Buzz words seem to have become more common with the viral effects of the internet. One of today’s more popular ones is ‘flexitarian’. Although the term was coined in the 1990s, flexitarianism is a sensible eating trend that’s really growing in popularity now, and it delivers a wealth of benefits. It’s estimated that today there are around 22 million flexitarians in the UK alone!
So, what is a flexitarian?
If you haven’t heard the term, you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m babbling on about. In simple terms, a flexitarian is someone who has chosen to reduce their meat consumption without committing to becoming full-time vegetarian. As this article from the Guardian described it, a flexitarian is ‘a vegetarian with benefits’.
One of the most popular arguments for being flexitarian is the environmental one. A dedicated flexitarian won’t pop down to their local supermarket and stock up on cheap meat from unidentified sources. The meat they do eat will be ethically reared and environmentally sourced. That leads very neatly on to another big benefit and that’s the economic one.
There’s no getting away from the fact that ethically reared meat costs more. You only have to compare the price of a free range chicken from a farm shop to a non-free range bird from the supermarket to work that one out.
Rearing animals ethically costs money and that must get passed on to the consumer if the farmer is to stay in business. But we have to accept that not everyone can afford to pay high-end prices for meat seven days a week. And that’s the financial benefit of flexitarianism. If you eat it once or twice a week, you can afford to buy ethically reared meat.
When it comes to the economics, you only have to ask a student. Traditionally, students have had to survive on a shoe-string budget. Movements like ‘ Veganuary’ and ‘Meat Free Mondays’ are creating huge amounts of awareness across all age groups. There is a great increase in young people adopting vegan and vegetarian diets. TeenVGN, founded in 2013 and rebranded in 2018 to vcneration provides a global support network for young vegetarians and vegans.
If you’re one of our more… shall we say… mature readers, you might be interested to know some 28% of older meat eaters surveyed are said to have reduced their meat consumption in the last six months alone, many of them for health reasons.
That’s not to say eating meat is bad for you, but these days, we just don’t know when to stop. Moderation has become a thing of the past. What was once regarded as a treat has become the norm and this goes for our meat consumption too.
Think back to the days of post-war Britain. The amount of meat a family might consume today in one sitting would have been a few day’s, if not a week’s ration in the past. You could say flexitarianism was a way of life then, but without the trendy name and hype. The housewife in those days was very adept at making a pot of broth from bones with a few scraps of meat (if you were lucky). It was supplemented with vegetables, barley and pulses and was a meal in itself. It was warming, nutritious and healthy.
So what about the health benefits of being a flexitarian? Well, cutting down on your meat consumption can help you lose weight. In turn, that reduces the risk of things like heart disease and diabetes. The chemicals used to process food are now being linked to cancer and other diseases, so by avoiding them, there surely must be health benefits to a flexitarian diet.
While you might not want to go the whole hog (!) or do the Veganuary bit after Christmas, I think one of the greatest benefits of flexitarianism barely gets a mention. And that’s having the opportunity and motivation to explore the variety of foods we might never have considered eating before.
Our parents and grandparents didn’t have the wealth of wonderful ingredients we have today. For generations, the British diet has been of the meat and two veg variety and frankly, it’s dull.
We live in a multi-cultural society and have access to the most amazing ingredients and recipes from every corner of the globe. You don’t have to go far to find a Polish deli. An Asian supermarket is a culinary wonderland!
Becoming a flexitarian doesn’t mean just leaving out the meat and suffering a plate of soggy cabbage and mash. Look at this table of meat consumption across the world. In Bangladesh, the average person eats just 4kg of meat a year compared to about 82kg in the UK. Go online and you’ll find a wealth of recipes from just about every country in the world, including Bangladesh.
In my opinion, becoming a flexitarian is all about starting an exciting gastronomic adventure. Want to give it a go? Here’s one of Nina & Co’s recommended recipe books.
This ‘BBC Good Food: Veggie Dishes‘ recipe book is low cost and the recipes are excellent. It’s got our seal of approval and well worth investing in! Enjoy!