What Is a Flexitarian Diet?

Lainie Petersen

A person who follows a flexitarian diet is someone who consciously limits the amount of meat that he or she eats without avoiding it entirely. These individuals, sometimes known as flexitarians, eat a diet that is primarily made up of plants, grains, and, in some cases, animal products such as eggs and dairy. Unlike vegetarians or vegans, however, they may also eat meat, fish, or poultry on occasion. The amount of meat that those on a flexitarian diet might consume varies, with some only occasionally eating meat, perhaps on special occasions such as holiday meals or on a regular basis. Flexitarians sometimes refrain from eating meat, but may consume foods made from animal byproducts, such as gelatin, or food that has been fried in animal fat.

Flexitarians allow more flexibility in their diets, adapting to situations like restaurants where meatless meals may not be available.
Flexitarians allow more flexibility in their diets, adapting to situations like restaurants where meatless meals may not be available.

Many people choose to eliminate meat or animal products from their diets for religious, ethical, or health reasons. This way of eating is typically known as vegetarian or, in the case of people who eat no animal products, including eggs or dairy, vegan. The term “flexitarian” is a play on the word “vegetarian,” incorporating the notion of flexibility within a dietary philosophy.

For some people, following a flexitarian diet means carefully scheduling meat consumption. Instead of eating meat two or three times a day, a flexitarian may choose to eat meat two or three times a week. A flexitarian may also seek to cut down the amount of meat consumed in specific dishes. For example, a flexitarian might prepare a soup with a blend of meat and vegetable broths and a greater ratio of vegetables to meat. Other flexitarians set limits on the actual amount of meat that they consume on a weekly basis, weighing the meat, fish, and poultry that they consume and not consuming more than their target amount of meat each week.

In other cases, a flexitarian diet may simply be one that allows a person to adapt to circumstances in which it may be very difficult to find meatless meals or foods prepared without animal fat. For example, many Mexican restaurants prepare their refried beans with lard. A vegetarian may choose to compromise his diet by eating a meatless burrito or nachos from such a restaurant, even though it means that he will be eating animal fat. Flexitarians may also choose to consume meat in the homes of friends or family members who are unable or unwilling to provide vegetarian foods to their guests.

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