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The Flexitarian Diet

The Promise

Go meatless most of the time, and you'll lose weight and get healthy with ease. That’s the mission of the Flexitarian Diet

Author and dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner says that eating mainly plant-based foods is a smart way to cut calories. But she knows not everyone is willing to become 100% vegetarian. Flexitarians (“flexible vegetarians”) eat a lot less meat than they used to but don't give it up completely.

Does It Work?

Studies show that vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat-eaters.  Both vegetarian and semi- flexitarian women have lower BMIs (body mass indexes) than women who regularly eat meat.

Still, calories count, whether you're a vegetarian or not. Even if you're eating less meat, or no meat, it doesn't mean your diet is as good for you as it could be.

What You Can Eat

Nothing is off-limits, but the goal is to add more plant-based foods to your diet while cutting back on meat.

The book has a short assessment of eating habits that will determine how you begin. Blatner considers you a beginner flexitarian if you have two meatless days per week (26 ounces of meat or poultry per week).

Advanced flexitarians skip meat 3 to 4 days a week (18 ounces of meat or poultry a week).

Experts go meatless 5 or more days a week (9 ounces of meat or poultry).

Level of Effort: Moderate

The Flexitarian Diet does urge you to make more meatless changes, but baby steps are OK. Blatner suggests making at least one shift per day, so you won't feel overwhelmed. The recipes also focus on simplicity; each one includes just five main ingredients.

Limitations: If you're reluctant to eat extra veggies and experiment with unfamiliar sources of protein, this plan may not work for you.

Cooking and shopping: Meal prep is kept relatively easy, but you will need to stock up on fresh produce regularly and get comfortable in the kitchen.

Packaged food or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise:It's a must. You’ll need to be active for 30 minutes most days just for good health. Shift to 90 minutes most days if you want to slim down.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Yes. The "flex" in flexitarian means that it's all about options.

Vegetarians and vegans: This diet would definitely work for you.

Gluten-free: Though this diet isn't specifically about gluten, you should be able to choose gluten-free foods.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Just your food. Though fresh produce can be expensive, you may actually save money because vegetarian proteins (tofu, beans, etc.) are generally less expensive than meat and poultry.

Support: You can do this plan on your own. Blatner encourages people to buddy up (especially when it comes to exercise), but there are no official groups.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 19, 2013

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