Is the Flexitarian Diet the Best Choice?

If we have said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: we’re not huge fans of diets. We think diets are too restrictive and put too much pressure on you to follow the rules. They can leave you feeling downhearted for “failing,” make you obsess over every mouthful and cause you to fixate on the scale. Plus, when you stop following a diet, your weight loss and health benefits can quickly evaporate. Instead, we prefer gradual changes and lifestyle swaps.

However, we recognize that some people do like diets, and some are much healthier than others. That’s why we want to review them. While we don’t like them, we don’t totally discount them. Moreover, some “diets” aren’t sets of stringent rules but lifestyles in and of themselves. Eating a Mediterranean diet or becoming vegetarian can be very healthy and positive for many people. We do respect that. While we eschew fad diets with off-the-wall rules, we know that many eating styles are beneficial. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at the flexitarian diet today to learn if it might be a good fit for you!  

The flexitarian diet is, essentially, being a vegetarian but eating meat when you want to. Instead of removing things, you increase five things in your diet: non-meat protein, produce, whole grains, dairy and herbs and spices. The theory is that if you eat more of those, you’ll naturally crave less meat. Here’s where we believe things get a little sticky; it does have a calorie count. You stay at 1,500 calories a day. That isn’t highly restrictive, but it is still a firm number that is tweaked only a little for your activity levels and BMI. And, what we really don’t like is the way it’s supposed to be split up. Breakfast is 300 calories, lunch is 400, dinner is 500, snacks are 150. There’s a cookbook available online called “The Flexitarian Diet” to teach you all the recipes.

With the calorie restriction, you’ll possibly lose weight. The book talks about the fact that it’s about making slow progress, not fast results. We agree with that mentality. We like that the recipes call for simple, readily available ingredients. And, it’s designed to be flexible — you can break the rules to enjoy things you like. It teaches you approaches to eating out at restaurants to enjoy a meal.

While flexitarian is better than many, more restrictive, diets, we still have our doubts. It is easier to stick to. It’s not as rigid. But, we worry that the bizarrely arbitrary calorie-per-meal breakdown may lead you to obsess over how much you’re eating in a way that isn’t healthy. Of course, you should make healthy choices and consider your portions, but watching it to that extent may become draining. There’s a weekly sample menu that you can check out here. The recipes are delicious and healthy. While not all the recipes are low-carb, there are enough that you can make a low-carb regime for yourself.

If you want to be more flexible in following the flexitarian diet, we’re actually more supportive of it! The overall tenets of it are excellent! It’s just the nitty-gritty we don’t like. At its loosest following, it’s a diet where you start off being vegetarian two days a week and end up being a vegetarian five days a week. And, you always follow a healthy diet while not beating yourself up enjoying the occasional treat.  

In its most general form, we highly recommend anyone looking to eat less meat. It’s a great diet that helps you cut down on meat while still enjoying delicious foods! But, if you try to follow it precisely as it’s written, you might not be as happy or find it quite as sustainable.

Banner image: Anh Nguyen via Unsplash

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