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A flexitarian is a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian. You may also have heard of phrases such as reducetarian, part-time vegan, casual vegetarian (the list goes on), which all pretty much mean the same thing. Similar to the flexibility of its name, the diet is rapidly growing in popularity due to its flexibility in rules, too. There is nothing strict or regimented about this diet, and that's the beauty of it.
We now know more than ever about how to save the planet and be the healthiest we possibly can, and it seems that a lot of signs are pointing towards consuming fewer animal products - which is what the flexitarian diet is all about.
If the idea of going vegan or vegetarian has piqued your interest in the past, but you can't quite make the commitment, then flexitarianism will be perfect for you. You can reduce your intake of animal products as little or as much as you like.
First of all, let's get into the reasons why you should consider cutting down on animal products...
I'd recommend starting with a solid routine like Meatless Monday (e.g. not eating meat on Monday's) because it will discourage you from making excuses and you'll be a part of a growing community that are all doing the same thing. Once you feel ready, you can move your way up to something a little more challenging such as cutting out meat on weekdays or going fully vegan on the weekends.
That may sound daunting, but the rise in plant-based diets has sparked a huge increase in vegan-friendly products. Meat alternative companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods can be found in the news almost every week because of how fast they're expanding. In the not-so-distant future, we'll even be able to buy cell-based meat from supermarkets. So my advice would be to branch out into the world of plant-based alternatives. There are hundreds of products and brands to choose from, and many can conveniently be found in your local supermarket.
People sometimes get the impression that special diets, such as flexitarianism, are restrictive, but it doesn't have to be that way. Meat-eating diets can be restrictive, too; it all depends on your willingness to experiment and be creative. For example, if you cut out animal products but refuse to replace them with something else, then you're likely going to get stuck in a rut of boring, repetitive foods. I'd recommend branching out by trying different cuisines. Asian cuisines are ideal for flexitarian diets as they use vegetables in many creative and delicious ways, and a lot of their dishes are already free of meat.
We are taught that meat products are the star of the show in every dish, e.g. roast dinners, steak, shepherds pie, sausage and mash. But what if you started to treat it as a side dish, and replace plant foods as the main component instead? And when you do occasionally have meat with your meals, try to eat it in smaller portions. Plant foods should always make up the largest part of your plate!
You should never feel overwhelmed when adopting a flexitarian diet because not much will change anyway. But if you do ever find yourself feeling that way, there is plenty of information and advice at your fingertips online. You might even find it helpful to embark on this journey with a loved one or a friend so you can motivate each other along the way.