How a Flexitarian Diet Can Help You Lose Weight

The Flexitarian Diet: A Guide for Beginner


       Flexitarianism’ is an increasingly popular, plant-based diet that claims to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health with an eating regime that’s mostly vegetarian yet still allows for the occasional meat dish. The rise of the flexitarian diet is a result of people taking a more.

The keto diet and Whole30 may be the most talked about diets of the last few years, but according to U.S. News and World Report’s best diets, they are among the worst for your health goals. Why? They're so restrictive, forcing you to cut out entire food groups in exchange for a slimmer waistline.
If you want to lose weight or simply eat healthier without giving up the foods you love, consider the Flexitarian Diet. Ranked as the third best overall diet in America—right after the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet—the Flexitarian Diet is a mostly vegetarian meal plan, except you don't have to eliminate meat or dairy.

What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

The Flexitarian Diet was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner to help people reap the benefits of vegetarian eating while still enjoying animal products in moderation.
That’s why the name of this diet is a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian.
Vegetarians eliminate meat and sometimes other animal foods, while vegans completely restrict meat,  eggs, fish, dairy and all animal-derived food products. Since flexitarians eat animal products, they’re not considered vegetarians or vegans.

The Flexitarian Diet has no clear-cut rules or recommended numbers of calories and macronutrients. In fact, it’s more a lifestyle than a diet.
It’s based on the following principles: Eat mostly vegetables,  fruits, legumes and whole grains.
Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
Limit added sugar and sweets.
Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.

Due to its flexible nature and focus on what to include rather than restrict, the Flexitarian Diet is a popular choice for people looking to eat healthier.
The creator of the Flexitarian Diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner swrite how to start eating flexitarian by incorporating certain amounts of meat per week in her book.
Following her specific recommendations is not required to start eating in a flexitarian way. Some people on the diet may eat more animal products than others. Overall, the goal is to eat more nutritious plant foods and less meat.

The Flexitarian Diet for Weight Loss

Flexitarian eating may also be good for your waistline. This is partially because flexitarians limit high-calorie, processed foods and eat more plant foods that are naturally lower in calories.
People who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not.
A review of studies in more than 1,100 people total found that those who ate a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost 4.5 pounds  more than those who did not.
This and other studies also show that those who follow vegan diets tend to lose the most weight, compared to vegetarians and omnivores. Since the Flexitarian Diet is closer to a vegetarian diet than a vegan one, it may help with weight loss but possibly not as much as a vegan diet would.

How The Flexitarian Diet Helps You Lose Weight

More than 65% of American adults age 20 and up are overweight or obese… but less than 10% of vegetarians and vegans are. The body weights of both male and female vegetarians are three percent to 20 percent lower than that of omnivores, and research shows that following a vegetarian diet is twice as effective as a carnivorous one when it comes to losing weight.

So being a part-time vegetarian who eats meat from time to time could help you to shed some unwanted weight the healthy way—by eating nutritious and low-calorie foods.
Moderate exercise for 20 minutes most days of the week will increase your metabolism, keep your body limber, protect you from a multitude of ailments, and even provide mental and emotional benefits.
A study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC found that participating women lost a pound a week without counting calories and kept it off by not eating meat or dairy and limiting oil.
These women didn’t even have to exercise. You can have similar results if you limit your meat and high-fat dairy without even eliminating them entirely.

Pros

General Nutrition
The flexitarian diet embraces all food groups, and as such, it’s likely that you can meet all your nutrient needs on this diet.
For comparison, stricter vegetarian and vegan diets may fall short in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, found in fish. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found more than 50% of vegetarians in one group reported zero intake of DHA.6 A flexitarian diet allows for the flexibility for individuals to still consume fish regularly and can provide better overall nutrient balance.

Weight Loss

Several studies have suggested that semi-vegetarian diets are associated with lower body weight. A 2015 study in Clinical Nutrition Research found that post-menopausal women who followed a semi-vegetarian diet had lower body weight, BMI, and body fat percentage compared to non-vegetarian women. Another 2014 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that semi-vegetarians had lower rates of obesity compared to non-vegetarians.

