In my household, we can go weeks without eating a single piece of meat. It’s not something we do on purpose; it just kind of happens that we design our meals around fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Sometimes — but rarely — the opposite is true, and we hit a serious carnivorous kick where the “meat sweats” are a fairly regular occurrence. BBQ season is a killer. I guess my family and I can be described as flexitarians.
Flexitarians are people who simply can’t or don’t want to completely cut meat out of their diets, but choose to eat much less of it. Technically, they are semi-vegetarians who sometimes like to include meat and fish on their dinner plates. Apparently, some vegans and vegetarians have accused people like me of being non-committal, but the way I see it is people should eat what they want to eat. Life is short; maybe really short if all you eat is meat, but regardless, diet is a personal choice. Besides, I don’t like following any rules when it comes to eating. If you’re going to judge me, let it be for my complete disregard for portion control, not for what I eat.
Apparently, a lot of people out there are choosing plant-based diets over meat, whether it be all the time or most of the time. A recent report finds veganism and flexitarianism are part of a trend that isn’t showing any signs of letting up. It’s predicted that the meat alternative market will be valued at US $5.2 billion by 2020. There are 7.3 million people in the United States who claim to be vegetarians; more than 22 million people in both the US and the UK are flexitarians. Furthermore, in the last three years, there’s been a 600% increase of Americans identifying themselves as vegan.
The market has had no choice but to adjust, with supermarket chains, restaurants, and even farmers changing what they sell, serve and grow. In the UK, the Sainsbury’s grocery giant has launched a new line of vegan products after seeing its meat-free range grow 20% a week. Some of the new products include vegan butter and vegan meats, like mince and burgers. The Vivera Plant Based Steak, made only of wheat and soy, has been wildly successful in England.
Restaurants around the world are bringing plant-based plates on the menu to a new level, moving away from salad bars and experimenting with different flavors and sources of protein. In Canada and the US, the demand for hummus is so strong that farmers have just planted their largest chickpea crops ever! They say a metric ton of chickpeas will probably pull in about US $750 this year.
The trend of eating more plant-based foods is a timely one; raising cattle and pork aren’t easy on the environment and future generations need for us to reduce our carbon footprint. But, there are also so many health benefits to eating less meat. Health experts say whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or a flexitarian, the end result is a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as lower cholesterol and obesity levels. How’s that for motivation?
Eating plant-based is dang delicious too; some of my favorite vegan recipes come from the Oh She Glows cookbook. Give it a try; you won’t be disappointed. Whether you choose to eat only one meat-free meal a week or want to make plant-based dinners most of the time, you’ll get no judgment from me. I’m a flexitarian, after all.