A few weeks ago, we chatted with Rachel Swanson, MS, LDN, and registered dietitian, about extreme diet fads—because, you know, we like to be majorly on top of everything trending in the world of wellness, especially if it has to do with food. Her overall rallying cry is for balance and moderation, so live your life. Our favorite takeaway from her? What she calls the “flexitarian” diet.
The flexitarian diet is essentially the ideal diet for everyone that doesn’t have to adhere to staunch vegan restrictions. It’s mostly plant-based eating, with a mindful-but-not-obsessive awareness about your macros. This approach is ideal for those of us that want to eat more plant-based, but going full vegan doesn’t agree with us.
It’s true—the vegan diet is not an ideal, sustainable diet for every person. We are all unique, have different needs, wants, and lacks, and some cravings (no, not talking about the fierce hankering for chocolate chip cookies at 10pm) really are the result of our bodies telling us what nutrients we need. The flexitarian diet relies heavily on plant-based whole foods, but makes room for other proteins and omega-rich items. It’s also important to not go cold-turkey on things our body does not have an aversion to (like gluten if we’re not celiac) to prevent us from becoming sensitive to those foods in the future.
Your macronutrients are the important ones you can’t live without, i.e. carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water. While you can certainly get all of these from a vegan diet, it does take consistent work and consciousness with each and every bite you take. Flexitarian is a little more, well, flex.
You should be getting a lot of hydration and fiber from eating tons of plants. Not only can you eat higher amounts of whole plants and plant-based foods and get a lower caloric intake, but your skin will show the direct result in clarity and glow. You can also get fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados, but fish is an excellent source of necessary omegas and minerals as well.
And it’s true. We need carbs to survive. You may rejoice—it’s definitely a macro. But moderation, people. We don’t need to carbo-load after every workout, and just a friendly reminder that fruits and veggies contain carbs, so go easy on the processed flours and gluten. Unless you have an intolerance to all grains in general, grains are excellent sources of healthy carbs, minerals, and even protein, and there are lots of gluten-free grains out there.
At any rate, the flexitarian diet is probably closest to the Mediterranean diet. Healthy fats, lots of greens, and some ancient grains. It means you don’t have to limit yourself—have the cheesecake every once in a while, maybe a margarita, and you don’t have to hibernate during Girl Scout cookie season. But limit processed foods and sugars to a minimum, and keep an eye on the quality of meat and cheese that you choose to consume when you do.