Cost

This plan does not require costly meal replacements or special recipes. Instead, you can choose meals that fit your food budget. Though you may spend more each week on produce, it tends to balance out as you may be spending less each week on meat.

Flexibility

Nothing is eliminated from the flexitarian diet. Rather, the focus is on increasing plant-based foods while controlling the total intake of animal-based foods. Since all foods fit into this diet, it’s easy to build meals around foods that you enjoy. You can also confidently go to a friend’s dinner party or visit a restaurant while still focusing on the core principles of this diet.

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Eating a flexitarian diet may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Three different studies—one from 2009 in Diabetes Care, one from 2011 in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, and one from 2014 in Nutrition Journal – found that a semi-vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to non-vegetarians.7 Similarly, a study in Clinical Nutrition Research found that semi-vegetarian women had lower serum levels of glucose and insulin.

Cons

May Be Difficult for Daily Meat-Eaters
If you grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household, it may be difficult to transition to eating more vegetarian meals. However, the flexitarian diet emphasizes doing this in a way that works for you—this might just mean going meatless two days per week and enjoying your beef, chicken, or pork on the other days.

In addition, recent research suggests that modifying mixed dishes to be more vegetable-centric than meat-centric can result in similar flavor profiles and enjoyment.1 Try mixing chopped mushrooms into your burger, going half and half on meat and lentils in your burrito bowl, or adding more veggies and less pork to your homemade ramen.

Additional Guidance for Those With Diabetes

Research has shown a flexitarian diet is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.4 However, those with diabetes may need a little extra guidance when following this diet. Many plant-based protein sources, like beans and lentils, are also rich in carbohydrates. You may find the total carb count on your meals is a bit higher, which could affect blood sugar levels.
If you have diabetes and want to follow a flexitarian diet, it would be wise to consult with a dietitian who can help you plan meals that fit the correct carb counts for your body.

Potentially Low Iron Intake

Research among Australian women found that semi-vegetarian women had increased rates of low iron levels, iron deficiency, and anemia compared to non-vegetarian women.3 Depending on how frequently you’re including meat on the flexitarian diet, you may need to pay extra attention to adding more plant-based iron sources. These include soy, lentils, beans, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.

Restrictive Eating Concerns

Research has found associations between a semi-vegetarian diet and depression.8 It’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation in these scenarios, which means a semi-vegetarian diet does not necessarily cause depression. There are other factors that may be at play.
However, it’s plausible that some individuals may turn to flexitarian diets as a way to control and restrict their food intake in a “socially acceptable” manner. Some professionals believe that restrained eating could be related to such depressive symptoms.
If you find yourself having persistent thoughts about restricting food intake or feel like you may have any type of disordered eating, seek help from a qualified professional.

Experts recommend the Flexitarian Diet for weight loss and better health.

One of the reasons the Flexitarian Diet has gained a following over the past several years is because it can help people can reap the benefits of vegetarianism without completely eliminating meat. Doctors and dietitians recommend semi-vegetarian eating plans like the Flexitarian Diet because they're easy to follow and encourage you to eat a large variety of foods that not only help you shed excess pounds but improve your overall health.

Research  have shown that vegetarian and plant-based eating plans can lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, and is associated with reduced incidence of all cancers, especially colorectal cancer. A 2017 review of multiple studies on semi-vegetarian diets suggests that this type of eating leads to improved metabolic health, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as short- and long-term weight loss.

A 2018 study in Circulation suggests that a low-calorie vegetarian diet is as effective in reducing bodyweight and fat and improving heart health as the Mediterranean diet. What's more, a 2018 study in BMJ also showed that plant-based diets, like the Flexitarian Diet, can help reduce the risk for diabetes while improving the psychological well-being and quality of life in people living with diabetes.

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