Suppose you've considered a vegetarian diet but decided against it because you like meat, consider the flexitarian diet. This diet, whose name combines "flexible" and "vegetarian," asserts that one can receive numerous vegetarian benefits while occasionally eating meat.

The term "flexitarian" became popular after registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner wrote, "The Flexitarian Diet" in 2008.

What Exactly is A Flexitarian Diet?

Flexitarianism has gained popularity in recent years because there are no strict rules or guidelines. The eating plan is for anyone who desires a healthier diet but loves meat.

The diet emphasizes plant-based foods above deprivation and elimination. Plants' micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals protect against cancer and diabetes.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the flexitarian diet second. It scores 4.1 out of 5.3 overall. Learn about the flexitarian diet and decide if it's right for you.

The flexitarian diet emphasizes plant-based meals while permitting limited animal consumption. Nutrition experts endorse this meal plan, which is rich in nutrient-dense meals and sustainable over time.

What Foods Can You Eat?

Flexitarians consume more vegetarian meals than regular vegetarians. The diet allows meat-based meals throughout the week. Make most of your meals vegetarian, but eat meat in moderation.

According to studies, eating more nutrient-rich plant-based foods will lead to eating more vegetarian dishes.

This diet plan may be easier to follow than others because no foods are eliminated.

No instructions or recipes are needed to start a flexitarian diet. For meatless days, look for vegetarian recipes rich in plant-based nutrients.

What Is Necessary for You to Understand

On a flexitarian diet, the timing of meals is not constrained to any particular schedule. A diet plan with a 300-calorie breakfast, 400-calorie lunch, and 500-calorie dinner are provided in Blatner's book for readers who wish to reduce their body weight. Additionally, the book recommends two snacks with 150 calories each to be consumed between meals.

If you require a higher or lower number of calories than what is provided in this plan, you will find some minor adjustments available. On the other hand, you can make progress toward becoming more of a flexitarian even if you don't adhere to a set schedule or meet specific calorie requirements.

Restrictions to the Diet

It is not difficult to make adjustments to the flexitarian diet appropriate for individuals who suffer from food allergies or dietary limitations. Listed below are some valuable pointers to consider.

  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese are dairy products; therefore, you should use dairy-free alternatives instead.
  • Gluten-free: Quinoa and brown rice are two examples of grains that are gluten-free, and you should also make sure that any other dietary choices you make are also gluten-free.
  • To avoid consuming soy, you should steer clear of tofu and other meals based on soy (like edamame or soy milk).

Other Modifications

The flexitarian diet is flexible, although some people may need to adapt to meet their nutritional needs.

According to studies, type 2 diabetics can benefit physically and mentally by going vegetarian.

People with diabetes must watch the carbohydrate content of each meal. Some vegetarian meals contain more carbs than others, affecting blood sugar.

Research has linked semi-vegetarian diets to reduced iron levels in pregnant women.

Women who adopt a flexitarian diet when pregnant or breastfeeding may eat more meat, consume more plant-based iron sources, or take an iron supplement if their doctor recommends it.

The flexitarian diet is deemed safe and healthful for most individuals since it emphasizes diversity and balance.

What to Eat


The flexitarian diet relies heavily on vegetables as its primary source of nutrition. Try some innovative new cooking methods or get creative with vegetable preparation by making zoodles or utilizing cauliflower rice. These are great ways to up your vegetable consumption.


According to the flexitarian diet, if you want to satisfy your craving for something sweet, you should eat fruit rather than reach for a pint of ice cream. It is lovely and provides many nutrients, fiber, and water, all of which help you feel full and hydrated even after eating it.

You can try making new desserts with the fruits you already adore, such as frozen bananas covered in dark chocolate or baked apples with cinnamon.

You can try making new desserts with the fruits you already adore, such as frozen bananas covered in dark chocolate or baked apples with cinnamon.

Whole Grains

The reputation of grains as healthy foods has been tarnished, even though this is not always warranted. In contrast to processed grains, whole grains are a good source of fiber and nutrients. Include some of your tried-and-true favorites, such as oatmeal and brown rice, and experiment with some less common grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, or millet.

Plant-based Proteins

Even if you don't have to cut out meat and other animal proteins entirely, you should try to eat more vegetarian meals. Tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds are some examples of plant-based proteins that you can include.


