What is a Flexitarian Diet?
With food trends coming and going, many people are asking themselves what is a flexitarian diet? Flexitarianism is a word which amalgamates ‘vegetarian’ and ‘flexible’, and whilst some may feel the ‘flexible’ part of the word implies a non-committal middle ground, it is arguably an extremely important stage for people to test the waters and decide what works best for them.
WHAT IS IT
So, what is a flexitarian diet going to look like for the average person? Well, it depends. For some people this could start with just having meat-free Mondays and becoming a bit more open-minded about vegetarian options. Things that help promote this kind of behaviour include more plant-based options on menus in restaurants, and consequently, more variety. A flexitarian diet leads many people to progress to becoming pescatarian, vegetarian or even vegan. But even if it doesn’t, it can still lead to less reliance on meat long term which is still a real positive for the movement.
Part of the rise in people taking a step up the plant-based ladder is that peoples’ perception of the diet is changing. Whilst these plant-based diets used to be thought of as difficult, picky, and nutritionally lacking, they are increasingly being seen as forward-thinking, liberal, and healthful. There are also far more people in the public eye who are open about their herbivorous lifestyles which gives these kinds of diets additional exposure. Inevitably, all these attributes make it highly popular with the younger generation; in fact, nearly half of vegans in the UK are aged between 15-34 which is highly encouraging news for those who want to see a more plant-based future for the planet.
But what is a flexitarian diet going to do for our future? Well, it all helps contribute to the overall movement, as we have said, for many it is the first step to a more plant-based diet and helps people feel they can have a go without the pressure of failure, or even a label necessarily. Veganism has grown by 360% in the last decade, and has risen by 500% in the US since 2014 which has inevitably called for a rise in plant-based options in food outlets and supermarkets alike. Tesco, one of the leading grocery retailers in the UK, says demand for vegetarian and vegan readymeals and snacks has risen 40% in the past year which isn’t surprising given that vegan food sales, as a whole, have been soaring; demand rose 500% between 2015-2016. But these alternatives are not just marketed at vegans, with Quorn selling a ‘healthy and more sustainable’ protein source, and Follow Your Heart providing healthier versions ‘without the trans fats and preservatives’, it is encouraging more meat-eaters than ever to try out these ever-improving alternatives.
A flexitarian diet is the stepping stone to a bright future. In a survey conducted by HeathFocus data, 60% said they had cut back on consuming meat based products. The number of light meat-eaters is rising (those who consume it only 3 times a week or less), whilst the number of regular meat eaters (eating it 1-2 times a day) is decreasing even more rapidly. If we want these trends to continue in the same direction, it is important that we are patient for the change and encourage it with open arms rather than look down on it as not good enough. Although less than 1% of the UK population are vegan at this point in time, 11% reported at least trying the diet which is further evidence of open-mindedness towards pro-veggie lifestyles. Defining oneself as vegetarian or vegan may be a moral badge of pride for some, but the need for a more casual approach to these labels can actually do a lot to help create a more plant-eating world. So bring on Veganuary, meat-free Mondays, and veggie options, because we’re all on the same team!