What is the Flexitarian Diet & How Does It Work? (Plus, a 7-Day Meal Plan)

what is the flexitarian diet

The flexitarian diet – in a general sense – means that you are a flexible vegetarian. It doesn’t matter where you start. Maybe you’re a vegetarian that has those burger cravings every now and then, or a die-hard carnivore that’s looking to lighten the meat-eating for health reasons. Whatever your motives, the flexitarian diet is the eating plan for you.

So, basically, you eat tofu, quinoa, tons of produce, and other favorites for vegetarians, but you’re also allowed to eat meat and fish on occasion. However, you don’t want general summaries of healthy living, so let’s dive in and get the details on this hybrid eating plan.

How Much Are You Allowed To Eat?

flexitarian diet

Just like the name says, this diet is flexible, but there are guidelines about how much you can eat, of course. The way this goes is you should avoid meat two days a week and divvy up 26 ounces of meat for the other five days.

A nice reference to follow is a card-deck-sized portion of meat is close to three ounce, and a restaurant-sized piece is around five. For advanced flexitarians, you should follow a vegetarian diet three or four days a week and eat no more than 18 ounces of meat over the remaining days.

Finally, if you’re an expert, you’re allowed nine ounces of meat two days a week and the rest of the week is meat-free.

For the carnivores out there, don’t worry. Flexitarian eating is less about slashing meat consumption than it is prioritizing veggie-rich dishes. Look for the natural stuff; grains, nuts, eggs, dairy, beans, and lots of fresh produce. Processed foods and sweets should be avoided completely.

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Benefits Of The Flexitarian Diet

flexitarian diet

Go ahead and take most – if not all – of the positives to being a vegetarian and bring them over to this diet. There’s an environmental pro, since cutting down on meat and fish lightens your carbon footprint, plus the many health perks.

Lowered risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and chances of having a stroke. And, since you’ll still be consuming some meat, there’s no worry about getting a sufficient amount of protein and nutrients. 

Another major advantage is the ease of being in such a flexible eating plan. You don’t get pigeon-holed into one restrictive way of eating or another.

More flexibility means more ease to continue the diet for prolonged amounts of time. If you’re used to counting calories with everything, this flexible diet may seem a little frustrating, but others may find the free nature less depriving than other diets. 

Downsides Of The Flexitarian Diet

flexitarian diet

For you meat-eaters out there, changing your ways can be tough, especially if you’re walking away from a meatless meal unsatisfied.

Avoid eating tons of carbs and nuts to get more of a protein kick because this can lead to you consuming more calories than you would’ve from just eating more animal protein.

To fight those hunger cravings, active women should try for 30 grams of protein at every meal. That should be rather simple for carnivores, but flexitarians should be more strategic and look for plant-based protein sources. Just eating a spinach salad won’t do it, but add in some lentils, tofu, or a protein shake on the side and you’ll absolutely hit that protein target.

Another thing, pay closer attention to your B12, vitamin D, iron, and calcium levels. Look for those dairy or nut milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

If you’re already dealing with an iron deficiency, please stick to only two or three days a week eating vegetarian instead of pushing it to five.

An Anti-inflammatory diet is important!

These foods are needed in your diet…

If you think the flexitarian diet is the right fit for your lifestyle, continue reading for an amazing 7-day meal plan:

Day 1

BREAKFAST

Apple and Almond butter toast:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter
  • sliced apple (1)

MORNING SNACK

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tablespoon natural almond butter

LUNCH

Tuna Stuffed Belgian Endive (Full Recipe):

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 16 Belgian endive leaves (about 2 heads)
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese
  • 16 small orange sections (about 2 navel oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

AFTERNOON SNACK

Honey Ginger Pecan Snack Mix (Full Recipe):

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup toasted coconut chips
  • 3/4 cup banana chips
  • 1 cup dried pineapple (or dried tropical fruit mixture)

DINNER

Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls (Full Recipe):

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 30 oz cooked black beans or 2 cans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder mild
  • Pinch cayenne pepper spicy
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • Salt

1 serving Baked Granola Apple Slices

Day 2

BREAKFAST

  • 5.3 oz plain Greek yogurt, mixed with 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 sliced banana
  • 1 pita pocket (warmed), cut into pieces with 1 1/2 tablespoon natural almond butter
  •  

MORNING SNACK

2-per-pouch thin, crunchy granola bars

LUNCH

Cheat’s Macaroni Cheese (Full Recipe):

  • 11 oz dried macaroni
  • 300 g pack cauliflower and broccoli florets (or 1/2 small head each broccoli and cauliflower), cut into smaller florets
  • 11 oz low-fat cream cheese
  • 150 g (5oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon English mustard
  • 1 tablespoon. fresh chives, chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 25 g (1oz) dried breadcrumbs

AFTERNOON SNACKS

  • 1/4 cup organic roasted soybeans (soy nuts)
  • 2 tablespoons dried cherries

DINNER

Spicy Peanut Tofu Stir Fry (Full Recipe):

STIR FRY:

  • 1 – 14 ounce block extra firm tofu
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, coconut)
  • 1 ½ cup sliced shiitake mushrooms (button or baby bellas work too)
  • 1 cup white onions, large dice
  •  

