What is the Flexitarian Diet?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Flexitarian Diet

Is The Flexitarian Diet Good For You And Good For The Planet?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney


flexitarian diet breaking newsIf you follow U.S News & World Reports, you may have noticed that the Flexitarian Diet was ranked #3, just slightly behind the Mediterranean and DASH diets. You may be scratching your head and wondering: “What is the Flexitarian Diet?” There are so many popular diets these days that it is hard to keep track. It is confusing. To paraphrase the old baseball quote: “You can’t tell the diets without a scorecard.”

Let me provide you with that scorecard. I will describe the Flexitarian Diet and answer two important questions:

  • Is the Flexitarian Diet good for you?
  • Is the Flexitarian Diet good for the planet?


What Is The Flexitarian Diet?

flexitarian diet to lose weightThe term “flexitarian” was coined 10 years ago by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in her book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way To Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years To Your Life.” Flexitarian is simply a contraction of the phrase “flexible vegetarian.”

Blatner’s premise was two-fold:

  • A vegan diet is very healthy. It is also very restrictive and hard for most people to follow.
  • Allowing small amounts of meat and other animal products in a primarily vegetarian diet would preserve most of the health benefits of a vegan diet. It would also be more flexible and easier to follow.

The Flexitarian Diet has no strict rules or calorie limits. It has no prohibited foods or food groups. It is neither low-carb nor low-fat. It focuses more on what to eat than on what not to eat. It is just based on a few general principles:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. In other words, it is a primarily plant-based diet.
  • Focus on protein from plants rather than from animals.
  • Be flexible and incorporate small amounts of meat and animal products in your diet. Flexibility reigns here. The diet recognizes that some people do better with more meat and animal products than others.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.
  • Limit added sugars and sweets.

If you have read my book, “Slaying The Food Myths,” you know that this is essentially a semi-vegetarian diet. It is also very similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets.


Is the Flexitarian Diet Good For You?


flexitarian diet good for youAs you may have guessed from the title of her book, Dawn Jackson Blatner claimed her diet would help you lose weight, get healthier, reduce your risk of diseases, and add years to your life. You might ask: “Is there any basis for her claims?”

The answer is “Yes,” but the evidence does not come from studies of the Flexitarian Diet. The evidence is based on similarities between the Flexitarian Diet and the semi-vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.

I have covered the health benefits of these diets in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.” In summary, compared to people following the typical American diet or meat-based low-carb diets, people following these 3 diets:

  • Tend to weigh less.
  • Have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Have a lower risk of some forms of cancer.
  • Have lower blood pressure.
  • Have less inflammation.

In addition, a paper has recently been published entitled, “Flexitarian Diets and Health: A review of the Evidence-Based Literature” (EJ Derbyshire, Frontiers In Nutrition, 3: 1-7, 2017). The title is a bit misleading in that the review did not include any studies on Flexitarian Diets (There have been none). Instead, the study reviewed 25 studies of semi-vegetarian diets published between 2000 and 2016 and relied on the fact that the Flexitarian Diet and semi-vegetarian diets are virtually identical.

The study concluded that semi-vegetarian (Flexitarian) diets:

  • Resulted in weight loss.
  • Improved metabolic markers (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar levels).
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Reduced the risk of type-2 diabetes.
  • May play a role in the management of Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease.

In short, there is no direct evidence that the Flexitarian Diet is healthy. However, its similarity to semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, and DASH diets makes it highly likely that the Flexitarian Diet is very good for you.


Is The Flexitarian Diet Good For The Planet?


flexitarian diet good for planetThe short answer is “Yes.” More importantly, it is critical for the health of our planet that we adopt a more plant-based diet. Our current diet is not environmentally sustainable.

That assessment is based on four factors; Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Population Growth. Here are some fast facts to ponder:

  • Food production currently is responsible for:
    • 40% of global land, and land conversion for food products is the single most important driver of biodiversity loss.
    • Up to 30% of global greenhouse emissions.
    • 70% of freshwater use.
  • The population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion people between now and 2050. That raises two important issues:
    • How are we going to feed those people?
    • How are we going to do it in a sustainable manner?
  • Ruminant animals (cattle and sheep, for example) are the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because they not only breathe out CO2, but they also release methane into the atmosphere from fermentation of the food they eat in their rumens. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and it persists in the atmosphere 25 times longer than CO2. The single most important thing we can do as individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less beef and lamb.

Two major studies have published recently that have evaluated the effect of food production on our planet.

The first study (L Aleksandrowicz et al, PLOS One, 11(11): e0165797, 2016) reviewed 63 studies that looked at the effect of dietary patterns on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water use. It concluded that moving from our current diet to a more plant-based diet would:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land use for food production by 70-80%.
  • Reduce water use for food production by 50%.

The degree to which all these parameters could be reduced was generally proportional to the extent to which animal foods were replaced with plant foods (vegan > semi-vegetarian > Mediterranean).

The second study (W. Willet et al, The Lancet, 393, issue 10170, 447-492, 2019) was the report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems. This Commission convened 30 of the top experts from across the globe to prepare a science-based evaluation of the effect of diet on both health and sustainable food production through the year 2050. The Commission reviewed 356 published studies in preparing their report.

Based on an exhaustive evaluation of the literature on healthy diets and sustainable food production, the Commission recommended something they called the “Planetary Health Diet.” This science-based diet ended up being very close to the Flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) diet.

  • It starts with a vegetarian diet. Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, soy foods, and whole grains are the foundation of the diet.
  • It allows the option of adding one serving of dairy a day (It turns out that cows produce much less greenhouse emissions per serving of dairy than per serving of beef. That’s because cows take several years to mature before they can be converted to meat, and they are emitting greenhouse gases the entire time).
  • It allows the option of adding one 3 oz serving of fish or poultry or one egg per day.
  • It allows the option of swapping seafood, poultry, or egg for a 3 oz serving of red meat no more than once a week. If you want a 12 oz steak, that would be no more than once a month.

