I get asked quite often if I am a vegetarian. I am not. But I do understand the question. I post my meals and recipes frequently and they tend to lack a 'real' meaty component. So I’m writing this post to answer that question and address what I believe to be the best ‘diet’ style.
This word needs to be part of your vocabulary... and part of your lifestyle habits.
Flexitarian is a term that generally means 'semi-vegetarian'; a noncommittal, plant forward style of eating. Being a flexitarian requires some conscious dietary choices without being restrictive or judgmental. I believe this is the best way to eat (if you were to choose a defined 'style' of eating) as it includes all food items, but puts the most emphasis on ingredients that promote health, ideal weight, and high energy; plants. This way of eating also has a smaller cost to the environment's well-being and should have less impact on your wallet.
I spent 6 years as a pesco-vegetarian. I tried vegan and lasted a few measly days. I wanted to eat plants, but also found myself drooling over the thought of a burger. I was craving balance and felt confined by dietary restrictions, rules, and stigma.
So At the moment, I eat meat and animal products of all varieties. The key is, I eat them sometimes. For example, today I ate 4 meals and only one of them contained meat. That’s not to say they weren’t balanced, or that they didn’t contain protein…. They just didn’t all have animal. Recipe wise, it is pretty simple to add an animal protein. We all know how to add a chopped grilled chicken breast to a salad or place a piece of steamed salmon on rice. Tossing a protein onto a salad or sauté is pretty straightforward and I would rather focus on showcasing the more difficult and less consumed components in my recipes: plants.
This is why bowl-style meals are currently so popular. They are easy to swap components in and out based on your needs. Take a look at this photo. Where's the meat!? There isn't any, but that doesn't mean you can't add some! Make a large (week's prep) of the grain + veg base and switch up your protein throughout the week. Maybe Monday you eat this with tofu, then Tuesday the same bowl but with grilled chicken, then Wed dice up some hardboiled eggs or feta... Make it work for you!
It’s no secret that most of us go overboard on animal products, consuming meats and cheeses at each meal. Why is that bad? Well the more meat and cheese you consume, the less room you have for fibrous, health promoting plants and the more acidic and sluggish your system becomes. I treat animal products as a component of my diet, not the main attraction.
Here’s my general breakdown of animal consumption from most present to least: whole milk, salmon, pasture eggs, cod, grass-fed steak, pasture chicken, feta cheese, shrimp, lamb, others… there are very few that I completely exclude. I just do not load up on these foods, and when I do eat them, I appreciate and savor them. Eating animals occasionally also allows me to purchase the best quality: pasture, local, organic,etc... Meat, good meat, is not only a pricey protein, but it and cheese slow my digestion, making me feel sluggish and bloated. Above personal impact, it is no secret that eating animals comes at a large expense to the environment. Adding animal products into my diet in a thoughtful, non-exclusive, although limited way is the best of both worlds. Have your kale 80% of the time and a juice filet 20% of the time. It's about balance, responsibility and also about not having to explain or defend your diet choices. When I crave a steak… I go buy a steak! But I do not make it a nightly requirement to have a chunk of meat on my plate. Also, I really (really really) like plants! They taste great, provide colors, textures, variety, and plenty of nutrients to keep my body strong, energized and youthful.
Looking to start a flexitarian diet?
I suggest documenting your current eating habits for a week. Then analyze them (or schedule a consult with me and I'll do the work!) to see where you can make improvements.
Does every dinner contain beef, poultry, etc? Make a goal to swap the meat 3xwk and replace with tofu, beans, portabella mushrooms, etc… Once you get more accustomed to choosing non animal components, you can do more than 3 nights a week, if you want.
If your current intake is full of meals containing meats and cheese, choose 1 or the other instead of both.
Still feeling confused? Contact me to review your diet and get you started on a flexitarian diet style.
Check out these resources:
- The Cadence Kitchen – Check out the recipes and work with Lori one on one to make valuable dietary changes.
- Bowl Food Guide - a quick reference to meal prep and swapping components.
- Almost Vegetarian – a balanced cookbook to give you inspiration and how-to’s.VB6:
- Vegan Before 6, Mark Bittman – This book is a lesson in balance: limit animal early in the day and do what you want in the evening.
- True Food Kitchen – Anti-inflammatory meals that showcase how to consciously pair plant + animal.
- Sakara – Science based nutrition + lifestyle info with a spiritual and artistic spin.
- Thug Kitchen Cookbook – these vegan meals are simple and can be adapted easily (sick of tofu bowls, add a fried egg or thin sliced grass-fed beef).