats, as well as other less healthy items like overly processed snack foods, refined grains, and sweets. A dietary pattern rich in healthy, minimally processed plant foods has been associated to:

  • Keeping your intellect sharp and your memory intact throughout time
  • Body composition and weight management improvements
  • Reducing the risk of difficult conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • A more optimistic outlook, more creativity, and a higher sense of fulfillment in life
  • As you get older, you'll be able to live longer and have a higher quality of life.

Plant meals provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols, which protect your body and brain from a variety of triggers that accelerate disease, aging, and mood problems. More and more research demonstrates that eating more plants and less meat improves health markers.

I also can't overlook the fact that these same meals have environmental benefits. Meat and dairy food production depletes natural resources, and these foods have a greater carbon footprint than plant meals. As a result, they contribute to climate change, which harms our world and puts people at risk of hunger.

What else might I expect if I stick to a flexitarian diet?

If you're used to eating a lot of highly processed foods, you could find that a flexitarian diet, which emphasizes fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, fills you full better. This can lead to a variety of other advantages. Feeling content after meals, for example, may mean you're less distracted by hunger, allowing you to be more productive at work or at home.

You may also feel more energized during the day and sleep better at night if you restrict excessively processed foods and favor plant foods. Sleeping well can offer a variety of advantages, including making you less susceptible to the common cold.

All of this means that following a flexitarian diet will provide you with both immediate and long-term benefits.

Is there anything negative about a flexitarian diet?

If you're not used to eating a mostly plant-based diet, you'll have to get used to tasting new foods and cutting back on the ones you eat all the time. Blathner's book, "The Flexitarian Diet," walks newcomers through the process of making gradual changes.

If you're used to eating a lot of processed convenience meals, you may have to get used to planning, prepping, and cooking more than you'd want, which may require some lifestyle changes. However, as I previously stated, this semi-vegetarian eating pattern is one of the easiest to follow, so these disadvantages aren't major deterrents. And, once you've become used to the alterations, they'll feel natural.

You may also require supplements to fill up any gaps in your diet, or you may need to organize your diet more carefully to obtain particular nutrients. Vitamin B12 and calcium, for example, are simpler to come by in animal meals than in plant-based foods, so make sure you're getting enough of them. This is where enriched plant-based milks and fortified whole-grain cereals might help. Furthermore, while this diet does not completely remove animal foods, you can still acquire key nutrients from them, and the truth is that eating more plants and following a flexitarian diet will improve the overall quality of your diet.

On a flexitarian diet, how much meat may I consume?

There are no hard and fast standards, but Blatner provides some helpful tips in her book, which vary based on how much meat you consume. If you're just getting started, Blatner recommends two vegetarian meals each week, but even if you eat meat, plant foods should be the core of your meals.Finally, "The Flexitarian Diet" book includes suggestions for increasing the amount of vegetarian meals you consume each week, but a flexitarian diet is by definition flexible, so there are no hard and fast rules to follow. Even if you don't go vegetarian for a specified number of meals, the goal is to eat fewer portions of animal-based meals, enjoy them less frequently, and focus your plate on plant-based items. Meat, rather than being the primary attraction, might be an accent or sized as a side dish with this mindset.

Starting out on a flexitarian diet

To get you started with the flexitarian diet, here's a sample one-day schedule. This plan emphasizes eating a 75 percent plant-based diet, limiting less healthy items (such as added sweets and processed grains), and enjoying tasty and exciting recipes.

Breakfast

1/3 cup riced cauliflower (from frozen), 12 cup oats, 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 12 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 tablespoon cacao powder, 1 tablespoon no added sugar peanut butter, and a pinch of salt are heated together. Cook and top with 12 sliced bananas. (1 serving)

Lunch

12 can drained and flaked wild-caught tuna, 12 cup canned, rinsed and drained white beans, 14 cup finely chopped baby spinach, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and a splash of lemon juice in an avocado tuna bowl 12 avocado slices (pit removed). Serve with a salad seasoned with EVOO and lemon juice as a side dish. (1 serving)

Dinner

Garlicky Broccoli Pasta: Roast 1 cup canned, rinsed, and drained chickpeas and 4 cups broccoli in EVOO on a sheet pan. Salt & pepper to taste. Cook 2-3 ounces chickpea pasta according to package directions in the meantime. Cook 2 garlic cloves, chopped, in roughly 1 tablespoon EVOO in a big skillet once everything is ready. Toss broccoli, chickpeas, and pasta into the skillet once the garlic has turned golden brown. If desired, a squeeze of lemon juice can be added. Add 2 ounces of cooked chicken each eater if you aren't ready to make this a meatless dish. (Servings: 2)

Snack

Shortcut 12 cup frozen cherries, 1 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, and a dash of cinnamon in a cherry chia cobbler Stir to mix, then cover and chill for an hour. Then, in the microwave for about 30 seconds, reheat the cherry-chia mixture and top with 1 tablespoon lower sugar granola and 1 tablespoon sliced almonds. (1 serving)

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