Are you curious about the flexitarian diet? Would you like to jump-start a healthier way of eating?  Could you already be a flexitarian without even knowing it?

I first read the term flexitarian recently when a man stated in an interview that he ate vegetarian at home but when he was out, he ate whatever friends served him, even if it was meat. I thought, “But I’ve been eating that way most of my life.”

I didn’t even know it had a name. Flexitarian is also known as “semi-vegetarian” and is a merge of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” It’s a relatively newer term and people are interested in details as they start to focus on better health, less fat, less hormones in products, and weight loss.

Going flexitarian is a solid option for eating healthier and not being a slave to a particular diet or lifestyle. There are many benefits, including:

  • You can save money, as meat is often a large part of a grocery bill.
  • The diet environmentally smart since it’s a way to reduce greenhouse gasses.
  • The tradition of Ayurveda teaches that when the digestive system is less taxed, like when we eat a plant-based diet, our bodies can put its energy into running the others systems to optimal health and keeping us in balance.
  • A mainly plant-based diet also is associated with lower body fat, and may even lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes.

Opponents state there is no such thing as “somewhat vegetarian” – but just as many people argue that eating meat once a month, or even once a year, IS semi-vegetarian.

Are you interested in becoming a Flexitarian? Here are some steps to ease away from meat to reap the benefits of a more plant-based diet.

  • If you eat a diet heavy in meat, try cutting it down to only two meals a week for a month, and then down to once a week.  After that, you can keep meat meals once a week or further continue adding in your veggies. A great organic burger, or lean cut of steak can be a satisfying and special meal and doesn’t have to be completely eliminated.
  • Alternatively, you can take a typical meat meal, like tacos, and lighten the meat, by mixing it with half beans my family loves black bean tacos). Serve a light meat sauce instead of large meatballs. Skip the sausage at breakfast and add slices of avocado, or whole grain bread with a nut butter.
  • Buy a vegetarian cookbook, Google “vegetarian menus” or hop on Pinterest and do a simple search for boards with vegetables as main or side servings. Jot down ten recipes you’d like to try first and get to the food store or a local health food store. Make it a point to buy at least one item, each time you grocery shop, that you have never tried before. Sometimes we get in a food-rut and changing our diet can add in delicious new items that may even become favorites.

Once you realize you truly CAN base a meal around vegetables, salads, legumes and grains, you may not even miss the meat.

You’ll also find that you can eat more food at a meal, for the same calories or even less than a meat meal. And you may start experimenting with new foods as sources of fat and protein. Broaden your culinary horizons and taste exquisite new choices.

Some choices to look into are tofu, avocado, amaranth,barley, quinoa, lentils, almond butter, kefir and sunflower seeds. Experiment with peppers, asparagus, sweet potatoes, kale, bok choy, cabbage and a variety of mushrooms. Add in more onions, garlic, leeks and tomatoes. Try different nuts and beans. The possibilities are endless and you may discover a new palate you didn’t realize you had.

For dining out, skip your typical meal of a burger or grilled chicken and order a vegetarian option. Rather than a plate of spaghetti, get a bit more daring and try something more flavorful or ethnic.  You may never miss meat again, but at least with the flexitarian attitude, you can enjoy it when the urge strikes, or when you are somewhere meat is being served.