What is Flexitarianism?
By Sofie Tooke
Steak and ale pies, bacon sarnies, fish and chips and roast dinners - it’s fair to say that our quintessentially British food predominantly revolves around meat. This isn’t LA with their Acai bowls and superfood salads - this is Blighty and as a nation, we are well and truly carnivores.
Having said that, recent years have seen a definite shift in attitude when it comes to eating meat, with one in eight British people now identifying as vegetarian or vegan for one reason or another. You may have heard the many conversations taking place about the meat industry and its effects on the planet and greenhouse gasses, or about animal welfare and how too much red meat is bad for our health. Perhaps you want to be part of a change but the idea of cutting meat out completely feels like an impossible feat. A life without cheeseburgers? We’ll pass, thanks.
Enter, flexitarianism. This approach is the safe middleground for those who are ready to be more conscious about their meat consumption but aren’t quite up for committing to a meat-free life. More and more eco-conscious people are now leading happy, flexitarian lives, investing their money into the plant-based industry and exploring the many health benefits. I decided to join the movement and give flexitarianism a go, and here’s what I learnt (spoiler alert: I loved it)…
It’s easier than you imagine
The wonderful thing about flexitarianism is that it’s not about depriving yourself of meat and setting ‘rules’ about what you can and can’t have for dinner. Instead, it’s about branching out and experimenting with a new way of eating. Maybe that’s why I didn’t really find myself pining after a full english on a Sunday morning. After all, we always want what we can’t have, so by keeping meat on the table - so to speak - perhaps it’s not quite so desirable and unattainable. Eating out became slightly tricky at times however not for lack of options, but because of the temptation to order the meat dishes that I was used to. However that’s the beauty of flexitarianism; if you want to eat meat, you can.
Health is wealth
Within a week of not eating meat, I was already feeling the health benefits. I was getting more vegetables and pulses into my diet and felt so much less bloated than usual. My hair and skin also thanked me by looking healthier, stronger and glowier than it had been in a long time. Besides vanity, I simply felt better and more energised and this was for good reason, as when done right, vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce heart disease risk and lower our blood pressure and cholesterol. Vegetarians are also said to lead happier and longer lives. All that pure, organic and fresh produce is the definition of ‘brain food’, keeping our minds positive and our well-being in check.
As a self-confessed fast food lover, I also found my regular fatty, fried food cravings dwindling which I think was perhaps something to do with a meat association. My preferences began to shift and instead of opting for the greasy option, I swayed more towards the lighter and fresher option, which is a minor miracle.
Vegetarian food is delicious
Quorn chicken nuggets will change your life - who knew? In fact, there are so many innovative and tasty meat alternatives on the market today, that you’re spoilt for choice when opening yourself up to this whole other culinary world. Don’t be put off by the idea that many vegetarian products are imitating meat. It’s something that many people struggle to get their head around and the one question I was repeatedly asked was, ‘why bother giving up meat if you’re just going to eat meat alternatives instead?’ It’s quite simple - if you can enjoy something that tastes like meat without eating an animal, why wouldn’t you? It’s a win-win.
Quality over quantity
Being conscious about your meat consumption opens your eyes to the quality of meat that you’re buying and putting into your body. Instead of browsing the rows upon rows of competitively priced meat products in the supermarket, head to a local butchers instead. Yes, your bill might come to a little more but you’re likely to be paying for good quality, locally sourced meat that probably tastes a lot better than it’s supermarket rival. Plus, supporting small, local businesses can only be a positive.
Speaking of bills, removing meat from your shopping list will leave you spending less on food each month. My food shop totals decreased by around £15 in a good week, if I then resisted the urge to pile my trolley up with copious amounts of Linda McCartney veggie sausages as a substitute.
Flexitarianism can be anything from cutting out meat one day a week, to five days a week. You can do it your own way and enjoy the best of both worlds. Meat is by no means the devil, but plant-based foods aren’t either and fuelling your body on a little more veggies will make a positive difference to your mind, body, bank balance and also our planet.