Whether you’ve thought about going vegan or vegetarian, or if you’ve made more of an effort to engage with Meatless Mondays and Veggie Fridays in your household, understanding the benefits of a flexitarian diet can be revolutionary both for the sustainability of the planet and for your overall awareness. Everyone is different, and that includes the amount we can do for the planet and how dedicated we are to the specific changes we make in our lives. Sustainability is about the long game — which is why it’s called sustainability.
Flexitarian diets are a great middle-ground for those looking to get into the veggie lifestyle, or for those who aren’t sure about committing to it long-term. Flexitarian is about the flex at the end of the day, and that’s why understanding what it means can be highly beneficial for the planet long-term. Here’s why flexitarian diets might be the way of the future.
What is Flexitarian?
First, we need to define what it means to be flexitarian. Technically, flexitarian diets don’t have any clear-cut rules. While vegans cut out all animal products altogether and vegetarians don’t eat meat, flexitarian diets are primarily centered around plant foods, however, they aren’t exclusive to those foods, often including the occasional consumption of animal products and meat. Flexitarian diets are made to work with the busy and ever-changing circumstances of life so people can achieve the lifestyle more easily.
Doing What Works for You
One of the personal benefits of going flexitarian is that you can do what works for you, both on a health and lifestyle level. If you love certain specific foods or need more of a certain nutrients, you can find personalized solutions that work with your diet in order to better meet your needs in a sustainable way. For example, going flexitarian may mean turning to seafood or light, lean protein could be a better option than red meats — tossing together a shrimp salad could be a great alternative to a sandwich with cold cuts.
While sustainability for the planet and sustainability for your life might seem different, they’re actually much more aligned than you might think. When you’re not eating in a way you can maintain in your life for years, your contribution will stop when you revert back to your old ways. However, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 52% when you cut back on your consumption of animal products, even if you don’t go completely vegan or vegetarian. You don’t need to change your entire life to make a difference, and the longer it can last, the more of a difference you can make.
What About Pescatarians?
You may be wondering about the difference between flexitarian and vegetarian, as they do have a significant amount of overlap. While pescatarians tend to strictly limit their red meat consumption by only eating fish and birds — sometimes, as it varies from person to person — flexitarians tend to base their diets around the plant-based ideology, including animal products as necessary, rather than as a fixture of their diets. Due to this, flexitarian diets can often be more sustainable than pescatarian, as they come with fewer rules, but also rely less on animal products.
Cooking and Eating
When it comes to the kinds of foods that work best on flexitarian diets, this also varies from person to person. Really, it all depends on exactly what you like to eat, what your previous diet experiences have been like and what your health goals are. If you’re coming from a vegan diet, checking out a few more vegetarian food options could be right in your wheelhouse, or even for those coming from a standard omnivore diet. You can even pick specific days in your week to be completely plant-based while allowing yourself to be a bit more lax on other days.
Really, one of the number one benefits of flexitarian diets are the freedom they bring. There are no absolutes when you eat intuitively and allow yourself to be sustainable in your own life. Ultimately, this impacts the planet more than forcing yourself to go on a strict diet that doesn’t last very long. Sustainability lasts a lifetime, and the environmental benefit does, too.
About the Author
Jane is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co and an environmental writer covering green technology, sustainability and environmental news.