Although the constraints of a strict vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t for everyone, more and more people are becoming aware of meat consumption’s health drawbacks and ecological impact. For those folks who want to avoid meat but aren’t ready to give up the joys of a good steak, there’s a new term: flexitarian.
The flexitarian is the centrist in a world where our friends and neighbors range from the fast-food-obsessed carnivore to the strict vegan who is always on a “cleanse.” Flexitarians believe moderation is the key to everything, and that staying mindful of your intake while still enjoying a variety of delicious foods is the key to living a balanced dietary life.
The Case for Flexitarianism
While it’s possible to get a healthy intake of fats, vitamins and protein without animal products, the human body evolved to eat meat. However, most believe it is simply unnecessary to consume it every day.
Most societies throughout history relied on fish or animal flesh for at least part of their protein requirements. When industrial farming started making meat cheap and plentiful, however, contemporary society moved to a much heavier consumption model.
In addition to being painful and traumatizing for the animals, the conditions in industrial farms are devastating to the local environment. Waste runoff, excessive resource consumption and the trash associated with packaging are all causes of concern.
The health benefits of reducing meat consumption are also well documented. Most animal products are high in saturated fat and can promote long-term weight gain as well as other serious health problems. Increasing your vegetable intake to make up for the missing meat not only reduces these risks, it also means more helpful vitamins and nutrients in your diet.
Adjusting To The Lifestyle
It can be difficult to go flexitarian when you have been conditioned to think of a “meal” as a big piece of meat with perhaps a starch or vegetable on the side. When you start thinking of chicken, pork, beef, fish or other animal proteins as a luxury, you can open yourself up to a greater variety of cooking styles.
If you’re having difficulty feeling full without meat in your meal, try figuring out which alternative protein sources are hearty enough to fill you up. Eggs, beans, nuts and certain whole grains such as quinoa help increase feelings of fullness, as does ingesting high-fiber foods.
The joy of flexitarianism is that you can still modify your diet to include whatever you like without feeling constrained. You may choose to bulk up your stir-fry with some shredded chicken, or make a veggie lasagna instead of your usual beef Bolognese version. It’s all up to you!
Going Flexitarian For The Long Haul
Sticking with flexitarianism can require some creativity and willingness to try new things, but the rewards are outstanding once you get the hang of it. Who knows — after a few months reducing your meat intake, you may choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator, buy e cigarettes instead of your old pack of Camels, or even order the tofu instead of the burger!