Is The Flexitarian Diet Safe?

Plant-based lifestyles are often promoted to improve health and wellness. But what if you like meat and still want to eat meat, but you also want to add more variety and color to your day-to-day eating?

Isn’t there a way to focus on what you can add to your meals and snacks rather then focus on what you should take away?

If this is what you’re looking for, maybe a more flexible and inclusive eating pattern is just what the dietitian recommends!

What is the Flexitarian Diet?

The word Flexitarian was added the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014 [1]. The term is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” Also, know as semi-vegetarian or demi-vegetarian [1].

The Flexitarian diet is a hybrid of a plant-based or vegetarian way of eating with the ability to incorporate animal products as desired [2].

A Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian follows primarily, but not strictly a vegetarian diet [1]. This allows for individuals to reduce the amount of meat they are eating, but enjoy meat and fish with some meals based on their desires throughout a week [1].

Potential Pros of The Flexitarian Diet

The Flexitarian diet is considered one of the best options for a food lifestyle and was ranked as one of the best diet option by U.S. News & World Report for the last 10 years or so [3].

Why is this way of eating held in high regard and rapidly building popularity and support?

Strict vs. Flexible

This way of eating may provide individuals an opportunity to support their health, environment, and animal welfare concerns [1], all while having flexibility to live in a why that all foods can fit.

The Flexitarian diet is thought to be a useful tool for teaching and supporting individuals wanting to add more balance to day-to-day eating.

Flex Diet

The Flexitarian diet allows for flexibility, some may go so far as to say it allows for freedom with food choices.

Vegetarian or Vegan diets are not inherently bad, but may be too rule bound for some. The Flexitarian diet is less structured and therefore more simplistic.

A simplistic way of eating prevents the formation of food rules or deprivations. When an individual adopts a flexitarian way of eating they get to determine where they start and how often they want to incorporate animal products including meat and fish.

Health Benefits

The Flexitarian diet takes multiple factors into account, recognizing the benefits of having meat in the diet, along with the cons of having a diet focused solely on protein or meat intake.

Meat is a great source of macronutrients such as, protein and fat, and micronutrients such as iron. The Flexitarian diet allows for the incorporation of a variety of proteins including animal products as well as an increase in plant-based proteins.

Animal Based Proteins:

  • Meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)

Plant Based Proteins:

  • Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.)
  • Grains (quinoa, buckwheat)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

Red meat has been classified as a probable carcinogenic and processed meat as a carcinogenic to humans by the Agency for Research on Cancer [1]. Both types of meat may also impact the risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes [1].

This doesn’t mean red meat is bad and should be eliminated. Instead it promotes the inclusion of meat and an increase in plant-based meals.

The incorporation of plant-based meals supports an increase in phytonutrients, such as antioxidants. This increased may defend against free radicals in the body, leading to prevention of disease states.


Plant-based diets can be expensive and due to this many are deterred from exploring a new or different way of cooking, eating, and experiencing food. For some budgeting concerns, not only for themselves, but their families is a factor when meal planning and grocery shopping.

The Flexitarian diet may provide a way to explore what is missing or lacking in someone’s day-to-day routine and give an opportunity to try something new based on how many times a week they want.

Starting with one plant based meal per week may fit your budget initially. From there you can choose how often you want to incorporate meatless meals based on your wants and needs without breaking the bank.

The Ethical Side

The Flexitarian diet may allow some to consider the ethical choices of the vegetarian or vegan diets. For example this diet may allow some to support animal rights and improve animal welfare [1].

This is not a factor for all when choosing a plant-based lifestyle. But for those desiring to be a part of this change, a Semi-Vegetarian diet allows individuals to make small yet impactful changes.

The In-between In a World of All-or Nothing Thinking

A Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian diet allow for food freedom rather than food barriers.

The choice doesn’t have to be vegetarian, vegan, or carnivore. In a society often stuck in extremes, you can choose a middle ground if you so please.

Image how much more freedom you’d have when cooking, eating out, or gathering with friends. As humans we are made to enjoy food including:

  • The vibrant colors
  • The exploding flavors
  • The crunchy, creamy, hardy textures
  • The spicy, sweet, sensational smells

Being able to enjoy and try new and interesting food gives each of us the opportunity to be a part of cultures, experiences, and celebrations.

Food is a basic need we each deserve freedom and flexibility with!

Related Reading


[1] Derbyshire, E. J. (2017). Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature. Frontiers in Nutrition3.

[2] M. (2021, August 23). What Is the Flexitarian Diet? Cleveland Clinic.,outs%20of%20this%20eating%20style.

[3] Webb, PhD, RD, D. (n.d.). The Flexitarian Diet – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Today’s Dietitian.

Author: Raylene Hungate, RDN,LD/N