A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat and follows a plant-based diet. There are many variations to a vegetarian diet. They include:

  • ovo-vegetarian – vegetarian and eggs
  • lacto-vegetarian – vegetarian and dairy products
  • pescatarian – vegetarian and seafood
  • vegan – only plant-based foods

The flexitarian diet is a new approach to the vegetarian diet that has come to be in the last few years. What is different about flexitarianism and how might this new trend work for you? Read on. 

What is a flexitarian diet?

A flexitarian diet refers to someone who is a “flexible vegetarian.” It does not encourage completely removing animal-based foods. Instead, it encourages eating plenty of whole plant-based foods, while having the option to add meat in small quantities as desired. 

The flexitarian diet started with Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian. The philosophy behind it is not to focus on what needs to be taken out of the diet, but rather on keeping what you want, such as meat, while eating more plant-based foods. 

What are the benefits of a flexitarian diet and how does it impact your health? 

The benefits of eating a diet of only whole plant foods have long been studied. A 2017 review of the flexitarian diet showed that it helps support:

Is one variation of the vegetarian diet better than another?

As with any diet trend that comes and goes, the question is often, “is this the diet I should be on?” The truth is no matter what type of diet it is, when it comes to food and nutrition, there is no one size fits all.

For some the flexitarian diet may work well, but for others it may not. It’s important to keep in mind that most foods can be part of a healthy lifestyle, with the right balance and approach. 

What we can do when these trends emerge is take a look at some of the positives and see how it can apply to us for our unique needs. With the flexitarian diet, increasing whole plant-based foods without feeling the need to remove other food groups may help you make healthier food choices without feeling like you’re adhering to a diet. 

How do I know if the flexitarian diet is right for me?

There are many diet trends out there. Here are some key questions you can ask yourself to determine if one might be a good fit for you:

  • Do I have a medical condition where this diet might put my health at risk?
  • Why do I want to try a new diet?
  • How do I think this diet will improve my health?
  • Can I achieve my health goals without this diet?
  • Is this diet realistic or practical for me, or is it asking too much of me?
  • Can I see myself adapting to this diet for the rest of my life?
  • Is this diet just a “diet” or is it a lifestyle?

A registered dietitian can help you navigate these questions and more, and help you build that nutrition foundation you’re looking for, while supporting your unique health goals. Learn more about how we can help you at the Lifespan Lifestyle Medicine Center

For more healthy eating tips, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog. 

Norah Ismail, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian.

Norah Ismail, MS, RD, LDN

Norah Ismail is a registered dietitian at the Lifespan Lifestyle Medicine Center. Norah is also a certified diabetes care and education specialist.