Why a flexitarian diet could be the most sustainable diet for you and the earth

Juleyka will continue our sustainability mini series to discuss some further tips to help you become more sustainable and healthier.

Juleyka is a nutritionist from Manchester; she is passionate about food sustainability in relation to health and nutrition. She has partnered with dissertations for good contributing to research around the U.N Sustainable Development Goals and food sustainability practices, volunteered for Dimension's charity; creating meal plans for people with complex needs. More recently, she has also joined with YouGen as a content writer on the link between sustainability and health.

A flexitarian diet 

The narrative around veganism and vegetarianism has been shifting, scientist have proposed a flexitarian diet as the way forward. A large skill research study, led by 37 world renowned scientist has shown this type of diet is the one that will sustain them most whilst also being within the boundaries of the earth’s natural resources. The term flexitarian is a combination of flexible and vegetarian; although it is mostly plant based, it allows for some animal-based produce. It encourages consumption of environmentally ethical produce and whilst supporting nutritional needs of the individual.

Top 3 tips on how to adopt a flexitarian diet 

1. Vary your protein sources: mushrooms, legumes, beans, and fish are great alternative to animal-based protein. Having a variety of different protein sources ensures you meet all amino acid requirements are met.

2. Ensuring every bite does good

  • Knowledge is key- knowing that every bite of food you take can directly impact your genes. Every fork can decide the gut diversity and the genetic biome – you are literally influencing your health through every bite you take.

3. Mindset tips

  • Eat slowly and mindfully – research has shown the simple act of chewing your food more slowly suppresses a hunger hormone; grehlin. This leads to you feeling fuller for longer which reduces the chances of snacking and overeating. Chewing food slowly also better for your digestion. Research has also shown that food which is chewed slowly through being more mindful of the food can lead to improved digestion and better assimilation of nutrients.
  • The simple act of eating slowly and appreciating our food will also appreciating food more and ultimately waste less.
  • Perfectionism doesn’t exist- if one week you naturally crave more animal products or don’t eat as in line with a flexitarian diet, opt for a more gradual change. For example, encourage fish free Fridays and meat free Mondays and see if this is a more sustainable start for you.

The bottom line

The key theme of these posts has been sustainability -but what a lot of diet trends and nutrition advice tends to miss out on is that; for a habit to make change and for the person to stick to it, the individual themselves must be able to sustain it. Sustainability is key to every facet of life. Not only is it important that the diet is sustainable within itself – but also that is easy for you to sustain. Long term changes begin with consistency and the ability to carry out a habit which fits in well with your lifestyle and personality.

1. Robinson et al, eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):728-42
2. https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/
3. Vegetarian Society launches new Fish Free Fridays - Meat Free Monday (meatfreemondays.com)