No, not vegetarian. FLEXitarian. A flexitarian is someone who still eats all types of animal products but simply eats less. Flexitarians may skip the meat and dairy products 3-4 days per week, or try to eat at least one plant-based, meatless meal per day. There are no specific rules! Research has shown time and again that people who eat less meat and dairy maintain healthier weights throughout their lifetime. Some studies even show more desirable cholesterol levels as well.
Along with healthier bodies, studies have shown decreasing the number of animal products we eat is also good for the planet. Using biophysical simulation models to compare 10 different eating patterns, researchers at Tufts University in Boston found that eating fewer animal products will increase the number of people that can be supported by our existing farmland in the United States.
However, going completely vegan is not the most environmentally friendly of the diets. Avoiding meat and including dairy products and eggs would give the United States the ability to feed approximately 800 million people using our country’s resources alone while still meeting all of your nutritional needs. Compare that to our current eating and farming habits, which could only sustain around 405 million people (see graph).
The bottom line is we are overdoing it on animals and underdoing it on plants. Going flexitarian can help you find that healthy balance.
Not ready to go a whole day without eating meat or dairy? Try buying a vegetarian or vegan cookbook, then adding meat or dairy to the recipes as desired. This will help you try new plant-based recipes, get more veggies in your diet, and discover new healthy foods you’ve never had before.
These blogs were written by the CHI Health Weight Management Team.