Coined by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2009 book, the Flexitarian Diet is a plant-based diet with the flexibility to add in small amounts of meat when you want to.
Rather than explicitly taking away meat, it encourages the inclusion of more plant proteins (including tofu, beans, lentils, peas nuts and seed), whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy, eggs and flavor boosters, such as spices and chocolate. Beginner flexitarians generally stick to a vegetarian diet twice a week, advanced flexitarians go vegetarian four days a week, and experts skip the meat five days a week. Luckily, Blatner makes the transition to a more vegetarian lifestyle easy by including a wide variety of plant based recipes in her book, including some traditionally meat-based recipes that highlight plant proteins instead. She keeps her recipes simple, each including only 5 ingredients, and encourages making small changes in order to help you make new sustainable habits.
Flexitarian Diets: A Review of Evidence-Based Literature: In 2017 The NCBI reviewed The Flexitarian Diet in its effectiveness promoting weight loss and overall health. After conducting an extensive literature review of research on flexitarian-like diets between 2000 and 2016, NCBI concluded that there is substantial evidence pointing towards the benefits of a Flexitarian Diet for weight loss, improvements of metabolic health, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
In reviewing the Flexitarian Diet, it’s clear that one of its main strengths is the emphasis it places on eating fruits and vegetables. Health professionals, including RDs and MDs, advocate for all people to consume more whole plant-based foods. Research has shown that vegetarians and semi-vegetarians (aka flexitarians) have lower BMI’s, lower mortality rates, and are at a decreased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Mark Bittman, a healthy living advocate and the food columnist for the New York Times, has also been a popular advocate for the Flexitarian Diet. The combination of Bittman’s book, VB6, with Blatner’s book, The Flexitarian Diet, has helped to bring the Flexitarian Diet into the public spotlight and has greatly increased its popularity.
If you don’t already like fruits and vegetables, this diet might be hard to follow. And if you don’t like to cook, you might have trouble following the guidelines and recipes. While flexibility allows you to eat the foods you want when you want them, that lack of structure might mean slower weight loss for some.
Numerous studies have reviewed The Flexitarian (or vegetarian-like) Diets and have indicated that plant-based diets have numerous health benefits. Eating a predominantly vegetarian diet can help you lose weight and potentially reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Blanter’s book is backed by evidence and the tips she provides have proven to be successful in her work as a registered dietitian. Through her personal practice as an RD, Blatner has helped many clients achieve their weight loss goals so she knows firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Another benefit is that The Flexitarian Diet provides much more leeway than other diets when it comes to eating out and drinking. This makes dieting easier since you don’t have to sacrifice your social life for your health goals.
The Flexitarian Diet is all about creating healthier eating habits that are sustainable and adaptable to your lifestyle. While the main focus is to incorporate more plant foods into your diet, you could also use this as a time to re-work some old food habits that might not be serving you. Perhaps you are in the habit of having a late dessert right before bed? Try having a MealEnder instead of ice cream. Getting rid of these extra unneeded snacks, while transitioning to a plant-based diet will help you lose the extra weight and improve your health even faster.
Disease, and Add years to Your Life: This is Blatner’s first book. The book is structured around the theme of “five.” It provides a five-week meal plan along with recipes, as well as five “Flex Fitness Factors” to help you build a solid exercise foundation, more than 100 five-ingredient recipes, and five “FlexLife Troubleshooters” intended to help you make sustainable changes to your diet. Blatner encourages her readers to make small changes one at a time instead of making a complete diet overhaul.
VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to lose Weight and Restore Your Health…For Good: In this book Mark Bittman describes his own journey to health using a Flexitarian Diet. He also offers guidance on how to switch to eating mostly vegetarian. He provides a list of staple pantry items, strategies for eating away from home, tips for making cooking easier and more convenient, and a 28-day meal plan.