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The Flexitarian Cyclist: How Does It Work?

By Jiri Kaloc

If most diets seem too strict then going flexitarian might be the perfect solution for you. In short, it’s a vegetarian diet that gives you the freedom to include fish and meat on occasion. Let’s take a look at how it works, what kind of food you’re encouraged to eat and what to limit.

Flexitarian is the combination of flexible and vegetarian, which means it is a way to eat less meat without excluding it altogether. The diet became popular in 2009 after the release of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. It’s appealing to a lot of people because it offers a lot of the benefits that plant-based diets do but gives more freedom. In fact, the flexitarian diet ranked #2 in the U.S. News diet rankings for 2022.

How much meat can flexitarians enjoy?

The Flexitarian Diet as described by Jackson Blatner in her book encourages plant-based eating. But it still leaves you with plenty of opportunities to eat meat depending on which of the three offered approaches you take.

  • Beginner: Two meatless days per week (730g of meat per week)
  • Advanced: Three or four meatless days per week (510g of meat per week)
  • Expert: Five meatless days per week (250g of meat per week)

The flexitarian diet is built on sound principles

This way of eating is not just about the amount of meat. It includes a few more very important guidelines that make it a very healthy diet. Here are the five main principles to go by.

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
  • Incorporate meat and fish from time to time.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.
  • Limit added sugar and sweets.
Flexitarian diet
Why should you try flexitarian diet? © Profimedia

Which foods should you eat when you go flexitarian?

Most foods are allowed when you go flexitarian but the above-mentioned principles of this diet are trying to push you towards the healthier options.

Plant-based foods

  • For protein: Soybeans, tempeh, tofu, beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils
  • For complex carbohydrates: Squash, pumpkin, potatoes, corn, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat
  • For fats: Nuts, seeds, avocados, olives
  • Vegetables and fruits: Any whole or minimally processed
  • Condiments: Herbs, spices, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, mustard
  • Beverages: Still and sparkling water, tea, coffee

When it comes to animal foods, try to go for quality. Since you will be eating less animal-based food, you can spend a bit more on organic items. Try to buy from local farmers that treat animals and soil well.

  • Fish and sea food: Wild-caught
  • Eggs: Free-range or pasture-raised
  • Dairy: Organic from grass-fed or pastured animals
  • Poultry: Organic, free-range or pasture-raised
  • Red meat: Grass-fed or pasture-raised

Foods to limit on the flexitarian diet

You can include any of your favourite foods on the flexitarian diet. The point of the diet is to be flexible. But the #2 ranking among all popular diets is thanks to its focus on reducing processed foods. If you want to get the best results from going flexitarian, aim to limit the following.

  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, salami
  • Refined carbs: Croissants, white bread, bagels
  • Added sugar and sweets: Sugary soda, donuts, cakes, cookies, candy
  • Fast food: Fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, milkshakes

If you follow the flexitarian principles, you are likely to improve your diet. The next article will go into all the health and environmental benefits you can expect.

Next up in The Flexitarian Cyclist series