Flexitarianism: A dietary trend growing in popularity

Audrey Ferguson, Dietetic Intern C.W. Bill Young VA Healthcare System

“Flexitarian”, a term coined more that 10 years ago is used to define someone who is a “flexible vegetarian.” These individuals practice a plant-based diet that still includes meat, but has more of an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Becoming completely vegetarian can be challenging and meat is a great source of certain nutrients and protein. Eating a diet with more of an emphasis on plant-based foods while still consuming meats carries many benefits.

Plant foods are packed with nutrients that tend to be under-consumed.

Fruits and vegetables are abundant in vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins A, C, K, potassium and magnesium. Fruits and veggies are also a great source of fiber, which Americans don’t consume enough of. Consuming adequate vitamins, minerals and fiber daily helps keep the body happy, healthy and energized.

May lower risk of developing chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer
Increased consumption of plant-based foods, which contain fiber and nutrients, can lower disease risk. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties which fight off disease. In addition, they are lower in “unhealthy” fats and packed with fiber which plays a role in controlling cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

May promote weight loss and help maintain weight
Studies have shown that plant-based dietary practices can help promote gradual weight loss. Plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are lower in calories and higher in fiber and can replace higher-calorie foods while still helping you feel full.

Requires some kitchen time
This way of eating can require more food preparation, but there are many resources with meal-prep tips and easy, time-saving meal ideas that incorporate a variety of plant-based foods.

Helps you get enough of some important nutrients

This dietary lifestyle is “flexible” for a reason. There are plenty of protein-rich, plant-based
sources out there, such as legumes (beans, peas, lentils), but animal products (meats, dairy, eggs) are a great source of protein and certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc, so it is stressed to continue to incorporate these foods into dietary practices.

A challenge for picky eaters
If you don’t like many fruits and vegetables, this plan could be a challenge. Try slowly introducing different fruits and vegetables into your diet. Experiment with a different way of preparing the food. Roasting vegetables with a little olive oil and seasoning tastes very different than those that have been steamed. Taste changes over time, so don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t had in a while!

Often times people shy away from fresh fruits and vegetables because of cost. Buy local and in season to save money! Support your local farmers by shopping at farmers markets or produce stands in your area. Fruits and vegetables purchased there tend to be less expensive. Try growing your own herbs, salad greens, peppers, scallions. It’s easier than you think and a fun activity to try! Start your own garden. To get you started go to

For more information on the flexitarian diet, check out


Posted: April 20, 2015

Category: Conservation, Natural Resources

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