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.
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 book contains over 100 recipes which 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.
What Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
It can help you lose weight, but how much you eat still counts.
Research shows that vegetarians tend to weigh less than people who eat meat. Plus, plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables are generally high in nutrition and low in calories, and are important parts of a heart-healthy diet.
Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t guarantee weight loss, but adding more plant-based foods to your diet can help your health in many ways.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Eating more plant-based foods, which tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, can help prevent and treat various health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
The Final Word
The diet’s strengths are that it can help anyone eat a more healthful, plant-based diet. This, in turn, may help you manage your weight and improve your health.
Where the diet falls short is that it may not provide enough structure or guidance for people who need to lose weight quickly due to health condition complications.
It also doesn't show you how to sensibly include higher-fat meat products in your diet.
If you’re looking to add more plant-based foods to your diet gradually without the commitment of becoming a full-fledged vegetarian, this is the ideal plan for you. The recipes are simple and geared toward beginner cooks.
This book may not be for you if you are happy with your meat-eating ways or if you’re already a vegetarian with more advanced cooking skills.