A Flexitarian diet may be just the thing for you if you want to eat a healthier, vegetarian diet but don't quite have the will power to give up meat. Learn how to do it right in this interview with the author of The Flexitarian Diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner.
The Flexitarian Diet: Interview with Dawn Jackson Blatner
What is a Flexitarian?
Flexitarian is the combination of two words, Flexible + Vegetarian. It is a new way to eat that minimizes meat without excluding it all together. You get the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to follow the strict rules.
This type of flexibly vegetarian lifestyle can help you lose weight, reduce the risk of diseases, and add years to your life, all while being budget and Earth friendly.
What are the benefits of this type of eating?
Flexitarians enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to completely give up meat. Flexitarians weigh 15 percent less, have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer and live 3.6 years longer than carnivores. Flexitarianism is also ecologically-friendly since plant-based diets produce less carbon emissions than a typical meat-heavy diet.
Why does this way of eating help people lose weight?
Weight loss happens because a plant-based diet tends to be naturally lower in calories than a typical meat-heavy diet. Flexitarians are focused on eating more produce - and those fruits and veggies are low in calories and extremely filling which makes it easy to feel satisfied even though you are eating fewer calories. The average woman in America weighs 165 pounds so changing to a flexitarian diet could lead her to lose about 25 pounds (15 percent of her weight) naturally.
What studies have been done on this type of eating style?
Dozens of scientific studies analyzed in an overview by Nutrition Reviews found that people who eat a plant based diet weigh about 15 percent less than meat eaters. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that following a flexitarian diet can reduce the risk of cancer by upwards of 40 percent. Finally, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that flexitarians live 3.6 years longer than non-vegetarians.
A United Nations report in 2006 found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes and ships in the world combined-so reducing meat can be just as important or even more so than driving a hybrid car. Note: My book has 10 pages of research references.
What type of person embraces the Flexitarian way of eating?Flexitarians can be vegetarians who socially want to eat meat, people who are inclined toward vegetarianism but don't know how to get started, or just people who are health conscious and know they should eat more vegetable based meals.
How does someone get started with this style of dieting?
I have three general tips when it comes to getting started (other than read The Flexitarian Diet!)
- Reinvent Old Favorites. Exchange your hamburger patty for a black-bean burger, diced chicken for cubed tofu, seafood stir-fry for one made with edamame or turkey chili for vegetarian bean-based chili. [Note: swap in 1/4 cup beans for every one ounce of meat you take out.]
- Try New Meat-Free Recipes. Try at least one new vegetarian recipe each week to build up your meat-free cooking repertoire. Get recipes from magazines, cookbooks, websites, or friends. The majority of restaurants offer vegetarian fare so try something new when dining out to expand your palate and inspire your culinary creativity at home.
- Redirect Savory Cravings. That rich flavor you crave is called umami-meaning savory in Japanese. Considered the fifth taste, it's common in meat and fish, but can also be found in a variety of vegetarian-friendly sources, including mushrooms, aged cheese like Parmesan, potatoes, tomatoes, and walnuts. Make sure to add veggie umami flavor to meals so you control your carnivorous cravings.
What are some tips you can share to help people get started?
Here are a few grocery list swap ideas to get started:
|Switch From This||To This|
|Chicken breast||Tofu cutlet|
|Hamburger||Black bean burger|
|Lunch meat sandwich||Lentil salad in a whole grain pita|
|Meat sauce for pasta||White bean & fresh basil|
|Shredded cheese on pizza||Pinenut topped flatbread|
|Shrimp stir-fry||Edamame stir-fry|
|Sour cream on tacos||Guacamole on taco salad|
|Steak burrito||Vegetarian refried bean burrito|
|Turkey chili||Vegetarian chili|
Or another way to answer this is to do one of these 10 things today to get started:
- Grill a veggie burger and enjoy it with all the classic toppings such as ketchup, mustard and pickles.
- Enjoy hummus as a dip for veggies or as a sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise to add flavor with fewer calories and less fat.
- Toss canned white beans (rinsed and drained) into your favorite pasta dishes for extra protein and fiber.
- Make a fast and flavorful burrito with canned low-fat refried beans, lettuce, tomato and guacamole.
- Top a whole grain pizza crust with pinenuts and veggies such as spinach and onions instead of heavy cheese and meat toppings.
- Heat canned vegetarian chili and pour on a baked potato for a healthy meal in a hurry.
- Make a speedy stir-fry by adding frozen veggies, frozen pre-cooked brown rice, frozen edamame or tofu and teriyaki sauce to a hot wok or pan.
- For a quick brown bag lunch mix Italian salad dressing with canned lentils (rinsed & drained), shredded carrots, chopped cucumber, sliced red bell pepper and stuff into a whole grain pita.
- Stash a 150-calorie emergency snack in your purse or desk drawer for times when hunger hits: combine 1/4 cup soynuts with 1 Tablespoon raisins.
- Mix together canned black beans (rinsed & drained) with jarred salsa for a satisfying tortilla chip dip.
How long before the average person starts seeing results from this diet?I have people that even after the first week tell me they feel lighter and more energized. In as little as 12 weeks, many people can see significant differences in their weight, cholesterol, blood sugars and blood pressure.
This is not intended to be a quick fix diet, but rather a long-term lifestyle plan. People can anticipant losing from 15 to 30 pounds over the course of 6 to 12 months - and realistically keep it off.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about Flexitarian eating?
Most of us are flexitarians to some degree already. If you have ever enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a slice of cheese pizza, a vegetable egg roll, a bowl of pasta with marinara or a bean burrito, you are on your way to being a flexitarian. One meat-free meal a week can easily turn into an entire meat-free day. String a few meatless days together and you can work your way to being an "expert" flexitarian, enjoying five or more meatless days per week.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Dawn Jackson Blatner for sharing her tips for adopting a flexitarian way of eating. You can learn more by visiting her website, Dawn Jackson Blatner.com.