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Flexitarian Diet

As a Registered Dietitian, I hear it time and time again. “Which diet should I be following?”

Written By

Cara Adams, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert


Personally, I am not a huge fan of the terms “diet” or “dieting”. Generally, following a diet means temporarily eating a certain way. The best “diet” I could ever recommend is a lifestyle of eating that makes you feel your best, aligns with your schedule, consists of foods you love, and lastly, includes are wide variety of whole foods to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy or fortified plant-based alternatives to dairy, and oils.

As a dietitian, is it my job to help individuals discover just what this lifestyle and dietary pattern unique to them can look like.

In recent years, more and more individuals have warmed up to the idea of eating more plant foods, but they’re not entirely sure they’re ready to give up meat completely. A “plant-forward” diet or “flexitarian diet” have become common terms that describe an eating pattern that consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, and moderate intakes of animal products. It’s not necessarily a diet that is “anti-meat”, rather it’s simply just “pro-plant.”

The newly updated 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported that 75% of Americans have an eating pattern that is low in fruits and vegetables.

As a food and nutrition expert who knows firsthand the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, a plant-forward diet certainly receives a gold star. The cool thing about this concept is there are no taboo foods. It offers the mental advantage of being plant based without any overbearing restrictions. The ultimate goal is for consumption of those nutrient-dense plant foods to increase as meat consumption decreases. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and other health promoting components and have little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

Studies have reported the flexitarian diet provides a variety of health benefits related to metabolic health, weight loss, and diabetes prevention. Adopting a plant forward diet also has quite the ecological impact on the globe by consuming less animal products.

What does the actual composition of a flexitarian diet look like?

Eat more of…

  • Plant proteins: Black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, lentils, tofu
  • Whole grains and potatoes: Quinoa, brown rice, oats, white and sweet potatoes
  • Vegetables: All
  • Fruit: All
  • Milk: Cow’s milk and plant-based milk such as soymilk, almond milk, and oat milk
  • Eggs
  • Healthful oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, fish oil

Eat Less of…

  • Animal protein: Chicken, turkey, red meat, pork
  • Processed white grains: White bread, white rice
  • Animal fats: Butter, lard



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