Peas, olive, chickpeas, figs, pita for a balanced meal
A flexitarian diet includes fresh vegetables, cereales, and alternative protein sources

Flexitarian: Definition & Meaning, Tips, and More

6 minutes

With over a third of British adults* approving of a plant-based diet, and 8% already eating such a diet, it’s clear that vegetarianism and veganism are more than a passing trend in the UK. 

But not everyone who eats a plant-based diet wants to go fully vegan or vegetarian. While these diets are known to have many benefits for the environment, animal products are still an important source of certain nutrients. With this in mind, many people choose to strike a balance by opting for a flexitarian diet.

What Is a Flexitarian Diet?

Flexitarian comes from the words ‘flexible’ + ‘vegetarian’. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the meaning of ‘flexitarian’ is :

A person who eats mainly vegetarian food,
but eats meat occasionally. 

Flexitarians may also be called ‘semi-vegetarians’. There’s no perfect way to be a flexitarian: the balance is up to you. You can eat meat once or twice a week, once a month, or only on special occasions. Think about how often you’re currently eating meat or other animal products, and work your way down to a level that feels comfortable.

Since health and balance are the main goals of flexitarianism, you may choose to focus more on wellness and selecting the right types of foods, rather than sticking to a strict diet plan.

What Foods Do Flexitarians Eat?

Colourful vegetables and fruits: time for a plant-based diet
Vegetables and fruits are an important part of a healthy meat-and-veggie diet

Getting all the right nutrients as a flexitarian is easy, since this diet is flexible and not restrictive. To make the most of your flexitarian diet, simply stick to the NHS recommendations for eating well. 

Flexitarians eat a mostly plant-based diet with some meat. Be sure to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions each day). You can complement these with starchy foods like rice, bread, or pasta, preferably those with wholegrains that are high in fibre. 

It’s better to avoid processed, sugary snack foods, ready meals, and desserts. 

Although many people get most of their protein from meat, there are other alternative sources. For your protein intake, eat moderate amounts of beans, pulses, fish, eggs and if you want to include some meat, choose lean varieties. 

3 Tips to Reduce Your Meat Consumption

Peas, olive, chickpeas, figs, pita for a balanced meal
A flexitarian diet includes fresh vegetables, cereales, and alternative protein sources

A flexitarian diet is a great way to eat less meat while still getting all the nutrients your body needs and enjoying great food. Looking for tips to reduce your meat consumption and start considering some replacement options? Here are some ideas for healthy flexitarianism:

  1. First of all, a good place to start is by asking yourself where meat fits into your diet. Do you consume it on a daily basis or just occasionally? Is it balanced with other sources of animal protein (e.g., eggs, fish) or does it make the bulk of your protein intake? 
  2. With this in mind, you can then choose which components you want to reduce first, and according to what schedule. The idea is to go slowly in order to maintain the pleasure of eating a balanced diet.

    3. Finally find out about plant-based protein sources and their nutrient content to replace a portion of meat from your diet. There is a whole range of options to discover: legumes, almonds, Greek yoghourt, cheese, tofu, and more.

4 Great Reasons to Become a Flexitarian

1) Flexitarianism is Good for Your Health

Eating a plant-based diet that includes meat occasionally is good for your health. By becoming a flexitarian, you can continue to enjoy some of the health benefits of animal products, while avoiding the risks of too much meat consumption.

High meat intake has been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes. A recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that :

those who ate more red and processed meat each day had a significantly higher risk of colorectal cancer. 

Another UK study found that consuming red meat, processed meat, or poultry at least three times per week was linked to a higher risk of nine different illnesses, including diabetes, pneumonia, and heart disease. The health benefits of reducing meat consumption are real! A flexitarian diet that includes more plant-based protein is a great way to eat less meat and feel healthier.

2) Flexitarianism is Good for the Environment

Meat consumption also has a negative environmental impact. Industrial meat production releases a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through deforestation, energy use, and transportation—accelerating the rate of climate change.

The climate impact of meat production is equivalent to the emissions of every car, lorry, and plane in the world, according to Greenpeace UK. By eating less meat, you’ll contribute to reducing your carbon footprint, helping to take care of the environment and fight global warming. 

A tractor in a field, intensive farming
Many people choose a flexitarian diet for environment and animal welfare reasons

3) Flexitarianism is Also Good for Animals

Many people switch to a plant-based diet for animal welfare reasons. According to the organisation Compassion in World Farming:

Around 73% of animals in the UK are raised on ‘factory farms’ 

These farms are often overcrowded and keep animals in inhumane conditions. When transitioning to a flexitarian diet, you can cut out factory-farmed meat and select organic, free-range options instead. By eating less meat and choosing higher-quality meats, you’ll reduce your total impact on animal populations. 

4) Flexitarianism is Good for Your Budget

Finally, being a flexitarian can help you save money on food. Plant-based proteins, like lentils and tofu, are often far less expensive than meat proteins. Not only can flexitarianism help you save money at the shops, it can also lead you towards healthy, affordable choices at restaurants.

How to Become a Flexitarian

Transitioning to flexitarianism can be a natural, gradual process. It doesn’t have to be restrictive and you can start with a few simple changes. An easy first step is to move to a more meat and veggie diet by introducing more fruit and vegetables to your meals. 

When it comes to reducing how much meat you eat, look at ways you could replace some of it with eggs, fish or plant-based protein like beans and pulses. There are lots of recipes these days that are suitable for flexitarians and eating out is easier than ever!

Eating at Restaurants as a Flexitarian

Flexitarian meal with vegetables, fruit juice, dairy and bread
Ready to enjoy a flexitarian meal at restaurant

Since the flexitarian diet is versatile, flexitarians can find appropriate options at any restaurant. However, you might want to seek out restaurants with more plant-based dishes on the menu

Mediterranean and Indian restaurants are great for flexitarians. Today, you’ll also find many vegetarian options in local restaurants and pubs around the country, as well as London’s gastropubs. For example, you could try the vegetarian two-course discovery menu at Wulf & Lamb in Chelsea, or nibble on healthy plant-based Turkish meze at Evin Cafe.  

You’ll find plenty of great spots where you can taste a new type of cuisine, sample innovative gourmet dishes, or simply try a plant-based twist on a classic British favourite, such as mushroom and ale pie


* Poll Vegan diet - 2021

Flexitarianism in a Nutshell

A flexitarian is someone who eats a mostly plant-based diet, but may occasionally eat meat, poultry, and/or fish.


Many people choose flexitarianism for health reasons, animal welfare reasons, environmental concerns, or to lower their food budget. 

To become a flexitarian, think about your current diet, ways to reduce meat consumption, and how you can incorporate alternative sources of protein. It’s easy to be a flexitarian, even when eating out! You can enjoy vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based cuisine at many excellent restaurants around the UK. Start by browsing The Fork for ideas.

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