Move over veganism, there’s a new dietary approach in town.
You may have heard a new buzzword around food choices recently: flexitarian, or sometimes reduceitarian. As you may have guessed from the name, being a flexitarian is about reducing the consumption of meat and other animal products, without going completely vegetarian or vegan.
Whilst some might accuse this movement of being flaky and non-committal, the adoption of a lifestyle that doesn’t demand an all-or-nothing approach opens the door for a lower-impact lifestyle to a lot of people who previously found plant-based living too large a step to make. But without clear-cut rules, what exactly makes a flexitarian and how do you become one?
The great thing about flexitarianism is that it is a sliding scale.
You can take steps as simple as a meat-free Monday, or Jessica Murnane’s One Part Plant approach, where one meal a day is plant-based. Alternatively, you could eat a mostly plant-based diet year round, with a mere handful of occasions where you may choose to eat meat, dairy or eggs. This way, there is no fear of breaking rules or overreaching an arbitrary quota.
For most people, moving to a diet lower in animal products is a gradual transition.
Some benefit from a cold turkey approach –in which case, may I suggest taking the leap straight to vegetarianism or veganism –however, for many this approach dramatically increases the risk of “failure”. How you decide to set off on your flexitarian path is up to you. For some, focusing on reducing specific foods from your kitchen works well. For example, you might decide not to buy red meat anymore except for special occasions, and switch from dairy milk to a plant-based alternative. For others, compartmentalising your flexitarianism into a specific time frame is more successful. In this case, you might choose to try the aforementioned meat-free Monday, or commit to a vegetarian lunch every day. Whichever way you chose to go about it, taking small steps to reduce your impact will make becoming a fully-fledged flexitarian much easier.
When eating meat, you can also change where it is sourced.
This comes into the principle of buying better, not more. If you’ve halved your consumption of, say, chicken each week, then why not use the money that you have saved to ensure that you’re not buying battery farmed animals? If you have access to a butcher who supplies it, perhaps consider swapping beef for wild venison. By law, deer have to be culled in the UK, as we don’t have any natural predators to keep their numbers down, so arguably this is a sustainable decision that fits in with a flexitarian lifestyle.
You can also take a flexitarian lifestyle out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Next time you need to replace toiletries or make up, see if there’s a cruelty free option available to you. There are options on every end of the spectrum, from cheap and cheerful Barry M to premium Urban Decay and Charlotte Tilbury. There’s a plethora of choice for skincare these days, including British brands Neal’s Yard and Skin and Tonic.
I’ve used the words moving and transition a few times in this post, so does that mean that flexitarianism is only a stepping-stone diet? It can be, with many flexitarians seeing themselves buying less and less animal products. However, you may find your “sweet spot”, whatever that may be, and choose to stay on the flexitarian path long-term.
Flexitarianism is about making a decision to reduce your impact in whatever way you choose, not about what anyone else dictates. So do you, be flexitarian, and help save the planet.