If you are considering going vegetarian…but not totally, especially with Braai day looming, you may want to consider The Flexitarian Diet: A diet aimed at weight loss and optimal health. Let’s take a closer look at what a flexitarian does.

The claim is that Flexitarians weigh 15 percent less than their more carnivorous (meat eating) counterparts; have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and live an average of 3.6 years longer.

What is a Flexitarian Diet exactly?

Flexitarian is a mix of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The term was coined more than a decade ago, and in her 2009 book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life,” registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner says you don’t have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism – you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still  have a burger or steak when the urge hits.

Becoming a flexitarian is about adding five food groups to your diet – not taking any away. These are: the “new meat” (tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and eggs); fruits and veggies; whole grains; dairy; and sugar and spice (everything from dried herbs to salad dressing to agave nectar sweetener).

Flexitarian meals revolve around plant proteins rather than animal proteins. Examples of foods you may have on this plan would be – cereal topped with soy milk, nuts and berries for breakfast; black bean soup with a salad and whole-grain roll for lunch, an apple with peanut butter for a snack and a veggie burger with sweet potato fries for dinner. The goal is to eat more plant based meals at your own pace.

Exercise is strongly encouraged. Ideally, you should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week (or intense exercise for 20 minutes, three times per week), along with strength training at least two days per week.

My advice on the flexitarian diet:

  • It will be a much lower cholesterol plan as plant based is zero cholesterol – this is great for cardiovascular health
  • I love the idea of eating more plant based meals as they are very healthy
  • If you are not open to other protein sources like tofu or soya this may be difficult for you and you will lack protein in your diet
  • Remember we are still counting carbs for weight loss – many vegetarian protein sources have significant carbs that will need to be counted in
  • Your gut health will likely improve – eating more fruit and veggies will add more fibre to your plan and possibly eliminate constipation
  • It is a great way to experiment with more vegetarian meals without having to go vegetarian completely
  • You may find you have more energy and feel lighter with a plant based meal vs an animal based meal (this will vary with individuals)
  • It allows you to experiment and introduce more food variety into your diet that you normally may not consider. You may surprise yourself at how tasty some of the vegetarian dishes are!
  • Always remember to eat according to your needs and disease conditions. We can always work in more vegetarian options for you but certain diseases need nutrients in specific portions for control. Consult your dietitian to help you make the necessary changes best for you.

Overall, I like the idea of a Flexitarian plan…in fact … I am a flexitarian!