The flexitarian advantage? Is there such a thing? Isn't a flexitarian just an omnivore with a new name? How can flexitarian-style eating be an advantage? What is so special about being a flexitarian anyway?
These are all common questions I'm asked - and these are my answers.
Yes, there is an advantage to identifying with the term flexitarian in place of the term omnivore.
Most of you know that in the animal kingdom one of the criteria for classification is diet. Carnivores eat meat. Herbivores eat plants. Omnivores eat both plants and other creatures, ie, meat.
Most humans eat other creatures. As a species we eat meat, birds, and fish, etc. We also eat animal products such as eggs and cheese and we drink milk.
To whatever degree we consume animals and animal products is largely the result of cultural and environmental influences and acquired tastes.
Most people don't think beyond the concept of food as nutrition for their body. In many cases we eat food to satisfy an appetite unrelated to hunger. All too often these choices aren't either healthy or nutritious.
How are flexitarians different? The flexitarian advantage is a basic awareness of the value of eating a plant-based diet.
The benefits include a healthier body and a healthier planet.
Flexitarians are aware of the concerns of healthy lifestyle educators, health care professionals, animal advocates, and/or environmentalists.
Flexitarians may be on a journey toward eating vegetarian or vegan - or not. Because they recognize the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, they most often choose not to eat meat, fish or poultry.
Omnivores, however, have no eat meat/don't eat meat considerations. The choice of what to eat is just about food and is generally unrelated to larger issues.
There are times when flexitarians do make the choice to eat a hamburger or fried chicken or a BLT sandwich. The reason could be because of craving a certain food. Or it could be a social or family gathering where eating with everyone is important and so is eating what the others are eating.
That's a very real flexitarian advantage and it's this flexible eating pattern/attitude that spawned the term flexitarian where circumstances contribute to food choices.
Vegetarians and vegans won't make exceptions. It would be a violation of deeply held values to eat meat, chicken, fish or seafood of any type for any reason. We happily eat in the company of friends and family members and likely share our favorite plant-based dishes.
Flexitarians contribute greatly to the health of our planet by generally eating a meat-free diet. They, too, are respecting their values and are living in accordance with those values whether they be related to animals, the environment, or social concerns.
Note: Some flexitarians use the term semi or almost vegetarian to describe themselves. Overall their diet is plant-based with exceptions as noted above.