Is Flexitarianism the Healthiest Diet for You?

Young woman on the kitchen enjoying eating delicious cake

There are plenty of diets out there: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, low-carb, low-fat, paleo, fruitarian  – you name it, there’s probably a diet for it. But the diet du jour that may very well be the secret to a healthier mind and body is none of the above. The new diet, in fact, is flexitarianism, which sounds a bit like a joke – and for a while, totally was – but has some pretty serious merits when it comes to eating clean.

So first things first, what exactly is flexitarianism? Well, the diet is pretty much what it sounds like – a way of eating that is far more based on flexibility than it is the rigid rules that you may find with a lot of other diets. (Guys, seriously, we’re not giving up bread. We’re just not.) Originally, flexitarianism applied specifically to vegetarians who had the occasional piece of meat, but the diet has seen a bit of a resurgence recently as a kind of “new flexitarianism” that applies on a wider scale.

Basically, rather than giving you set dietary rules that you need to follow, like “no meat” or “no carbs,” this new flexitarianism calls for mindful eaters to adopt a more adaptive diet that taps into what their body really wants and craves. So that means that a flexitarian might be someone who follows a vegetarian diet most of the time, but will totally have a steak here and there when their body is craving one. It might also be someone who adheres to a paleo diet but won’t say no to a slice of cheesecake at a friend’s birthday party. The common thread is always trying to remain intuitive and mindful of what your body wants and needs, and letting that guide your food choices more so than a bunch of hard-to-follow food rules.

Now, whether you’re fully on board with the dietary philosophy or not – we can totally understand that a “flex vegetarian” lifestyle isn’t going to thrill everyone – it’s hard to deny the benefits that come along with flexitarianism. For one thing, the flexible mentality that comes with it allows for a healthier relationship with food, since you’re diet isn’t going to be based on confining restrictions, but instead on you listening to your body.  The dietary philosophy also allows people who have tried all different kinds of diets (been there, done that) to pull aspects that they’ve liked from different philosophies and piece them together in a kind of customized, Frankenstein-esque diet of their own creation. Plus, in a lot of cases, the inclusion of foods and ingredients that you might typically cut out were you to follow a more restrictive, elimination-type diet helps keep your nutrient intake more well-rounded. So, for example, a vegetarian who has some meat every now and then is more likely to have lower cholesterol levels and a lower BMI than people who are strict vegetarians.

All of that being said, is flexitarianism a dietary philosophy that you absolutely have to follow to be your healthiest self? Not necessarily. The fact is, the benefit of the philosophy comes from the fact that it touts the importance of finding a diet that works for you on a personal level, whatever that may look like. So, in theory, if following a strict vegetarian diet is what works for you, then there’s probably no reason to rock the boat. On the other, if you’re someone who has invested more time (and meal planning days) than you’d like on trying to pinpoint the perfect diet for you only to come up short time and time again, it might be worth it to loosen up and adopt a flexible – nay, flexitarian – approach.

About Tamara Rahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. Her passion for wellness always has her researching the latest fitness trends, experimenting with recipes from superfood cookbooks, and working towards an overall healthier and happier lifestyle. In addition to reading her articles on The Path, you can follow her adventures on her lifestyle blog, The Curly Nomad.