In other words, it is a less flexible version of the Flexitarian diet. You could also consider it a restrictive version of the Mediterranean or DASH diets.

The Commission concluded:

  • “A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet.”
  • “Shifting from unhealthy diets to the ‘planetary health diet’ can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition toward a sustainable global food system by 2050 that ensures healthy food for all within planetary boundaries.”


The Bottom Line


The Flexitarian Diet has been in the news lately. You might be asking 3 questions:

  • What is the Flexitarian Diet?
  • Is it good for me?
  • Is it good for the planet?

Here are the answers:

#1: The Flexitarian Diet is a contraction of the phrase “flexible vegetarian.” It is a vegetarian diet that allows small amounts of meat, dairy, and/or eggs. It is virtually identical to what has been called a semi-vegetarian diet for years and is very similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

#2: There is no direct evidence that the Flexitarian diet is healthy. However, its close similarity to the semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, and DASH diets makes it highly probable that the Flexitarian Diet is a healthy diet. It is likely to be good for you.

#3: When greenhouse gas emissions, land & water use, and population growth are all taken into account, experts have concluded that the only sustainable diet is a semi-vegetarian diet in which meat, dairy, and eggs are severely restricted (details in the article above). You can think of it as a less flexible version of the Flexitarian diet or a very restrictive form of the Mediterranean or DASH diets.

According to these experts, controlling carbon emissions from fossil fuels is not enough. We also must change what we eat if we wish to avoid catastrophic global warming.

For more details read the article above.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Headache Relief By Treating Your Shoulder

Posted June 18, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

A Headache Remedy Can be Treating Your Shoulder

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney



When you experience the debilitating effects of headache pain, you just want headache relief.

headache relief from painYour head throbs. It’s hard to think. It’s hard to enjoy life.

What should you do?

  • You could take Tylenol or some other drug, but that offers temporary relief at best.
  • You could see a chiropractor, but it may take multiple visits to correct your problem.
  • You could get a massage, but the headache will probably come back.

What you really want is a natural protocol you can use to make the headache go away whenever it occurs. There is such a protocol. It’s called muscular therapy, and I teach people how to perform it on themselves whenever a headache or joint pain occurs.


What Is The Difference Between Massage And Muscular Therapy?

There is a difference between massage and muscular therapy as a headache remedy, and both are worthwhile.  Massage is great for moving the fluids (like blood and lymph) through your body and getting muscles to relax. It’s perfect if you’re under stress and you feel like you’re going to explode.  A good massage therapist can have a positive impact on your nervous system and blood pressure, and you’ll come out walking on air.

Muscular therapy, the way I do it anyway, is more focused than it is general.  You’ve heard about spasms, but most people can’t visualize a spasm, so they ignore the term. You probably have an idea that a spasm may be painful, and it isn’t a great thing to have, but what is a spasm?

What is a Spasm

headache relief muscle knotsI explain it as a knot in the muscle.  Through some very complicated physiology (that none of us need to know about) the muscle forms a knot in the thick part of the muscle, and it’s putting a strain on the two ends.

Both ends are attached to a bone, so the pressure causes a strain on the end points and you have pain at the bone.  Most of the time the end points are just after the muscle crosses over a joint, so you end up with joint pain.


Too often people think this is arthritis and they are stuck suffering or taking strong drugs to mask the pain.  But in the majority of cases it’s not arthritis, it’s just tight muscles pulling on the bones of the joint and preventing them from moving freely.

But, all you need is to know where the knot (spasm) is, and then apply direct pressure on it.  Hold the pressure for 30 seconds or so, and then let go.  Keep repeating this until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Headache Relief

headache relief shoulderLet’s say you have headache pain.  There are so many muscles that impact headaches that it would take a book (like my book: “Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living”) to discuss each of them.  So, let’s just look at one muscle, the Levator Scapulae.

The Levator Scapulae is responsible for lifting your shoulder up.  In fact, the nickname for the Levator Scapulae is “the shrug muscle.” But look at this graphic and you’ll see where the knots form (the round red circles) and where you feel the pain (the red shaded areas).

You may not think to press on your lower neck/shoulder when you feel headache pain.  This muscle also causes the pain you feel in the middle of your back, between your shoulder blades.


And self-treatment is so easy!


headache relief shoulder muscle workYou can put your opposite thumb into the front of your shoulder as shown in this picture, and your fingers in the back of the muscle. Then squeeze your thumb and fingers so they pinch the entire muscle.


headache relief shoulder muscle pressure using wallOr you can put the perfect ball on the very top of your shoulder and then lean into the corner of a wall as shown in this picture.


What you are doing is forcing the acid (as in Lactic Acid) out of the muscle fiber so blood can fill the void and heal the muscle fiber.  As you do this you are untying the knot and the pressure is removed from the joint. In most cases the joint can now move more freely and without pain.

All the self-treatments in my book are just this easy!

Most people have significant pain relief, and I am happy to say many get total and permanent pain relief.  Try it yourself, self-treatment is easy.  The worst thing that can happen is nothing, and the best thing that can happen is regaining normalcy.

Why stay in pain when it’s so easy to find the muscular source of the problem and eliminate it?

pain free living book coverGet Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living . It is filled with over 100 pictures and descriptions proven to show you how to find and self-treat muscle spasms from head to foot!

Join the 1000’s of people worldwide who have discovered that tight muscles were the true source of pains they thought were from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other serious conditions.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by releasing tight muscles.

Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living is your step-by-step guide to pain relief!


Wishing you well,


Julie Donnelly

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.