What you need to know about the flexitarian diet | Food/Recipes

As plant-based diets grow in popularity, only an estimate 2% of people in the United States consider themselves vegan. An all-or-nothing approach to a plant-based diet is not for everyone, whether due to allergies, health restrictions, cultural traditions or other factors. Many people are more comfortable with avant-garde concept flexitarianism, which primarily involves consuming plant-based foods as well as occasionally consuming animal products in moderation. Foods of animal origin, however, are not the main element of the meal but rather serve as supplements.

Reducing the consumption of animal products requires creativity as traditional culinary arts and teachings focus on animal products as a base. For example, Meatless Mondays are exactly what their name suggests: Mondays set aside to try delicious plant-based recipes and foods. Incorporating more meatless days into the week over time can be a comfortable way to adapt to a plant-based lifestyle. Another flexitarian approach is Vegan Before 6, or VB6, a meal plan created by New York Times food journalist Mark Bittman. On the VB6 plan, people stick to plant-based foods before 6 p.m. and also avoid sugar, white flour, white rice, and pasta during the day. At dinner, they eat whatever they want, but ideally in moderation.

Those wishing to adopt a flexitarian diet should be wary of consuming so-called vegan junk food, or the “fry diet.” Highly processed meat substitutes may be high in sodium. Just because something is made from plants doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for the body. For example, in a comparison between Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and its traditional Whopper sandwiches, both had roughly the same macronutrients, but the Impossible Whopper had more than 250 grams more sodium than the traditional meat option.

As flexitarianism comes with several caveats, Thistle outlines what to know about flexitarianism, from the more laid-back approach to a plant-based diet. Read on to find out how this way of life not only affects individuals but the planet as a whole.