A flexitarian diet is exactly what its name implies it's a flexible way to kickstart healthy eating and potentially shed some pounds and improve your health in the process.
Generally speaking, the purpose of the flexitarian diet is to reduce the amount of animal-based products you consume and replace them with whole, plant-based options.
"Technically, potato chips and table sugar are vegetarian but we know that if our diet includes too much of these types of food we will not lose weight," Keatley says. "However, picking whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as some lean proteins make for a high-fiber calorie-controlled diet."
A flexitarian diet encourages a lot of healthy behaviors, like rarely eating red meat and loading up on lean protein and whole foods. Here's a list of foods that experts recommend eating frequently, in moderation, and rarely while following a flexitarian diet.
Foods/drinks to avoid whenever possible (true for all eating plans):
If you're interested in trying out a flexitarian diet, here's a 7-day sample flexitarian meal plan, according to registered dietician Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD. Adjust serving sizes and calorie proportions to your specific needs.
Breakfast: Oatmeal (made with dairy-free milk), topped with fruit and walnuts
Dinner: Butternut squash and black bean frittata
Lunch: Whole-wheat pita with mixed greens, bell pepper, and roasted chickpeas
Snack: Sliced pear
Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with avocado, sprouts, and chickpeas
Snack: 1 cup of strawberries
Snack: Carrot sticks with hummus
Lunch: Strawberry almond kale salad with citrus vinaigrette and grilled chicken breast
Dinner: Tempeh taco sliders with tomato, cabbage, and vegan sour cream
Snack: Baked kale chips
Snack: Popcorn with nutritional yeast
Breakfast: Egg scramble with mushrooms, onions, and peppers
Lunch: Avocado "Reuben" sandwich on rye with mustard, sauerkraut, and vegan thousand island dressing
Snack: Rice cakes with nut butter and pomegranate seeds
Snack: Tomato, cucumber, and basil salad with tahini or vinaigrette
Dinner: Curried coconut quinoa with shrimp and roasted cauliflower
Research that is specifically on the flexitarian diet is limited since the guidelines aren't as strict as vegetarianism and veganism, which makes flexitarianism more difficult to study.
Better weight management and body composition
Jaramillo says that since plant-based proteins tend to be high in fiber, they can make you feel full for longer while reducing your overall caloric intake which can ultimately lead to weight loss. Here's what the research says:
Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
Moreover, "anyone can benefit from a flexitarian diet but those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis may see the greatest benefit with decreased inflammation," says Jaramillo.