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What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

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Nicole Pederson of Chicago's Found explains this balanced approach to eating healthy

A lot of diets can seem extreme; the premise of many is to dramatically cut certain items out of your diet and put the focus elsewhere. But for most of us, these types of diets are unrealistic and unsustainable for everyday life.

We caught up recently with Nicole Pederson of Chicago's Found restaurant, and she filled us in on her preferred lifestyle (a word she prefers over diet). And she believes it is the future of how people eat. She notes, "I think it's just really making a conscientious effort of how much meat you're eating; having a really great balance of good grains and a lot of beans and legumes and things like that in your diet that go along with proteins and dairy and yogurt." She suggests cutting down on portions of meats and also having a focus on the local — being flexible, so that in the summer, when there are more local products available, you can eat less meat than in the winter.

For more from Pederson, watch the video above and make sure to head to Found when you're in Chicago!

With a flexitarian diet, you don’t have to completely eliminate meat. You can be vegetarian most of the time, but when the urge to eat meat comes along, you can have a burger or steak. In general, eating more herbs and less meat can help you not only lose weight, but also improve your overall health, reduce heart disease, diabetes and cancer rates. So how is the flexitarian diet applied?

Being flexible is all about adding all five food groups to your diet. These are: what are called “new meats” (non-meat proteins such as beans, peas or eggs) fruits and vegetables whole grains dairy products complex sugars (such as starch) and spices. You can make a meal plan consisting of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes. You can follow up as planned or change your preferences to different recipes wek to week.

This plan consists of three to five meals per day: Breakfast is about 300 calories, lunch is 400, and dinner is 500. Snacks are about 150 calories each If you do two snacks, you would get a total of 1,500 calories per day. You can pull this calorie up to a little more or less, depending on your daily activity level, gender, and height and weight.

Will the Flexitarian Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Flexitarian meal plan -Flexitarian diet can help you lose weight

With the Flexitarian Diet, you will likely lose weight. Studies show that vegetarians eat fewer calories than those who eat meat, which means those who cut out meat gain less weight. If we emphasize the plant-based nature of this diet, eating large quantities of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will likely result in fewer calories than you’re used to. This calorie deficit and increase in physical activity allows you to lose weight. How quickly or not depends on how much you keep on the diet.

How Often Should You Exercise While Implementing a Flexitarian Meal Plan?

Exercise is highly recommended. Ideally, you should do 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week or vigorous exercise three times a week for 20 minutes, along with strength training at least two days a week. In the Flexitarian Diet will make you understand how to see the world as your gym.

Also, studies show that plant-based diets help keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check and keep heart disease away. This is largely due to the fact that plant protein is higher in fiber than animal protein and does not contain less fat and cholesterol. The American Heart Association says vegetarian diets can be healthy and nutritious if carefully planned. There are no serious risks or signs of side effects of the Flexitarian meal plan. However, if you have health problems, you should consult your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.

Can the Flexitarian Diet Prevent or Control Diabetes?

Yes, it’s a good option for both. A study published online in the June 2016 issue of the journal PLOS Medicine compared the effects of different plant-based diets on diabetes risk. Although a strict vegetarian diet resulted in a small reduction in type-2 diabetes risk of 2%, a semi-vegetarian version such as the Flexitarian Diet was associated with a significant 20% reduction in diabetes risk.

Flexitarian Meal Plan

Here is a typical 1500-calorie meal day for the Flexitarian Diet.


Flexitarian meal plan – Breakfast plan

Materials: 1 slice whole grain bread, one or half tablespoon almond butter, or peanut butter, 1 sliced apple


Flexitarian meal plan – Lunch meal plan

Materials: 1 whole-grain hamburger bread, 1/4 avocado (sliced), 1/4 cup broccoli, 1 orange


Flexitarian meal plan – Snack

Materials: 3 pineapple rings, 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger, 2 teaspoons of chopped walnuts


Materials: Half a cup of hard tofu cut into cubes or 50-60 g of cooked chicken breast, 2 teaspoons of peanut oil, 2 cups of mixed vegetables, 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple juice, 1 cup cooked brown rice, 2 tablespoons chopped coriander.


Flexitarian meal plan – Dessert idea

Materials: 1 cup skim milk, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon honey, Cinnamon

What is a flexitarian diet?

The first (and probably most important) thing to note is that as the name suggests, flexitarian (flexible + vegetarian) has no hard and fast rules – it’s about what works for you.

