Could You Be a Flexitarian?
Flexitarian is a word I've only recently encountered, although it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2012, and is a concept dietitians have been familiar with for more than a decade. In essence, a flexitarian is a vegetarian whose eating habits are flexible . That person might therefore eat the occasional serving of meat, poultry, fish or seafood, in addition to a diet based heavily on foods of plant origin. The flexitarian may eat eggs or dairy on a regular basis, or she might include those foods among the ones she eats only once in a while.
The benefits of being a flexitarian are often expressed as a matter of convenience or fitting in socially with friends or family members who are omnivores. And I think that's a shame! The flexitarian diet is sometimes called semi-vegetarian, but there are those who go so far as to say it's pseudo-vegetarian, as if it's not a valid option and the flexitarian is some sort of cheap poseur. The implication is that by choosing to include some foods that are of animal origin, even sporadically in one's diet, the vegetarian is selling out.
The problem with that line of thinking is that there are some nutrients that can be difficult for a vegetarian to consume in adequate quantities. This is especially a concern wherever certain key foods are difficult to obtain, or if that person also has certain food allergies, intolerances or dislikes that might take important foods off their personal menu. Deficiency in vitamins B12 and D, iron, and calcium can become an issue if food choices are too restrictive. Such deficiencies can be serious for younger vegetarians whose bodies are still growing, and especially for menstruating girls.
The flexitarian diet allows the young person to supplement plant-sourced foods with meats when he gets a craving, or when she knows her body needs more of a given nutrient. So the person who normally doesn't eat eggs might choose to eat them on a day when he isn't planning to eat a B12 fortified cereal. Or she might eat oily fish or organ meats once a week during the winter, to compensate for the lower exposure to sunlight. These choices aren't selling out, and they aren't about being a “fake” vegetarian. They're about opting for a healthy diet that simply includes additional choices.
The flexitarian benefits from the overall low fat, low calorie and high fiber emphasis of the vegetarian diet, and can also feel good about making choices that are healthier for the planet too. But, it affords the individual more choice when it comes to both health and nutrition, and satisfying an occasional craving for meat, dairy or eggs. That eating a flexitarian diet also means less angst when the individual joins friends and family for a meal is also a healthy thing, at least in terms of emotional and mental health! So treating this dietary choice as if it were a half-measure is not only unfair, but short-sighted.
This is my Health and Fitness entry for Dawnwriter 's A-W Category Challenge . Thirty-five categories down now, and just one more to go!
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/back-bend-bridge-exercise-female-18713/