Cheat on your veggie diet to become a ‘flexitarian’

If you’re a non-vegetarian, start by incorporating two meatless days per week (Thinkstock)
If you’re a non-vegetarian, start by incorporating two meatless days per week (Thinkstock)

The new wave of vegetarianism may compel you to give up meat, but if you’re finding it too tough to commit, try becoming a ‘flexible vegetarian’

Many health-conscious millennials are opting for vegetarian or vegan meals in a bid to follow a simple lifestyle, with a reduced risk of serious diseases. But if the temptation of passing off a juicy chicken burger or melt-in-the-mouth kebabs is too much, you can still reap the health benefits of a more plant-based diet by opting for a flexitarian diet.
In this plan, casual vegetarians or vegivores emphasise on plant-based meals most of the time, but occasionally consumes meat, fish or poultry. As the term ‘flexi’ suggests, there is no hard and fast rule as to how many times a week you should eat a meat/fish-based meal. Kanchan Patwardhan, clinical nutritionist, says, “This is a very healthy diet plan. It provides one with complete nutrition. Almost all diet plans are based on calorie counting. A flexitarian diet plan is made up of 1,500 calories a day, which includes both types, vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food.”

Why you should try this diet

  • The best thing about flexitarianism is that there are no set rules, and you can customise it to suit your needs.
  • Since it is a low-calorie diet, it helps one lose weight.
  • Since it’s heavy on whole foods, limits meat, eliminates refined and processed foods, it has a wide range of health benefits.
  • Unlike a pure vegetarian diet, where one is at a risk of having nutrient deficiencies, with your occasional meat/poultry intake, you can combat these. So, you enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based diet without compromising on the nutritional benefits that animal products offer.
  • Apart from being less expensive, it also decreases your carbon footprint. Because as compared to plants, livestock requires a lot more food, water, land and energy to sustain.

Choose your kind of flexitarian plan
In his book on Flexitarianism, dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner has developed three levels of this diet.
Beginner: If you’re a non-vegetarian, start by incorporating two meatless days per week and restrict the amount of meat/poultry to 735 gm per week.
Advanced: Once you’ve mastered the beginner’s level, try to eat vegetarian meals three to four days a week. Consume approx 510 gm of meat/poultry.
Expert: Five meatless meals per week, with 255 gm of non-vegetarian food.

Tips to be a flexitarian

  • While embarking on this diet, remember to take one step at a time. So, start with one vegetarian day a week. While you are incorporating meat in your meals, think of better quality products and consume it in smaller portions. Go for organic varieties.
  • Choose sustainable fish and take into account local varieties, seasonality and fishing methods.
  • Whatever food ingredients you are buying, make sure you know where it comes from or how it is produced.
  • Many consider vegetarian food boring. You can search the web for interesting veg recipes or invest in a few cookbooks as well.
  • Include protein sources like beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Keep the list of these ingredients on your refrigerator.

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