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I would consider myself a “Flexitarian” by definition. Mainly because the definition is so broad. While being a flexitarian provides plentiful flexibility, the premise of the “diet” definitely encourages reduced meat consumption while increasing plant consumption, particularly vegetables [1]. Do you consume your 5-9 a day? Hmm?

Typically, when people think of meat, beef is brainstormed ahead of chicken, pork, and seafood. While all

are meats, red meat is of particular interest as it is highest in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. Sure, red meat provides an excellent source of certain minerals, such as iron. However, there is no necessity for red meat in the diet. So naturally, red meat is an American classic, and many are not willing to omit it from their diet. Being a red-meat-eating “flexitarian” would consist of decreased red meat consumption and encouraged healthier options: chicken, pork, seafood, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. With a heavy emphasis on the last one there…vegetables (and fruit) [1].

A Chicago author by the name of Dawn Jackson Blatner wrote the book “The Flexitarian Diet“. I read it cover-to-cover, completely impressed with the research and feasibility of the proposed eating plan…simply because

it is flexible [1]. Definitely check her out! She’s an RD super-star in my book: mother, wife, author, counselor, workshop host, spokesperson, cooking class instructor, and a genuine, caring, and helpful woman. After reading her book I felt inspired to write to her, thanking her for her publication and acknowledging a job well-done by a fellow dietitian and nutrition guru. She was sincerely flattered and grateful for the praise, offering her brain to pick at any time.

If you’re one of those people, like myself, that puts down a diet book and says, “Well, fabulous…what do I eat now?” — Dawn’s book is definitely one in which to invest. She includes hundreds of recipes that are not only easy, but delicious. Plus you can ease into the veggie movement. Dawn gives alternatives to ingredients for those who opt for chicken and seafood, for example.

Statistically, the Flexitarian Diet holds credibility, as well. Flexitarians weigh 15% less than those not limiting meat in the diet, have lower incidences of heart disease and diabetes, and also live an average of 3.6 years longer [1]. The stars are aligning in support of this diet plan, dontcha think?

And as you can guess, American meat consumption has been on a steady upward climb over the past 50+ years. In 2001-2002, the US Department of Agriculture turned out some data regarding US meat consumption. See table below [2]. It is of no surprise that heart disease and stroke continue to fall into the top 3 leading causes of death in the US for both men and women [3]. Research shows us with much certainty that 1) high meat consumption leads to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and 2) high consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to decreased risks of many forms of cancer. Increase the right one, decrease the other one, and you’ve got yourself a chronic disease prevention diet. Dawn is on to something, don’t you see?

Check out “The Flexitarian Diet” and consider supplementing your meat intake with other protein-rich foods such as beans, lentils, tofu, soy, and similar products while increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption. I double-dog dare you to try!

Here’s a great place to start with recipes and ides: Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.

Happy 4th of July! Resist the hot dog! Boom.

[1] Jackson-Blatner, Dawn. The Flexitarian Diet. McGraw Hill. September 10, 2008.
[2] United States Department of Agriculture. Profiling Food Consumption in America. Agriculture Facts Book 2001-2002, Chapter 2.
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Service Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Women’s Health USA 2008. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.

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