The Flexitarian Diet
By Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN McGraw Hill (2009) Reviewed by: Densie Webb, PhD, RD
In this short and easy-to-read volume, the author speaks to vegetarian "wannabes" who can't quite bring themselves to give up meat entirely. And she says that's okay. The title of the book reveals her approach: Aim for a plant-based diet, but be flexible enough to allow yourself meat, poultry and fish on occasion. The promise of the diet is provided in the subtitle on the cover: "Lose weight, be healthier, prevent disease and add years to your life."
Synopsis of the Diet Plan:
The philosophy to "eat more plants and do the best that you can." There is no strict diet plan or rigid rules about what you can and can't eat and no calorie counts or carbohydrate grams to be tracked. In what she calls the "Five-by-Five Flex Plan," Blatner offers five components that, she says, will help you lose 15 percent of your body weight: 1) Flex food groups 2) Five-week meal plan 3) Flex recipes 4) Flex fitness factors 5) Flex-life troubleshooters. The Flex recipes, which make up about half the book, are the foundation of the plan. Examples of vegetarian foods, recipes and meals (enough for five weeks) are provided along with weekly shopping lists.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
The Flexitarian Diet offers smart advice for eating more healthfully, along with simple recipes and ingredients to get the reader started. However, while the advantage of the diet is its lack of rigidity, that may also be its downfall.
The flex meals, which are interchangeable, offer lots of choices – maybe too many for some people. In fact, the author points out there are more than eight million meal combinations that can be created with the recipes provided. While the diet is a healthful one, it may not be suited for people who need more specific direction.
In addition, though it's made clear that meat is not forbidden and suggestions for substituting small amounts of meat in recipes are provided, there is no guidance for including hot dogs, pork roast and grilled steak as suggested in the beginning. The only meat in the recipes is extra-lean turkey or sirloin, chicken breast and the occasional chicken sausage; healthful, yes, but the book doesn't quite live up to its advance billing that you can have your meat and eat it, too.
If you follow this basic guide to healthful eating, using the recipes provided, you will be eating a lactoovo vegetarian diet; use the meat substitutions and you'll have a "flexitarian" diet. While the introduction provides permission and motivation for those who strive to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but aren't ready to go meat-free, the book doesn't actually provide step-by-step instructions on how to include meat in a mostly vegetarian diet, or how to wean yourself gradually from meat, poultry and fish. That is left up to the reader.