By Allison McLaughlin
Fourscore and eighty pounds ago, I was a fast food eating, diet soda drinking individual, weighing in at 230lbs on a 5”1 frame! When my health became compromised and I realized I was beginning to project my unhealthy tendencies onto my now four year old daughter, I knew I needed to change. I adopted a lifestyle and diet regimen that I did not even know had a legitimate name. My journey into “flexitarianism”, or semi-vegetarianism, was one of my best life decisions.
To define the word, a flexitarian is exactly what it seems: a flexible vegetarian. Technically speaking the lifestyle involves incorporating more tofu, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, etc. into your diet and planning most of your meals around plant proteins as opposed to animal proteins. It involves incorporating the occasional use of a lean protein in a normally vegetarian dish in order to satiate the cravings for meat product without compromising the consumption of nutrients derived from veggies and grains because they will dominate the meal.
I fell into this pattern by accident. I dislike red meat, and I will not touch food if there are visible bones in it. I’m squeamish. I won’t eat sausage or meats in casings. It’s a personal problem that has blossomed into a newfound way of healthy eating that works for me. Comparatively speaking it looks like this: instead of sitting in the drive thru to placate my occasional craving for some chicken (I don’t buy it myself very often), I’ve learned to take the spontaneous trip to the store and grilling up a piece of boneless marinated chicken to serve alongside a heaping portion of garlic herbed broccoli. It’s satisfying that craving for seafood with a honey/soy sauce glazed piece of salmon instead of a heaping portion of fried fish and chips. It’s about knowing you do love veggie burgers but would really kill for a turkey burger with some avocado right now and that’s ok! Pair that with a salad or even some baked sweet potato wedges and it is a wonderful healthy dinner option.
Let me hit you with some facts: Flexitarians (those who only eat poultry or fish and only occasionally red meat) will weigh about 15 percent less than a carnivore would. We also have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and live about 3.6 years longer. It’s reaping many benefits of being a vegetarian without committing yourself to saying no when you feel like some chicken, fish, or even steak if that’s you.
I cannot confirm if “Flexitarianism” is a permanent dietary classification or if it will die off as a trend, but I do believe it is safe to say that I found a lifestyle that is nutritious, delicious and flexible for myself and my daughter.