What is a Flexitarian?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
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The term flexitarian was likely first used in 2002, and quickly adopted as a known term in 2003 when it was voted by the American Dialect Society as “most useful word” of the year. The flexitarian is essentially a person who eats a primarily vegetarian diet, but occasionally also eats meat, or meat products. Generally, the impetus behind the flexitarian lifestyle is that many believe the vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy one. However, it may be hard to stick with all veggies and tofu, or eggs, grain and dairy. Thus the flexitarian allows for the eating of meat when he or she still wishes it.

People embrace a vegetarian lifestyle for many reasons. Some may eat vegetarian because it is a healthy way to go. Others eat vegetarian for moral reasons, and are particularly concerned with not provoking more slaughter of animals by buying meat. The flexitarian tends to fall into the first category. The vegetarian diet is an excellent one. However, the flexitarian most often eats it for health’s sake and not out of moral convictions about animal cruelty.

A few who embrace the flexitarian lifestyle may be in the middle on animal treatment issues. They may feel a little guilty when eating meat because they oppose the slaughter of animals. However, most in the US were raised on diets that included meat. Thus the flexitarian may miss meat a lot even if he or she feels that eating meat is wrong.


Many who eat a vegetarian diet from moral conviction struggle with the concept of people labeling themselves vegetarians when they really are flexitarians. However, more vegetarians who eschew meat for moral reasons are pragmatic about the flexitarian lifestyle. Even if a person eats meat 20% of the time, this still translates to a reduction in meat consumption, which means a reduction in animals that are slaughtered.

Some vegetarian magazines now offer flexitarian recipes to appeal to a larger audience. Even when magazines do offer only vegetarian recipes, many of them have a rising readership, showing that the flexitarian point of view is on the rise. More people who do consume meat are clearly interested in at least the occasional vegetarian recipe.

Some believe that a flexitarian diet, about 90% vegetarian and about 10% meat, is more closely related to how humans would have eaten thousands of years ago. Vegetarians have long argued that the meat saturated diets of today are really not what humans are supposed to eat, and not what we were designed to eat. However, anthropological evidence does show that humans did eat meat, though most of their food sources may have come from grains and plants.

Early humans may have been flexitarian, eating meat when the chance came along, but relied primarily on grains as staple foods. Some argue that the flexitarian and not the vegetarian diet is more closely related to “what we are supposed to eat,” and that it may be one of the healthiest diets possible for humankind.



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