Add more plant-based options to your diet with this healthy 7-day flexitarian meal plan – Insider – INSIDER

Posted: November 25, 2020 at 6:54 pm

A flexitarian diet is exactly what its name implies it's a flexible way to kickstart healthy eating and potentially shed some pounds and improve your health in the process.

Generally speaking, the purpose of the flexitarian diet is to reduce the amount of animal-based products you consume and replace them with whole, plant-based options.

For example, replace your barbacoa taco filling with spiced black beans. However, this does not mean replacing your jerky snack with potato chips.

To lose weight on a flexitarian diet, you'll need to choose the right foods to support that goal, says registered dietitian-nutritionist Scott Keatley, RD, CDN.

"Technically, potato chips and table sugar are vegetarian but we know that if our diet includes too much of these types of food we will not lose weight," Keatley says. "However, picking whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as some lean proteins make for a high-fiber calorie-controlled diet."

Here's how to try a flexitarian diet with a 7-day meal plan as well as more on the benefits you may reap from following it.

A flexitarian diet encourages a lot of healthy behaviors, like rarely eating red meat and loading up on lean protein and whole foods. Here's a list of foods that experts recommend eating frequently, in moderation, and rarely while following a flexitarian diet.

Foods/drinks to have often:

Foods/drinks to have in moderation:

Foods/drinks to avoid whenever possible (true for all eating plans):

If you're interested in trying out a flexitarian diet, here's a 7-day sample flexitarian meal plan, according to registered dietician Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD. Adjust serving sizes and calorie proportions to your specific needs.

Day 1

Hummus is a great protein-packed snack. Elisete Domingues / EyeEm/Getty Images

Breakfast: Oatmeal (made with dairy-free milk), topped with fruit and walnuts

Lunch: Mixed green salad with spiced chickpeas, avocado, cherry tomato, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette

Snack: Bell pepper and hummus

Dinner: Butternut squash and black bean frittata

Day 2

A savory chicken stir fry for dinner will hit the spot on day 2. Graphiqa-Stock/Getty Images

Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, apple slices

Snack: cup walnut halves

Lunch: Whole-wheat pita with mixed greens, bell pepper, and roasted chickpeas

Snack: Sliced pear

Dinner: Chicken stir fry with mixed vegetables and nutritional yeast

Day 3

Avocado on whole wheat toast is a classic way to start your day right. OatmealStories/Getty Images Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with avocado, sprouts, and chickpeas

Snack: Sliced apple with peanut butter

Lunch: Quinoa and broccoli stir-fry with roasted tofu

Snack: 1 cup of strawberries

Dinner: Whole-wheat pita with vegetables, balsamic vinegar, and low-fat cheese

Day 4

Celery with peanut butter is a crunchy, fulfilling snack. MSPhotographic/Getty Images

Breakfast: Buckwheat cereal with blueberries

Snack: Carrot sticks with hummus

Lunch: Strawberry almond kale salad with citrus vinaigrette and grilled chicken breast

Snack: Celery with peanut butter

Dinner: Tempeh taco sliders with tomato, cabbage, and vegan sour cream

Day 5

Black bean burgers are a delicious alternative to bland, frozen veggie burgers. Photography by Matthew Lankford/Getty Images

Breakfast: Fruit smoothie

Snack: Baked kale chips

Lunch: Black bean veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun

Snack: Popcorn with nutritional yeast

Dinner: Veggie pasta salad with lime and balsamic vinegar

Day 6

Kick off day 6 with a protein-packed egg scramble. LauriPatterson/Getty Images

Breakfast: Egg scramble with mushrooms, onions, and peppers

Snack: Fruit smoothie

Lunch: Avocado "Reuben" sandwich on rye with mustard, sauerkraut, and vegan thousand island dressing

Snack: Rice cakes with nut butter and pomegranate seeds

Dinner: Vegetarian chili

Day 7

Treat yourself on day 7 with some mac and cheese. You've earned it! antares71/Getty Images

Breakfast: Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and banana

Snack: Tomato, cucumber, and basil salad with tahini or vinaigrette

Lunch: Whole-wheat mac and cheese (either with real cheese or vegan cheese made with soaked cashews and nutritional yeast), roasted broccoli

Snack: Almonds and clementines

Dinner: Curried coconut quinoa with shrimp and roasted cauliflower

Research that is specifically on the flexitarian diet is limited since the guidelines aren't as strict as vegetarianism and veganism, which makes flexitarianism more difficult to study.

That said, there's plenty of research indicating the advantages of reducing your consumption of animal products while eating more whole grains, veggies, legumes, and other plant-based foods.

Better weight management and body composition

Jaramillo says that since plant-based proteins tend to be high in fiber, they can make you feel full for longer while reducing your overall caloric intake which can ultimately lead to weight loss. Here's what the research says:

Lower blood pressure

Reduced risk of heart disease and heart failure

Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

Reduced risk of cancer

Reduced inflammation

A flexitarian diet offers an ideal compromise for people who regularly eat meat and want to cut down on meat and dairy products without giving them up entirely.

Research suggests that people with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease can benefit from the flexitarian diet.

Moreover, "anyone can benefit from a flexitarian diet but those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis may see the greatest benefit with decreased inflammation," says Jaramillo.

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Add more plant-based options to your diet with this healthy 7-day flexitarian meal plan - Insider - INSIDER

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