That’s what makes it so simple to follow! It’s not like other diets that remove particular foods or stipulate exactly what and how much you should eat. The basic premise is to eat more plant-based foods (like vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds) and reduce (not eliminate) your intake of animal-based foods (such as meat, poultry and fish). It’s all about consciously reducing meat intake throughout the week to a level that’s comfortable for you.

Green is good, and tasty is even better. Image: The Biting Truth

What can and can't I eat on this diet?

Pretty much &ldquoall plant-based foods are highly encouraged,&rdquo Gans says. That means fruits, vegetables, 100-percent whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all on the table.

Cording also says it&rsquos more focused on &ldquonutrient-dense plant-based foods&rdquo and &ldquonot so much on plant-based junk food.&rdquo

Technically, nothing is off-limits. &ldquoRather, it is about what you should be eating more of,&rdquo Gans says.

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What’s on my table?

The flexitarian diet, some call it semi-vegetarian, advocates reduced meat consumption and prioritizes vegetables and fruits. That’s good for one’s health. After a few weeks you’ll feel great!


What we eat impacts the environment. It’s impossibel to maintain the present high level of animal sourced protein. Let’s change NOW for the sake of future generations.

quick & easy

Many recipes can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, this includes the cooking time. They don’t require specialized knowledge, just common sense following the instructions.

Once your nutrition is focussed more on vegetables it is absolutely imperative to use a wide variety of condiments and cooking techniques to keep everyone interested and committed.

3 Tips for a Healthy Weight on the Flexitarian Diet

Q: Your approach is not actually a diet but a “nondiet-lifestyle approach to get healthy and lose weight.” What are three everyday tips the flexitarian diet offers to help achieve or maintain a healthy weight?

  • Table-Plate-Chair: Only eat when you have those three things. Avoid eating standing in the kitchen, driving in the car or lounging on the couch. When you eat
    seated at a table from a plate you are more mindful and get satisfied with less. Do this even at parties and events.
  • 50% Produce: Aim to have 50% of your grocery cart piled high with fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and then also aim to have 50% of your meals and snacks produce-based, too. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals, which work to make you healthy. Plus, the fiber and water will have you feeling full with very few calories.
  • Snack Yourself vs. Treat Yourself: Snacks provide nutrition and fullness such as celery with peanut butter or an apple and almonds. Treats such as cookies, chips, candy do not provide nutrition or fullness. Keep your home and office stocked with snacks for you and the family and keep treats to only special occasions such as going out for ice cream as a family or stopping with a friend to get coffee and split a cookie.

Q: What are your family’s three favorite go-to meals?
Here’s a sample day and what pages of The Flexitarian Diet I’ve adapted these from:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with chopped apples, nuts, and cinnamon (page 85).
  • Lunch: Whole-grain pita stuffed with white beans, fresh basil, chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette (page 218).
  • Dinner: Stir-fry with broccoli, cashews, and edamame served on brown rice (page 100).
  • Snacks: Celery and peanut butter (page 168).
  • Dessert: Low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey (page 204).

Refresh your recipe list:

Emphasizing that the Flexitarian diet is more about adding delicious new foods to your life than taking things away, Blatner is most enthusiastic about this step: &ldquoThis is where you&rsquore actually trying new recipes, and it&rsquos where I feel people get some real eye-opening in their lives,&rdquo she says. She suggests you try out one new vegetarian recipe each week. You can look them up on blogs, web sites, magazines, cookbooks, and right here. &ldquoNot every recipe is going to be a keeper, but if you try 50 new ones in a year, and you love 10 of them, that&rsquos going to make it so much easier to cook vegetarian going forward.&rdquo

Here are Blatner&rsquos suggestions for your first three days of meals, with options for both meat and veggies:

The Benefits of a Flexitarian Diet

A Flexitarian diet can help your body, wallet and the planet in ways you might never have imagined.

Adopting a Flexitarian Diet is one of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels and prevent chronic diseases. If your goal is to lose weight, a Flexitarian Diet can help because it is typically lower in total kilojoules, high in fibre and has a lower proportion of calories from fat.

The science shows that changing your nutrition is a powerful way to live longer, place less stress on the environment and our animals and reduce your risk of getting sick.

Pancakes, Waffles and Fritters

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bind ingredients without eggs. These recipes use various means to deliver egg and dairy free pancakes and waffles. Many are also gluten free. If you don’t have time to make these for breakfast, make a large batch on the weekend and freeze to be reheated during the week!

Which recipes sound best to you? I challenge you to buy the ingredients to make at least one of these flexitarian breakfast ideas this week! You’ll want to pin or bookmark this post to refer to it later.