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Flexitarian Diet
The Flexitarian Diet

For those of you who like the idea of a vegetarian diet but don’t want to give up meat a new semi vegetarian diet has been devised. Food expert, Rachael Hill reviews a new book that looks at Flexitarianism.

The Flexitarian Diet by Dawn Jackson Blatner (McGraw Hill, £13.99)

By Rachael Anne Hill (R.P.H.Nutr)

What’s The Theory?

The Flexitarian Diet has been devised by American dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner for all those who want the health benefits of a vegetarian diet but can’t bring themselves to fully give up eating meat.

Vegetarian Diet

Plants produce a wide variety of natural chemicals called phytochemicals and it is these compounds as well as there vast array of vitamins, minerals, fibre and low GI carbohydrates that offer so many health giving properties.

Consequently, vegetarians routinely weigh less, live longer and suffer less lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.  However, despite the undisputed health benefits of vegetarianism many people cannot imagine giving up meat altogether and it is for these people that author and dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner has written the ‘Flexitarian Diet’. 

The Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarians predominantly eat plant based food and actively seek out new ways of incorporating more plant based foods into their diet whilst still allowing themselves the freedom to eat meat from time to time.  This way Dawn believes Flexitarians “enjoy the health benefits of vegetarianism without all the rules and restrictions”.

What Does Flexitarianism Involve?

There are 5 ‘flex’ food groups. 

  • Group 1 is Non Meat, High Protein Foods
    such as legumes (beans, peas and lentils), Tofu and Tempeh (which are-named Veggie White Meat), Fake meat products such as veggie burgers and veggie sausages, nuts and seeds and also eggs. 
  • Group 2 – Fruit and Vegetables.
  • Group 3 – Grains
  • Group 4 – Dairy
  • Group 5 – Condiments
    This group includes everything that gives extra flavour to foods such as herbs, oils, sugars, salt, pickles and sauces.

These 5 food groups are then combined within each meal to make up 5 weeks of flexible meal plans complete with recipes for each meal and comprehensive shopping lists.

Each meal plan offers lots of suggestions and ideas to be flexible within the plan such as swapping beans or lentils for a meat based alternative or switching milk for calcium enriched soya allowing the reader a great deal of freedom within the diet.

Flexibility

Further flexibility is built in to the diet by allowing meals and snacks to be swapped.  Each of the 35 breakfast choices are approximately 300 calories, each lunch is 400 calories and each main meal is approximately 500 calories.  Each of the 35 different snacks are approximately 150 calories each so if you choose two snacks the day's calories add up to approximately 1500 kcals, an amount that should induce a small, regular weight loss for most women whilst still being satisfying and nutritious.

If you are losing too slowly you are encouraged to leave out one or both of the snack options a day.  If you are losing a little too fast or have a high activity level add an extra snack in or increase portion sizes slightly.

A Typical Day's Menu as a Flexitarian

A typical day’s menu on the Flexitarian Diet includes a peanut butter and banana smoothie for breakfast, raisins and soy nuts for a mid morning snack, a BLT for lunch, BBQ Tofu, Kale and Sweet Potatoes for supper and natural yogurt mixed with maple syrup for a mid afternoon snack or dessert.

What Else Does the Book Include?

The book stresses the importance of an active daily lifestyle as well as regular exercise and addresses some of the barriers to becoming active on a regular basis.

Everyday Exercise

It includes advice on using ‘the world as your gym’, on investing in equipment such as good shoes, a pedometer and a heart rate monitor to get you going and also strategies on how to maintain motivation and beat exercise barriers.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

No specific amount of weight loss is predicted.  Followers of the diet are encouraged to lose their attachment to size distinctions and artificial deadlines of wanting to lose X amount by X date as this can result in too much pressure to achieve ultimately resulting in failure.

One Small Change a Day

Instead, readers are encouraged to focus on making at least one small change to your eating or exercise habits a day safe in the knowledge that if they do this, the weight loss they crave will follow.

Rachael’s Verdict . . .

Written by a registered dietitian, this is a no nonsense, gimmick free book that really does strive to help readers improve the variety and the quality of the foods they eat.

There’s no complicated jargon to plough through and the initial chapters are highly readable and inspiring.  There is a lot of flexibility built in to the diet, advice on exercise is included and the principles behind the plans are nutritionally sound.

Unfortunately however, this book is clearly written for an American audience so some of the foods recommended may be difficult for British readers to obtain and some of the recipes may be a little unappealing to followers this side of the pond.

 

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