What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

Find out the unique approach behind the weight-loss plan and what makes it easy to follow.

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Ever consider adopting a vegetarian diet or thought about sneaking meat into your plant-based recipes? Whether the switch seems daunting or if you’re craving meat in your meatless meals, the flexitarian diet might be what you’re looking for if you don’t want to pick between the all-or-nothing mind-set that’s common with other diets and weight-loss programs. The term flexitarian is a combination of the two words flexible and vegetarian and refers to a predominantly plant-based diet that also includes dairy, eggs, fish, and meat. The plan is laid out in the book The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life by registered dietitian and nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, and a vegan modification of the diet is the premise of Mark Bittman’s book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health ... for Good.

Learn the five basic principles of Blatner’s flexitarian method to see if this diet is the right fit for you and your lifestyle.

Watch: Dr. Oz’s Diet Guide

Choose Foods From 5 Flex Food Groups

Instead of counting calories or weighing your food servings, the flexitarian approach emphasizes adding more plants and plant-based foods to your daily diet. These plant-based foods include meat substitutes with protein like tofu and eggs or meat alternatives like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. The remaining four food groups include fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, and flavor enhancers like spices, oils, and healthy fats.

More: Going Vegetarian Dos and Don'ts

Start With the 5-Week Flex Meal Plan

On the flexitarian diet, there is a five-week schedule with sample daily meal plans that can be mixed and matched. The meals follow a 3-4-5 pattern wherein breakfast is 300 calories, lunch is 400 calories, and dinner is 500 calories. Two snacks during the day tally to about 150 calories each, making your total calorie limit 1,500 calories per day, which meets the guideline for women looking to lose weight. For men, who need to eat more calories (between 1,800 and 2,000 calories) to drop pounds, Blatner recommends doubling the breakfast portion to meet the calorie requirement.

Watch: Do Men Lose Weight Faster Than Women?

Cook 5-Ingredient Meals

The recipes featured on the flexitarian diet consist of an average five ingredients; with foods from the five flex food groups. This design allows recipes to be made quickly, in about a half hour, making them suitable for busy weeknights.

More: Simple 5-Ingredient Recipes

Exercise With the 5 Flex Fitness Factors

There is a fitness component of the flexitarian diet that revolves around five themes: fitting fitness into daily life, motivation strategies, solutions for exercise obstacles, and so-called “tools of the trade.” These tips reinforce the idea that the flexitarian diet can help adherents lose up to 15 percent of their body weight through healthy eating and exercise.

More: The Exercise Move to Jump-Start Your Weight Loss

FlexLife Troubleshooting

More than 50 tips are highlighted in Blatner’s The Flexitarian Diet that are categorized into five areas called: “Fact Stack,” “Time Crunch,” “Craving Control,” “Out & About,” and “Feeling Good.” These tips discuss how to beat the lifestyle challenges to meet your weight-loss goals.

Watch: Mapping a Successful Weight-Loss Journey

Learn More About Other Diets:

How to Follow the TLC Diet

What Is Clean Eating?

What Is the Volumetrics Diet?