The Flexitarian Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide

Medically Reviewed on 7/28/2022
The Flexitarian Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide
If you are looking to eat primarily plant-based foods but do not want to completely avoid meat, the flexitarian diet may be right for you

The flexitarian diet is an eating plan that encourages the consumption of mostly plant-based foods but is more flexible than vegan or vegetarian diets, allowing limited consumption of animal products.

If you are looking to eat primarily plant-based foods but do not want to completely avoid meat, the flexitarian diet may be right for you.

What is the flexitarian diet?

The flexitarian diet is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian,” which is essentially a flexible version of the vegetarian diet.

It allows you to focus on eating mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes. and whole grains while limiting intake of meat and animal products.

How does the flexitarian diet work?

The flexitarian diet recommends a 3-4-5 approach to calories, bringing your total intake to 1,500 calories a day.

  • Breakfast: 300 calories
  • Lunch: 400 calories
  • Dinner: 500 calories
  • Snacks: 300 calories

Depending on your health goals and individual needs, the recommendations for meat consumption are:

  • Beginner flexitarian: Avoid meat 2 days a week and have no more than 26 ounces of meat for the rest of 5 days.
  • Advanced flexitarian: Follow a vegetarian diet at least 3-4 days a week and have no more than 18 ounces of meat during the rest of the week.
  • Expert flexitarian: Follow a vegetarian diet for 5 days, allowing yourself to eat up to 9 ounces of meat on the other 2 days.

What to eat and what to avoid on the flexitarian diet

The flexitarian diet emphasizes plant protein, minimally processed plant foods, and limiting animal products. 

Foods to eat include:

  • Protein
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy
  • Milk alternatives
  • Herbs and seasonings

Foods to limit or consume in moderation include:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry (lean meat, chicken, turkey)
  • Fish (salmon, tilapia, cod, or shrimp)
  • Meat (grass-fed)
  • Dairy products (grass-fed)

Foods to avoid include:

  • Processed meats (bacon, sausage)
  • Refined carbs (white bread, white rice)
  • Added sugars (soda, pastries)
  • Fast foods (fries, burgers)

7 advantages of the flexitarian diet

1. Lowers the risk of heart disease

Studies suggest that a reduced intake of animal products and a higher intake of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegetarians had a 32% lower heart disease risk than nonvegetarians.

2. Helps prevent cancer

Research has shown that practicing a flexitarian diet in conjunction with regular physical activity can help reduce the risks of breast and prostate cancer.

3. Improves skin health

The flexitarian diet is high in foods that contain vitamins A, C, and E and polyphenols. This can help neutralize damaging free radicals, lower inflammation, protect against ultraviolet exposure, and promote collagen production, all of which are good for skin health.

4. Promotes weight loss

Eating mostly plant-based foods provides you with essential nutrients while lowering cholesterol and saturated fat levels, which results in weight control. The flexitarian diet also limits the consumption of refined sugar and highly processed foods.

5. Helps with diabetes management

Increased intake of plant-based foods and limiting animal products may help treat type II diabetes and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease.

6. Environment-friendly

Reducing meat consumption can help the environment by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and land and water use.

7. Budget-friendly

The cost of meat is often high compared to plant-based foods. In addition to being sustainable, the flexitarian diet can also be more cost-effective than other diets. 


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Are there any cons to the flexitarian diet?

The flexitarian diet is typically considered safe and healthy for most people. However, pregnant and lactating women should ideally talk to a doctor before changing their eating patterns.

Potential downsides to this diet may include nutrient deficiencies caused by lack of vitamin B12, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium, which are found in many animal products

People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also struggle with gastrointestinal distressed when eating a heavily plant-based diet.

1-week sample meal plan on the flexitarian diet

Table: 1-week sample flexitarian diet meal plan
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Day 1 Oats with apples, flaxseed, and cinnamon Salad with greens, shrimp, corn, black beans, and avocado Lentil soup with whole grain bread and a side salad
Day 2 Whole grain toast with avocado and poached eggs Burrito bowl with brown rice, beans, and vegetables Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce and white beans
Day 3 Coconut yogurt with bananas and walnuts Whole grain wrap with hummus, vegetables, and chickpeas Grilled salmon, baked sweet potato, and green beans
Day 4 Smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk, spinach, peanut butter, and frozen berries Kale caesar salad with lentils and tomato soup Baked chicken, quinoa, and roasted cauliflower
Day 5 Greek yogurt with blueberries and pumpkin seeds Chard wraps with mixed vegetables and peanut dipping sauce Lentil stew and a side salad
Day 6 Eggs with sauteed vegetable and fruit salad Peanut butter sandwich with crushed berries on whole grain bread Black bean burgers with avocado and sweet potato fries
Day 7 Tofu scramble with mixed vegetables and spices Quinoa salad with dried cranberries and pecans Stuffed bell peppers with ground turkey and a side salad

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Medically Reviewed on 7/28/2022
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What is a flexitarian diet?

What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

The Flexitarian Diet.