SAUCE:

  • 1 ½ tablespoon EACH: minced garlic AND grated ginger (ginger paste is fine too)
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (use GF tamari to make this gluten-free)
  • 2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
what is the flexitarian diet

Day 3

BREAKFAST

Fig & Flax Oatmeal (Full Recipe):

  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey

MORNING SNACK

Trail Mix:

  • 1/4 cup soy nuts
  • 2 tablespoons dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  •  

LUNCH

Caprese Pita Pockers (Full Recipe):

  • 1 cup chrry o grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup mixed spring salad greens
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved crosswise
  • Large soft lettuce leaves (such as butterhead, Boston, or bibb)

AFTERNOON SNACK

Topped Apple Rounds:

1 apple, cut in several horizontal (round) slices, cored and topped with total of 1 tablespoon almond butter and 2 tablespoons flaxseed granola

DINNER

BBQ Baked Tofu Rainbow Bowls (Full Recipe):

  • 1 lb. extra firm organic tofu, cubed
  • favorite BBQ sauce
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 sweet potatoes, sliced and roasted*
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 1/4 purple cabbage, shredded or sliced
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, roasted in olive oil or sautéed*
  • favorite fresh greens or herbs such as cilantro
  • Ranch or tahini dressing (optional)

Day 4

BREAKFAST

  • 3/4 cup flaxseed granola with 4 oz calcium-fortified organic soy milk
  • 1 apple, with skin
  •  

MORNING SNACK

Cinnamon Vanilla Apple Chips (Full Recipe):

  • 4 – 6 organic apples
  • 1/4 cup organic raw coconut crystals (or your favorite granular sweetener)
  • 1 tablespoon organic vanilla bean powder
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon

LUNCH

Black Bean & Avocado Wraps (Full Recipe):

For the beans:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper chopped (optional)
  • 1 can black beans drained
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning or 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the avocado salsa:

  • 1 avocado pitted and chopped
  • 1 small tomato chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 medium tortillas
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or mayo or skinny chipotle sauce

AFTERNOON SNACK

5.3 oz plain Greek yogurt, mixed with 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 sliced banana and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

DINNER

Zucchini Fritters with Salad (Full Recipe):

  • 750 g zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 2 spring/green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 container tzatziki to serve
  • 4 cups mixed salad leaves (rocket leaves and tomato wedges) to serve

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Day 5

BREAKFAST

Original Swiss Bircher Muesli (Full Recipe):

  • 1 tablespoon rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon​ sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 large apple (grated with the skin)
  • 6​ raw ​hazelnuts (or almonds, chopped)

MORNING SNACK

Trail Mix: 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons soy nuts and 2 tablespoons golden raisins

LUNCH

Loaded Baked Nachos (Full Recipe):

  • 4 whole grain tortillas
  • 5 oz shredded chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-fat, shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chunky salsa
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat refried beans
  • 2 slices avocado, chopped

AFTERNOON SNACK

Toasted Apple Rounds:

1 apple, cut in several horizontal (round) slices, cored and topped with total of 1 tablespoon almond butter and 2 tablespoons flaxseed granola

DINNER

Raw Veggie Chopped Salad (Full Recipe):

  • 1 orange bell pepper (chopped small) (about 1 cup)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper (chopped small) (about 1 cup)
  • 5-8 radishes (cut in half and sliced thin) (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 small head of broccoli (chopped small) (about 2 cups)
  • 1 seedless cucumber (chopped small) (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup halved red seedless grapes
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup raw hemp hearts (hulled hemp seeds)

Oil-free Dressing:

  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp pepper (or to taste
flexitarian diet

Day 6

BREAKFAST

5.3 oz plain Greek yogurt, topped with 2 tablespoons flaxseed granola
1 tortilla, warmed and spread with 2 tablespoons natural almond butter and then rolled

MORNING SNACK

Peanut Butter Energy Bites (Full Recipe)

LUNCH

Veggie Burger Wraps (Full Recipe):

  • 1 veggie burger – your favorite
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla wrap
  • green leaf or red leaf lettuce
  • shredded carrots
  • alfafa sprouts
  • Sriracha, hot sauce, mustard or ketchup – your choice and optional

AFTERNOON SNACK

Trail Mix:

  • 2 tablespoons soy nuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon dried cherries
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins

DINNER

Polenta ‘Pizza’ with Pancetta & Spinach (Full Recipe):

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
  • 1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
  • Salt
  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
  • 1 lb. spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Day 7

BREAKFAST

Spanish Potato Omelet (Full Recipe):

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. potatoes, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onion, chopped

MORNING SNACK

2-per-pouch thin, crunchy granola bars

LUNCH

Ranch Chicken Salad Sandwiches (Full Recipe):

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free ranch salad dressing
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet red pepper
  • 6 slices tomato
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 6 hamburger buns, split
  • 6 lettuce leaves

AFTERNOON SNACK

Stuffed Mini Peppers:

3 mini sweet peppers, stuffed with total of 3 tablespoons hummus and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

DINNER

Italian Spaghetti Squash (Full Recipe):

  • 2 large spaghetti squash, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

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