Vegetarian. Vegan. Flexitarian?
One of the newest dining trends is to eat less meat—but not eliminate it entirely. Although research has shown the health benefits of eating less meat, vegetarianism is too restrictive for most people’s taste. However, more consumers are opting for vegetarian choices, at least some of the time. According to the Institute of Food Technologists, one of the top 10 food trends for 2014 are “alternatives,” with eggs as the most popular alternative, followed by beans, lentils, and legumes. Their research found that 80% of households occasionally chose meatless meals for dinner.
This type of eating is also known as a flexitarian diet. Flexitarian is a combination of two words, flexible and vegetarian, and was first used about a decade ago. It does not refer to a strict plan (hence its “flexible” nature), and thus could refer to eating one meatless meal or only eating meat once per week.
The Meatless Monday campaign, formed in association with Johns Hopkins University, also encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays to improve both their personal health and the health of the planet. According to the Meatless Monday program, avoiding meat reduces a person’s risk of conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Eating less meat can also reduce a person’s carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.
To follow this type of diet, experts recommend going meatless one or two days a week. Instead of meat, flexitarians will be looking for options with other protein-rich foods, such as beans and legumes. Tofu is a good option for stir-fry dishes, and beans can provide the base for burritos and tacos. Whole grains, such as quinoa, farro, and millet, can also be a source of protein, and these grains are popping up in entrees and breakfast products, too.