Flexitarians are allowed to include eggs and plant-based proteins in their diets. Eggs are a terrific option when you want to enjoy a meal without meat but still get your protein fix.


Dairy products are permitted on the flexitarian diet, an excellent nutritional option because calcium and vitamin D work together to build bones. On this diet, you are allowed to consume dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, and dairy replacements.

Oils, Herbs, and Spices

Utilizing a variety of oils, tasty herbs, and aromatic spices can allow you to unleash your creative side in the kitchen. These will contribute to adding taste in ways that are also nutritious.

Meat (in Moderation)

The flexitarian diet does not prohibit meat intake; however, it does encourage eating less of it overall. Your preferences will determine the quantity of meat you consume each week.

According to the general recommendation of the diet, there should be at least two days per week when you don't consume any meat. Others have suggested alternatives to entirely vegetarian or vegan diets, such as eating plant-based meals for breakfast and lunch but having dinners with small portions of meat to savor.

What Not to Eat In Excess


Since one of the goals of the flexitarian diet is to promote eating more vegetarian meals, it stands to reason that excessive amounts of meat are not allowed on this diet. Given that there are no established guidelines for how much meat flexitarians should consume, each individual will interpret the term "excess" differently.

Added Sugar

If you choose to follow a flexitarian diet, you should limit your added sugar consumption as you would with any other healthy eating plan.

Refined Carbs 

While consuming processed carbohydrates on occasion is not a problem with this strategy, it is recommended that you stay with whole grains.

If you want to know if you are following a flexitarian diet, the easiest method to check is to make sure that you are actively trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into your diet each week.

Pros and Cons

There are several advantages to following a flexitarian diet because it may be adapted to meet the individual's specific dietary requirements, health objectives, and flavor preferences. However, just like any other diet, there are a few potential downsides to think about with this one as well.


1. General Nutrition

Since the flexitarian diet includes foods from all food groups, you may be able to fulfill all of your dietary requirements by following this eating plan (perhaps with a bit of planning to ensure adequate iron intake).

In comparison, vegetarian and vegan diets that are very stringent may not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, which can be obtained from fish. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, over fifty percent of vegetarians in one group reported having no DHA in their diets.

Individuals who choose to follow a flexitarian diet can continue to consume fish regularly, contributing to a more favorable overall nutrient balance.

2. Flexibility

The flexitarian diet does not restrict any specific food groups in any way. Instead, the goal is to increase the consumption of foods derived from plants while simultaneously decreasing the overall consumption of foods derived from animals.

Because this diet allows for the consumption of any food, it is simple to make adjustments to better suit your lifestyle and center meals on the items you most love eating. You can also feel comfortable attending a dinner party hosted by a friend or dining out at a restaurant while still adhering to the fundamental guidelines of this diet.

3. Cost

This diet does not require any expensive meal replacements or unique recipes to be followed. Instead, you might select meals within your financial means for purchasing food. Even while you might spend more each week on vegetables and fruits, you might spend less on meat, which makes up the difference more.

4. Weight Loss

Many studies have found a correlation between eating a semi-vegetarian diet and having a lower average body weight. Post-menopausal women who followed a semi-vegetarian diet had reduced body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat percentage compared to non-vegetarian post-menopausal women, according to a study that was published in Clinical Nutrition Research in 2015.

The body mass index (BMI) is an old-fashioned and unreliable method of measuring obesity that fails to consider several important aspects, including body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Although it is inaccurate, the body mass index (BMI) is frequently employed in today's medical world. This is because it is a straightforward, low-cost, and speedy approach to evaluating possible health status and outcomes.

The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published the findings of another study in 2014 that revealed that semi-vegetarians had decreased incidences of obesity compared to non-vegetarians.

5. Reduced Probability of Developing Diabetes

Following a flexitarian eating plan has been shown to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the same vein, a study published in Clinical Nutrition Research discovered that semi-vegetarian women had lower glucose and insulin levels in their serum.

According to specific research, flexitarians have a lower body mass index (BMI) and a lower incidence of obesity. The majority of people should be able to maintain a flexitarian diet comfortably for the rest of their lives, which should result in both weight loss and better overall health.


