Say the term “flexitarian” in front of a vegan, and you might get a scornful response. After all, flexitarians are just vegetarians that cheat, right? Wrong! Flexitarians are becoming more common as people move toward a plant-based diet without giving up meat entirely. The term flexitarian refers to someone who eats a primarily plant-based diet, but occasionally incorporates animal products for nutritional reasons. There are plenty of terms for flexitarian, and not all of them are complimentary (the term “pseudo-vegetarian” being one of them). But the term still causes some confusion – so let’s talk about what, exactly, a flexitarian is.

Flexitarians realize the benefits of a plant-based diet. Their meals are predominantly comprised of vegetables, grains, and legumes, with the occasional animal protein included.  Most importantly, when flexitarians do eat meat, they strive to make ethical and sustainable choices. These choices could include only eating fish that are harvested sustainably, and avoiding over-fished choices like Chilean Sea Bass. Or it could mean purchasing directly from small-scale farms such as Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm in Virginia.

Some vegetarians and vegans are happy that flexitarianism is becoming more popular. They see it as a “gateway diet” that may encourage people to move further along the spectrum. If you start reducing your meat intake and find that you enjoy that way of life, you may eventually cut out animal products all together.

In the meantime, if you’re considering changing up your diet, give flexitarianism a try – at the very least you’ll be eating healthier foods, and getting your full daily servings of fruits and vegetables. And that is definitely a good thing!

Image Credit: Zeetz Jones