Not Ready To Ditch Meat? You Could Try A “Flexitarian” Diet

Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Wellness trends aren't all bad. I love hearing about new supernutrients to add to my smoothies, cool workout crazes to try, and more effective ways to meditate. And the latest health fads all seem to have one thing in common: They focus, at least in part, on sustainability.
Take the carbon diet. It's all about eating in an earth-conscious way and avoiding foods that create the biggest carbon footprint. Spoiler alert — that tends to be meat and animal products. But if going full-on vegetarian or vegan seems a little intimidating though (same), there's another option, called flexitarianism.
According to Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, who coined the term, it's a portmanteau of "flexible" and "vegetarian." The rules are simple — in that there really aren't any. The general idea is that you aim to eat more plants and less meat. But there are no specific ratios to hit, or any limitations whatsoever on what or when you eat.
This flexible approach to eating means you can still enjoy everything you like without feeling guilty about harming the Earth, says Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, founder of and author of the newly released book Eat Your Vitamins. And that actually makes flexitarianism easier to stick with long-term.
“We can only really maintain that distance from [the food we crave] for so long before we eventually just say, Screw it, throw our hands up, and allow ourselves to have it," Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, of Street Smart Nutrition, previously told Refinery29. If you're always allowed to eat your favorite food (say, steak), you never have that moment where you feel like you're "quitting" or "failing" by giving in and cooking up a New York strip. You're just choosing to have something that makes you feel good.
Generally speaking, eating more plants means taking in more fiber, more antioxidants, and more nutrients, Davis points out. Research into plant-based diets and other similar ways of eating seems to indicate that it's not harmful to your body, as long as you're getting enough nutrients.
"If you're cutting out meat and animal products, make sure to monitor levels of nutrients such as B12 and iron," Davis suggests. Animal products are rich in these, so you'll want to make sure you're getting enough of them while building up your plant intake. Your doctor can test your levels and recommend a good supplement if you're ever unsure that you're getting enough from food alone.
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