Since vegetarianism became a concept, it’s always been a hard and fast rule - you’re either all in, and banishing meat-eating from your life for good, or you're a hopeless case and a carnivore through and through. But what about those in the middle ground?
Thankfully, the recent rise of flexitarianism has presented a far more nuanced take on the matter of meat-eating. Ethically and environmentally conscious people who want to make a sincere effort to cut down on their meat-eating can now adhere to a flexitarian diet. There’s no longer any shame in being a meat-lover, because this way, you can feel good about adhering to these principles, without having to give up meat on a permanent basis.
If you enjoy incorporating meat into your meals as a treat, or it’s a key ingredient of some of your absolute favourite dishes (make mine a beef wellington), then taking on a flexitarian diet is a fantastic way to tick both boxes, and change your lifestyle in a way that sticks.
Flexitarianism sounding like your calling? If the above reads like the perfect fit for your lifestyle, below we’ve put together some advice on how to go about making this switch, as well as the numerous perks that it will bring.
Why do it
Before we give some details into the how, for those of you who aren’t full converts yet, it might be wise to give a bit more of an insight into the why.
Flexitarianism is by no means a new term, but it has been increasingly adopted in recent years, as an option that has risen in popularity out of the recognition for humanity’s need to do something about our environmentally destructive current practices.
Recent studies undertaken by the world’s leading environmentalists have revealed an alarming insight into just how environmentally damaging our current rate of meat consumption is.
The New York Times Climate desk reported that the current rate of meat and dairy production required by our food system accounts for 14.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the entire world. For a bit of context, this is the same amount of pollution as that which is produced by the world’s cars, trucks, aeroplanes and ships combined.
In order to counteract this stat, The World Resource Institute has recommended that the countries who are most to blame cut down our consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by 40%, if we want to meet the global emissions goals that we have set for 2050.
What’s more, in addition to this huge influx of emissions, humans are causing the worst species extinction crisis since the ice age that wiped out the dinosaurs. The world’s forests are being hugely burdened by the staggering amount of deforestation that takes place in order to create enough grazing space for these animals.
This means that, even though you might already feel like you’re buying ethical free-range options, in reality the problem stems far deeper than that. So, the only real thing that we can do to resurrect this situation is cutting down on the sheer amount of meat and dairy that we eat.
So this is your chance to make a difference. Going veggie or vegan would be great, but if (hand on heart) you can say that this is something you’d realistically struggle to commit to, going flexie is still a fantastic way to give our planet the helping hand that it needs.
How to get started
Not sure how to kickstart your flexitarian diet swap? Here are a few ideas to help you start as you mean to go on.
Choose a meal routine that works for you
This could take a variety of different forms, depending on what suits you best. For example, you could:
- Take a rotation of ‘days on’ and ‘days off’ (so having a day of meat-eating, followed by a vegetarian or vegan day)
- Cut your meat-eating down to a set number of meals that contain meat a week (for example, 3 meat dishes a week)
- Employ little permanent changes - like stating that you won’t buy in dairy milk anymore
- Go about it on a day-by-day basis, and govern your meals based on a ‘20% meat, 80% meatless’ proportion
One thing to note here is that, since beef and pork are the main culprits, when you do choose to have meat in your main, consider switching out minced beef for turkey mince, for example.
Set yourself goals
Expanding on the point above, set yourself aspirational targets that you can continue to work towards. Make it a gradual process too - slowly decrease the amount of meat that you eat during a week, so that you’re phasing it out over time rather than going cold turkey (ironically) straight away. Start off by setting little goals like ‘I’m only going to have cheese three times this week’, then working your way up. This way, you’ll be far more likely to be able to achieve this transition into the long term.
Dive in headfirst
Embrace all of the new, innovative vegan and veggie alt foods that have come into existence over the last few years. Another less expected perk of going flexie is the fact that you’ll find loads of great new options that you’ve never heard of (and probably never would have tried) before. Treat yourself by buying luxurious, quality options like fancy meatless sausages, organic vegetables, rich peanut butter, unusual fruits, and really tasty sourdough bread.
Try out different veggie and vegan dishes when you go to restaurants and cafes, too. They’re the absolute masters of the craft, and you’ll be able to pick up loads of different ideas for you to incorporate into your home cooking.
For example, I’d never even heard of tahini before I had it in a cafe, now I have it with avocado on toast for breakfast, and I’ve never looked back.
Coffee break switches
Alt milks in coffees - coconut and oat, in particular, have a really rich, creamy flavour that actually boost the coffee in their own right. There are loads of different alternative milk varieties out there, so be experimental and find out your favourites and see which milk fits best with which dish and drink - ditching dairy has never been more delicious.
Clever flexie recipes
Seek out different creative recipe ideas for an easy switch. Plan your meals in advance, so that you don’t have to resort to using meat at dinner just because you find yourself out of ideas. Some fresh, healthy, quick and easy meat-free meal time options are curried cauliflower steak; mushroom bourguignon; a hearty quinoa bowl; curry with chunky root veg and chickpeas; a vegan sausage bake; black bean enchiladas and vegetable stir fry with marinated tofu.
A few staple flexie ingredients would include:
- Beans (the ultimate tinned convenience)
- Flavoursome, earthy vegetables like sweet potatoes, mushrooms, courgettes and parsnips
- Chickpeas - which make for a great filling, core ingredient as a centre to base your dish around
- Grains and pulses, such as quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, whole grain pasta and lentils
- Nut butters
- Quorn alternatives - these provide a direct, effortless replacement for sausages, strips of beef, chicken pieces and mince
- Dairy alternatives, including options like vegan cheese, or soya and coconut based yoghurts
Then, on the days that you do decide to have a meat option, make it something special. Instead of settling for a dull microwave beef meal, cook a delicious dish that really showcases the meat and then make it sing with fresh, high quality accompaniments
Get yourself a FridgeCam
The FridgeCam is a fantastic tool to help you out with these first steps. This handy device will help you monitor this influx of fresh fruit and vegetables by enabling you to keep a close eye on their sell-by dates. This way, you’ll be able to stop wasting food, even as you continue to buy in far greater quantities of fresh produce.
Another way that this Smarter kitchen appliance helps stop food waste is by providing you with an up-to-date look into your fridge when you set off for your food shop. That way, you won’t be buying anything in double, and you can use this insight to see what you’ve got in stock at home, and buy bits from the supermarket that will go with what you’ve already got. What’s more, this will help you to get organised, and better plan your meat-free meals ready for the week ahead.
If you’re ready to do your bit for the planet and take on the challenge of going flexie, get yourself a FridgeCam to help you on your way. Have a look on our online store, where you can learn a bit more about how this nifty little device will transform the way that you use your fridge.