1. May Prove Challenging for Those Who Consume Meat regularly

It could be challenging to switch to eating more vegetarian meals if you were raised in a home where meat and potatoes were stapled foods. On the other hand, the flexitarian diet encourages following a way of life tailored to the individual's needs. In the beginning, this might entail going meatless simply two days out of the week. As you get used to going meat-free for a certain number of days, you may always increase that number.

In addition, current research suggests that changing mixed foods to be more vegetable-centric than meat-centric can result in flavor profiles and enjoyment compared to the original dish.

You may try adding chopped mushrooms to your burger, substituting half of the meat in your burrito bowl for lentils, or increasing the number of vegetables and decreasing the amount of pork in your homemade ramen.

2. Possible Deficiency in Iron Intake

According to the findings of a study conducted on the female population of Australia, researchers discovered that semi-vegetarian women had much higher rates of iron deficiency, low iron levels, and anemia than non-vegetarian women.

When following a flexitarian diet, the amount of attention you pay to consume an adequate amount of iron-rich plant foods may vary depending on how often you consume meat. Ingredients such as soy, lentils, beans, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains are included in this category.

3. Additional Guidance

According to the findings of several studies, adhering to a flexitarian diet is related to a lower probability of developing diabetes. However, those who have diabetes may require more direction to comply with this diet successfully.

Numerous plant-based protein sources, such as beans and lentils, also contain significant carbs. You might discover that the total carbohydrate content of your meals is a little more practical, which might affect your blood sugar levels.

Consult with a trained dietitian if you have diabetes and wish to follow a flexitarian diet. They will be able to assist you with meal planning so that you meet the appropriate carb count requirements for your nutritional needs.

Is Flexitarianism A Healthy Diet?

Flexitarian diet similarities include:

  • A vegetarian diet excludes animal protein (save eggs and fish). However, it's less flexible.
  • The Whole30 diet eliminates grains, legumes, and dairy but allows organic, unprocessed meat.
  • The mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. The Mediterranean diet can also promote weight loss, according to a study.

The flexitarian diet is balanced and approved by most nutrition experts. It's similar to USDA recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet and health benefits.

ChooseMyPlate advises fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and whole carbohydrates. Protein can come from plant or animal sources, and the flexitarian diet emphasizes plant sources.

A Flexitarian diet and USDA rules support calorie levels. Blatner's book includes 1,500-calorie meal plans to help weight loss on the flexitarian diet.

Activity level, sex, height, weight, age, and other characteristics affect calorie demands. Use this calorie calculator to assess your weight-loss calorie needs. This will help you choose 1,500-calorie meal plans.

Following a healthy eating pattern can "improve health, minimize risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient demands," which aligns with the flexitarian diet.

Health Benefits

A nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet has numerous established advantages. Whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables; plant-based fats and proteins; legumes; whole grains; nuts; and nut oils have been shown in studies to provide numerous health benefits:

  • Boost one's health and happiness.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • A healthy diet and regular exercise can prevent cancer and type 2 diabetes.

In numerous studies, a well-balanced diet that includes meat in moderation is beneficial to one's health.

Health Risks

However, several studies have discovered a correlation between sadness and a flexitarian diet, even though there are no known health hazards. A semi-vegetarian diet doesn't induce depression; other factors may be at play. This is something to keep in mind because correlation does not always equal causation.

Even yet, it's possible that certain people could use flexitarian diets as an acceptable means of controlling and restricting their food intake. According to some researchers, Restrictive eating habits may be a contributing factor in the occurrence of these types of depression symptoms.

Seek treatment from a skilled expert if you have thoughts about restricting your food intake or believe you may have an eating disorder.

A single diet will not work for everyone, as we all know. One of the most critical factors in choosing a diet is maintaining it long-term while still meeting your specific health goals.

The bottomline

The flexitarian diet can help you eat healthfully. You'll eat more plants and less meat.

Heavy meat eaters may find it challenging to shift to this lifestyle, but it offers flexibility—from a few meatless meals a week to predominantly vegetarian recipes.

Flexitarianism can improve health and weight loss. If you utilize this diet to reduce weight, remember that sleep and exercise also play a role.

Many long-term diets don't work, so you may not need to follow one. We don't support fad diets or unsustainable weight loss approaches, but we give the facts so you can make an informed decision that fits your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

Weight loss isn't the same as being healthy, and there are alternative methods to achieve health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors affect health. Balanced and lifestyle-appropriate diets are optimal.



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