An Introduction to Flexitarian Diet
I love meat. I am a recovering carnivore in fact. T-bone Steak, leg of Lamb, Pork belly, you name it. I once had a clandestine relationship with Duck, and I have a recurring fantasy about Bear burgers. Yes, I am a flexitarian, which means I do not see much of these old friends anymore. Perhaps you are not familiar with what a flexitarian is. A flexitarian life in the middle ground between omnivore and vegetarian. Diet is a spectrum from carnivore on the far left, followed by omnivore, flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan on the far right. A flexitarian is the dietary centrist in the world of culinary extremes; from fast-food obsession to so-called “cleanse” dieting, flexitarians are the moderate of the bunch.
Contrary to the claims of some vegetarian friends of mine, humans actually are designed to eat meat. We descend from apes (omnivores) and throughout history most societies have relied on meat and fish protein for at least a portion of their dietary needs. Meat is also a source of complete protein which is more difficult to get from vegetable sources. Nowadays however it is easy to lose sight of how much meat we were designed to eat versus how much meat we currently eat. We were designed to eat meat – even the red stuff – but not twice or thrice a day, every day. Up until the twentieth century when industrial farming began to dominate our food chain, for most family’s meat was served typically in smaller portions and considered something of an indulgence. Throughout much of human history meat has been a luxury for most.
Eat food (as in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, etc.) defined as anything that is actually a whole food from a farm. Not a “product” that comes from a factory. Not too much, because anything can be unhealthy in excess. And eat mostly plants, this is the one many people might find strange. The essence of it is that we in North America eat too many meats and seeds (grains in bread, pasta, etc.) and not enough leaves (non-starchy vegetables). Think of meat as a side dish.
Consuming smaller portions of meat means you can afford to put better quality meat on your plate. I have also found that being a flexitarian has proven to be less expensive in general. It pretty much takes fast food out of the equation, and meat is usually the most expensive part of a grocery bill.
Being a flexitarian has so far proven a surprising journey. As a rule, I only eat red meat only once in a blue moon, but to my great surprise I do not miss it. Cooking with less meat has given me reason to pay more attention to the flavors I put on my plate and forced me to broaden my culinary horizons. I have discovered lots of great new vegetables like Bok Choy and Swiss Chard, and new flavors like Ginger and Chilies. So how much meat does a flexitarian eat? As it turns out about 4-5 servings per week, or a little less than once per day. A serving of meat these days is about 4-6oz of chicken or fish, a big change from my carnivore days.
I feel different being a flexitarian, I feel lighter and leaner most of the time. I will admit that in addition to being a recovering carnivore I am a serious eater. I truly love the act of eating and was initially afraid that cutting way back on the amount of meat I ate would leave me feeling hungry and unsatisfied. So you can imagine how happy I was to discover that when I make a spicey Basmati rice pilaf with tons of veggies, nuts and herbs (for example) I can really load up without feeling like a greasy spoon afterwards. I also find that steering clear of red meat allows me to use a lot more butter and olive oil without gaining any unwanted weight (something I am good at).
Anybody who knew me two years ago would have laughed out loud at the thought of me giving up red meat, making vegetarian sandwiches or getting two meals out of a chicken breast. What can I say, I would have laughed myself? Yet here I am almost a year in, and I have never felt better. I still love meat, but in moderation. Red meat is my fine wine, to be enjoyed on special occasions. It was easy to start, I just cut back a little one meal at a time, throwing in vegetarian days every once in a while, and sooner than I realized I started gathering momentum. Pretty soon I was looking forward to vegetarian stir-fry’s and sandwiches.
I do not know how many fellow flexitarians there are out there, but the club is definitely growing. It is part of the modern urban package of running, yoga and green tea. Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself sit down willingly to a vegetarian stir-fry. Then again, I never pictured myself doing yoga either, until I tried it. I love meat, and I am a flexitarian.