March 2020

The Big Benefits of Eating Less Meat

A vegetarian lifestyle can be good for both your health and the environment. But what if you appreciate a chicken enchilada once in a while?

A flexitarian, or “flexible vegetarian,” diet could be your solution. Flexitarians mainly eat plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and tofu, as well as eggs and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. But unlike vegetarians, they also eat meat, poultry, or fish occasionally—once a week or less.

The flexitarian diet has many health benefits. It helps you decrease the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat. It also helps you eat more vegetables, fruits, and grains. Plus, research suggests that a flexitarian diet helps with weight control and lowers your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Going flexitarian can have a positive influence on the environment, too. Lower beef consumption, especially, could decrease greenhouse gas emissions from food production by up to 35 percent.

If you decide to go flexitarian, you should still avoid less nutritious choices whenever possible, such as desserts, sugary drinks, salty snacks, and refined grains like white bread. Strive to eat protein-rich foods, such as legumes and nuts. When you eat meat, ensure it’s lean.

Remember, this diet isn’t about excluding entire food categories. It’s about savoring a variety of delicious, nutritious foods—including the occasional salmon filet or juicy lean burger.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2018
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