A quick quiz: What is the difference between a “flexitarian” and a “nutritarian”?
If it’s no surprise to you that the two terms mean pretty much the same thing, in terms of healthful, nutritious foods and eating philosophy, you are absolutely correct.
Flexitarianism is a relatively new term, one that has joined the lexicon of accepted, acceptable, and well-known categories of eating types, along with veganism, vegetarianism and, although not as well known, nutritarianism. There are also, among us, herbivores, carnivores and “locavores.”
In 2008, Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, who called herself a “closet meat eater,” authored a book called "The Flexitarian Diet,” advocating a lifestyle of mostly plant-based eating, with meat, as desired, added to keep it all balanced and appealing.
Similar eating plans in support of optimum health have been endorsed by proponents of “the Mediterranean Diet,” and by Michael Pollon, the author of “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” fame, who described the “American paradox – the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.” Pollon’s book, “In Defense of Food,” was also published in 2008.
According to Wikipedia, “The word ‘flexitarian’ has been around for a while, but hit the mainstream with publication of the book, ‘The Flexitarian Diet,’ in 2008. CNN, MSNBC and Newsweek have all covered the flexitarian trend. But in true 21st century fashion, the real signifier that flexitarians are here to stay, is that they have their own Facebook group.”
It is, note some, the way generations of families of all cultures cooked and ate, when food was not the “issue” it has become today. But today, as more Americans become concerned with the issues of health, nutrition, and wellness, food becomes increasingly important to families. Based on a recent study by DGWB, a California social science research entity, food topics are four of the top five values-related concerns of Americans for the coming year. See related article.
Numerous reasons have been cited for eating less meat: Among those reasons are disease prevention, weight control, costs, ethical concerns over treatment of animals raised for food, religious beliefs, environmental concerns and fitness, among others.
Kathleen M. Zelman, writing about the Flexitarian Diet in an article on WebMD, notes that “There's plenty of scientific evidence to support the healthfulness of a diet made up mostly of plant foods. Studies show that vegetarians live 3.6 years longer and, on average, weigh 15% less than non-vegetarians. Blatner estimates the average person could shed up to 30 pounds by sticking to the flexitarian diet for 6-12 months.”
The diet plan offers a “pro-plant” option, but does not take an “anti-meat” stance.
Scientists and nutritionists differ in the degree to which they recommend plant-based diets, but very few, if any, would advocate a meat-only regimen, for any reason. So, every individual must choose a path to follow. Even traditional “meat and potatoes” eaters acknowledge that lean cuts of meat, thought and moderation in meal planning, and the proper amount of activity and exercise are important in preventing disease and obesity.
“The Flexitarian Diet aims to make it easier for people to transition to eating less meat. The diet promotes fresh, natural, and seasonal foods but also includes staple items from the pantry and freezer. Sprinkled throughout it are ‘Flex Troubleshooters’ -- tips for overcoming obstacles to eating more plant foods and losing weight, based on Blatner’s experience counseling overweight patients.”
These “casual vegetarians,” or “part-time” or “semi-“ vegetarians are tolerant of eating preferences, and may just be the wave of the future, leading more people to healthy eating habits.