Michael Pollan, American author and activist, gives us simple dietary advice: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This is great advice not only from a health standpoint, but also for the health of our planet. Multiple studies have shown that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And plant-based doesn’t have to mean a definitive choice between meat or no meat. If you don’t want to go completely vegetarian, then perhaps the flexitarian diet is for you.
The Flexitarian diet is mainly a plant-based diet, with judicious amounts of meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. The flexitarian diet is somewhat of a compromise for meat lovers, but still has significant health benefits, especially cardiovascular benefits. In fact, if you adopt this diet, you reduce your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke by 20 percent!
Thinking you want to give this style of eating a shot? Here’s some advice recently published in Consumer Reports:
Pump up the Produce
The simplest way may be to just eat more fruits and vegetables, even if you don’t cut back on meat very much. The key is to include fruits and veggies for every meal, including breakfast (consider a smoothie or an omelette).
Make Meat a Side Show
Another step is to make vegetables the main focus and content of your meal, and meat and grains the side shows.
Go Whole Hog
The basic tenet here is to cut the processed meats, (i.e. hot dogs, sausages, bacon, lunch meat) and eat whole meats such as chicken breast, pork chop, flank steak, etc…
Eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon. An interesting finding is that pesco-vegetarians (those that eat a vegetarian diet plus fish) had the lowest rate of mortality from all causes.
Get with the Program
Some people take the semi-vegetarian literally and follow the Meatless Monday trend, or Vegan Before 6 p.m. (VB6) program. Having a dietary pattern like this can help make eating less meat a reality.
So the bottom line here is to begin to make strides towards improving your health and that of our planet. You don’t have to adopt any sort of drastic plan, or give up some of your most loved foods. Just begin to make small changes, and the overall impact will be big.