Flexitarianism isn’t a cop-out

It’s the enlightened compromise

Whenever I tell anybody that I am a ‘flexitarian’, I am met with looks of shock, confusion and, from the occasional full-time Birkenstock-wearing vegan, disgust.

I am dismissed as a ‘vegan with benefits’ or a ‘lazy vegetarian’ for following a diet which consists of occasional meat consumption. But despite the fact that people don’t always get what it involves, initially – I could sit down and talk to you for hours about how flexitarianism is a fantastic compromise and that it is the future of how we eat.

Flexitarianism doesn’t really have any set rules, per se. It is based on the principles of focusing on vegetable and grain-based meals and only adding meat to your diet on special occasions. Most flexitarians, such as myself, will try and ensure that they go vegetarian or fully vegan for a few days of the week too. But because of the absence of an actual rulebook, there is an element of flexibility which makes it an incredibly convenient and practical diet to adopt.


Paul McCartney and his family led a successful flexitarian campaign a few years ago called ‘Meat Free Mondays’ based on the principle that going vegetarian just for a day can make a world of difference. This campaign and the many celebrities who joined the campaign helped raise the profile of a flexitarian lifestyle in the media.

Since then, plenty of research has affirmed that ‘part-time vegetarianism’, so to speak, really could be a game-changer. A 2014 U.S. News ranking placed flexitarianism above both vegetarianism and veganism in terms of health, convenience and weight loss.

Why is this? Well, there are a plethora of reasons. Going vegetarian for even just one day a week can reduce our meat consumption by 20 per cent, and this considerable decrease but not absolute removal of meat from our diet is highly recommended for our overall standard of health, longevity and weight management. And instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach, flexitarianism sensibly recognises that vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and therefore ensures that we still realise the importance of occasional meat-eating.

But beyond the convincing health benefits, flexitarianism can be a method of ‘going green’. The meat industry is detrimental to many aspects of the environment and the easy shift in diet can help mitigate many of the potential problems.

Water consumption, in a time when droughts and land aridity are becoming a greater problem to the world, could be significantly reduced by decreasing our meat consumption. The IME state that to produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water, whereas it is only between 500 and 4,000 litres of water for 1kg of wheat. This clearly shows that eating less meat isn’t a fruitless exercise.

On top of this, it has been said that we could reduce the effects of global warming by going for a Margherita instead of a cheeky Meat Feast. Reportedly, the meat industry makes up anywhere between 18 per cent and 51 per cent of global emissions. If everyone was to cut down meat consumption by 20%, just a day’s worth, we could be making a major difference to the environment.

Of course, vegans and full-time vegetarians can take greater pride in the moralistic side of things. If your issue is saving all animals from needless slaughter, perhaps flexitarianism isn’t for you.

In reality, however, flexitarianism is an effortless compromise which can truly make a world of difference to our health and the environment.

And what’s more, you can be self-righteous whilst still treating yourself to the odd plate of Beef Chilli Nachos.