There are plenty of buzzwords regarding our diets which have popped up all the media over the past decade or so as people start to understand the impact of their diets on themselves, animal welfare and the environment.

If you’re into giving your diet a shake, like the idea of veganism or vegetarianism without the restriction, would like to change your shopping habits and buy better quality produce, then flexitarianism is for you. Welcome to a flexible, attainable and realistic diet for 2019.

A study carried out by Waitrose suggests that around 1/3 of people in the UK have slashed their meat consumption and 1 in 5 people label themselves as a flexitarian[1]. This diet works around you, what you like to eat and when; there are no restrictions. The difference, though, between a flexitarian and an omnivore is that flexitarians tend to lean towards plant-based meals for the majority of their diet.

Rothbury Family Butcher sausages
You don’t need to give up your favourite foods on the Flexitarian Diet. Northumberland favourites, and regional winners, Rothbury Family Butchers handmade sausages make a mean sausage supper

This style of eating could help you to get the best out of all the food you consume. With around 30% of people in the UK claiming they eat 3 portions of fruit and veg a day[2] there is no time like the present to make sure you are eating a healthy, wholesome diet.

What is a Flexitarian?

The term flexitarian was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014[3] and the word has continued to gain momentum in the food industry over the past 5 years to become synonymous with mindfulness and a healthy way to eat.

Milling at Gilchesters Organics
Eating wholegrain foods is a great way to boost energy. Try heritage grain flours from Gilchesters Organics.

A flexitarian simply eats a vegetarian or vegan diet for most of the week and adds the occasional fish or meat-based meal to their week. It could be the addition of smoked salmon bagel on a Monday morning or a full-blown Sunday roast with the trimmings. Whatever the additions are, a flexitarian diet allows you to get the best out of your food.

A meat-centric diet or a vegan diet are both lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. A well-rounded flexitarian diet can optimise the nutrients you get out of your food and means you can savour and enjoy those meals you prepare.

Sausage & caramelised onion pastry
Take inspiration from those who exclude meat from their diets. Meat-free sausage and caramelised red onion pastry by Karmic Cakery.

If you’re looking to make a change to your diet, the flexitarian diet is one of the simplest, and healthiest, eating patterns to follow in the world[4]. Flexitarianism can also be a way for vegetarians and vegans to reintroduce meat, fish or dairy into their diets.

Blue House Goats Crofters Cheese in Oatmeal
Dairy products from goats are often hailed for their nutritional content. Try cheese or yogurt from Blue House Goats.

Not a Lazy Vegetarian

There are many reasons why people follow restrictive diets, but if it’s unnecessary for you then why do it? Flexitarians have been nicknamed ‘lazy vegetarians’ but it could be these followers who have kick-started change in the food industry, especially when it comes to meat quality. Flexitarianism is about inclusion rather than exclusion of foods and could help form positive attitudes to food and where food comes from.

Flexitarians, as they do not consume a lot of meat or fish, tend to source better quality, and usually locally-reared, meat and fish products. This is great for the local area as well as animal welfare if these are things which are important to you.

We live in a climate that is equipped to deal with meat and dairy farms, and luckily for us in Northumberland and Scottish Borders, there is a variety of these products you can source and buy locally without compromising on quality.

Hexhamshire Organics grocery box
If this doesn’t inspire you to eat well, what will? Grown with care by Hexhamshire Organics

This diet allows you to slip into eating meat-free meals. Dawn Jackson Blatner, who wrote the first flexitarian diet book in 2009, suggest beginners start by having 2 plant-focused meal days a week before attempting to be more strict.

Eating Sustainably

We are inundated with claims we cannot sustain the way we eat otherwise the world will be damaged beyond measure. Whether you believe these statements or not, the fact is our diets have been taken over by mass-production, full of additives and man-made products, rather than food straight from the farm, land or sea. If you’re are concerned about where your food comes from then sourcing locally produced food may well be the answer.

Local markets
Local markets and food festivals in towns such as Alnwick showcase the best the borders can offer.

A diet that is rich in seasonal, locally grown food is healthier and easier to sustain than other diet approaches. Furthermore, there are many producers in Northumberland and Scottish Borders that offer dairy, meat and fish products which can be traceable, therefore there is no need to abstain, unless of course if there are reasons such as religion or allergies to adhere too.

Local cheese included in the hamper
Our Foodful Hamper showcased the range of local food available to us.

Meat substitutes aren’t healthy alternatives either. Many dietitians recommend you avoid soya based products as around 80% of soya crops globally are genetically modified[5]. A lot of the vegan-friendly fridge and freezer products found in the supermarkets can be just as high, if not more so, in saturated fat, salt and refined ingredients similar to other processed foods[6]. It’s about being aware of making healthy choices rather than replacing something bad with something equally as bad.

Some vegan foods, which are rich in nutrients essential for a healthy vegan diet, need to be sourced from other countries such as soya, nuts, coconuts, goji berries and pulses. Whereas sourcing local cheese from Blagdon, organic meat from Foulden, apple juice from Duns, fish from Eyemouth and organic fruit and vegetables from Hexham create a more environmentally-friendly meal plan than any other diet could offer.

Salmon fillet
Try some wild Scottish Salmon from Ross Dougal Fish Merchants based in Eyemouth

Be Inclusive, not Exclusive with Food

There are a number of ways to make small changes to your diet and to go flexitarian without giving up your favourite foods.

  • Try Meat Free Monday a campaign which was set up by famous flexitarians Paul & Stella McCartney.
  • Source organic or free-range meat then you will only need a small amount of meat because the flavour and health benefits will be greater.
Meat on a butchers block
Ready to tackle the art of butchery?
  • Flick through some modern recipe books or scroll through veggie meal-focused websites to discover tasty and quick meals.
  • Eat seasonally and enjoy the taste of fruit and vegetables all the more.
  • Shop locally and find delicious foods including fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and dairy produce.
  • Try to limit the trips to the supermarket so you aren’t tempted by offers.

A study in the USA confirmed that the flexitarian diet is one of the top 3 diets in the world[4] to follow. The benefits of this diet include:

  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • It’s suitable for the whole family.
  • Encourages eating more fruit and veg.
A basket of fruit and veg
Eating more plant-based foods reaps benefits for health and happiness
  • Easier to find your happy weight.
  • The inclusion of meat and fish in your diet brings numerous health benefits including quality protein and iron.
  • High intake of soluble fibres such as lentils and beans can lower bad cholesterol levels.
  • Could reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • It is a nutrient dense way to eat.

This can be a way to make smart food choices.

Looking for Change?

If food is a subject close to your heart, then the best thing we can do for food, ourselves, food producers and the world is to start eating seasonally and locally. Fad diets and crazes take this chance away from us. A flexitarian diet allows us to appreciate local food and to enjoy the quality, taste and health benefits this brings to our daily lives.

Flexitarianism may scare the mass-produced food industry, but for producers closer to home, this diet may be the answer to creating more awareness about local food and the importance of small-scale farming, especially in the meat market. A flexitarian diet is based on compromise without skimping on quality or exclusion of food types. It could be the most balanced diet there is.

Northumberland Cheese Co Team
Try to support local businesses when making changes to your lifestyle and diet. Popular local businesses such as Northumberland Cheese Co offer a lot of the community and beyond

Whatever you decide is the best diet for you, source some fantastic local produce to enjoy for your meals. Look through the Foodful directory for inspiration.

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