The U.S. News ranked flexitarianism as the best diet after the Mediterranean diet and among the easiest to follow. If you consider adopting a flexitarian diet, you should plan your meals to include flexitarian-friendly produce.
Flexitarian-friendly food is organic food that contains little or no preservatives. It focuses on a diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins. Yet, it also allows a limited amount of meat, fish, animal fats, and refined grains.
Flexitarianism is a nutritional, family-friendly diet, so it’s easy to incorporate it into your lifestyle. It is also an excellent stepping stone to becoming 100% vegetarian.
Flexitarian-Friendly Food Items
The term ‘flexitarianism’ stems from ‘flexible vegetarianism.’ It is an easy, more inclusive diet. Yet still requires some discipline if you want to reap the benefits, which include convenience, diversity in flavors, and suitability for you and the environment.
The foundation of flexitarianism is primarily eating fruits, vegetables, plant proteins, and whole grains. Although a flexitarian diet allows animal products, they should be kept to a minimum. For example:
- Beginner flexitarians should aim for 6–8 meat-free meals of 21 each week.
- Advanced flexitarians should consume 9–14 meat-free meals of 21 each week.
- Experts should aim to have 15+ meat-free meals of 21 each week.
Besides limiting animal products, you should also keep a cap on refined grains and processed foods and beverages, like candy, soda, and chips.
It should be no surprise that fruit is one of the flexitarian-friendly categories you should include in your diet. Your body needs fruit since it provides essential vitamins and minerals and is high in fiber. Other health benefits of fruit include reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes. It is also high in antioxidants, including flavonoids, that protect your body’s cells against free radicals.
You would do well to try a combination of the following:
- Berries (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc.)
Vegetables are another staple of a flexitarian diet. It helps you fight inflammation, improve blood pressure, and lower the risk of heart disease. Vegetables are also good for your eyes, skin, and brain. All vegetables can be included in a flexitarian diet, so what lands in your grocery basket comes down to preference. Here is a list of tasty vegetables to bulk up your flexitarian meal plans:
- Baby spinach
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
As the name suggests, plant proteins are high in protein and sourced from plants. They are an excellent substitute for animal-based foods and offer lower calories than meat, poultry, and fish. Plant-based proteins that are as versatile as they are tasty include:
- Beans (e.g., kidney, edamame, etc.)
- Split peas
Whole grains are grains with all their parts (i.e., the bran, endosperm, and germ) intact, unlike refined grains with bran and germ removed. Whole grains are healthy since they provide various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. It also helps to regulate your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Here are some whole grains to add to your grocery list:
- Brown, black, and red rice
- Bulgur wheat
Even though milk from animals is allowed in a flexitarian diet, the aim is still to be primarily vegetarian. Plant-based milk is an excellent alternative since it provides the same amount of protein as cow’s milk and is easily digested, which is good news if you’re suffering from lactose intolerance. The following plant milk tastes great and is readily available in most specialty stores:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
- Oat milk
- Pea milk
- Peanut milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
Eggs are a source of protein and nutrients, like vitamin D, that support your immune system and bone health. Ensure to buy organic or pasture-raised (pastured) eggs. That means the eggs were produced by hens free to roam and graze outdoors.
It involves no chemicals, and studies have shown that pastured eggs contain twice as many omega-3 fatty acids and a higher concentration of vitamins A and E. Vary your egg intake by trying some of the following:
Animal Fats (Dairy)
Dairy is a source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Yet, it contains lactose, a form of sugar, so consume it in moderation. If you include it in your flexitarian diet, purchase organic dairy produced by grass-fed or pastured animals. Examples include:
- Cheese (e.g., feta, cheddar, goat, parmesan, etc.)
- Condensed milk
- Cow or goat’s milk
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are sources of healthy fats, fibers, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are convenient to consume as a healthy snack since it regulates body weight and help burn energy. Nuts and seeds are also perfect for sprinkling over porridge and salads or making pesto and smoothies. Try a range of different nuts and seeds to your taste:
- Chia seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Nut butter
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Herbs and Spices
Using herbs and spices in your food is a great way to add flavor and fragrance, which allows you to cut down on salt. Spices and herbs are both high in antioxidants, with fresh herbs containing more vitamins. Some spices, like turmeric, have a long list of health benefits, including fighting inflammation, memory loss, pain, and heart disease. You can buy them dry, fresh, or grow them in your garden:
- Chili pepper
Healthy oils contain beneficial, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), which are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6, regulate cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. If you haven’t ventured out of the realm of olive oil, make it your mission to experiment with a few of the other oils on this list:
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower oil
- Walnut oil
Condiments are usually packed with sugars and salts to aid preservation, making them very unhealthy. However, it may be included in your meals when you’re on a flexitarian diet. Still, it would help to ensure that the types of condiments you buy contain less of the ‘bad stuff, ’ so try the following options:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Ketchup without added sugar
- Nutritional yeast
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
Opt for seafood when you include animal proteins in your flexitarian diet. Seafood is much healthier than meat and has a diverse range of options. If possible, purchase seafood caught wild and ensure they are on the eco-friendly green lists. Here are some great examples for your grocery list:
Meat And Poultry
You can consume meat and poultry in moderation on a flexitarian diet, with the goal of eventually including meat in only 30% of your meals. When you include meat in your meals, choose organic, free-range, pasture-raised, or grass-fed meat. It is also healthier to eat leaner cuts. The most common meat varieties to try are:
Refined grains make up the much-loved convenient products most people have in their kitchen store cupboards. They are cheap and easy go-to meal options yet should be limited if you’re on a flexitarian diet. Refined grains contain less fiber than whole grains and are associated with obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. If you must, treat yourself to one of the following once or twice a week:
- White bread
- White flour
- White pasta
- White rice
Frequently Asked Questions
What Foods Do Flexitarians Eat?
Flexitarians mainly eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins. Of these types of products, they attempt to consume organic versions with little or no preservatives. A flexitarian diet is flexible and thus allows a small amount of meat, poultry, fish, animal fats, and refined grains. However, you should consume these foods in moderation. Processed foods and beverages are not flexitarian-friendly.
What Do Flexitarians Eat For Lunch?
Flexitarian lunch options are thus based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins. There is an array of flexitarian-friendly lunch recipes available online, which include meals like
- Spinach and artichoke salad
- Stuffed, baked potatoes
- Green sandwiches
- Ramen noodles
- Veggie wraps
What Do Flexitarians Eat For Breakfast?
A flexitarian diet’s breakfast ingredients are fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins. Typically, these foods are easier to incorporate into your daily breakfast. The options are endless and can include the following:
- Oats porridge with various fruits
- Buckwheat pancakes
- Tropical fruit mix salad
- Vegetable omelet
- Avo toast
What Are Some Disadvantages Of A Flexitarian Diet?
As many benefits as the flexitarian diet has, it also has some drawbacks that you need to be aware of:
- Since you’re reducing the amount of meat you consume, you might need nutritional supplements if you don’t eat enough nutrient-dense foods and plant-based proteins.
- There are no set guidelines that accompany the flexitarian diet when it comes to physical exercise, so you must practice some common sense and self-discipline by including this in your lifestyle.
- If you suffer heavily from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you might experience severe discomfort on a flexitarian diet since it is so plant-rich. However, with some research and experimentation, you can determine which fruits and vegetables trigger you and avoid them.
A flexitarian diet might be flexible, but the goal remains to consume more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins. So, in moderation, enjoy animal products, such as fish, meat, poultry, dairy, and so forth. Yet, set yourself the challenge of eventually only including animal products in a third or less of your meals.