Contributor: Ginger Vieira, Author and Diabetes Expert
This article is an excerpt from Diabetes Strong
A Flexitarian Diet is about choosing mostly plants and other whole-foods that are minimally processed while still incorporating meat and other animal products in moderation, along with more realistic flexibility around less-healthy items like bread, pizza, and dessert.
Named “The Flexitarian Diet” by Dawn Jackson Blatner, she describes this flexible approach to eat as follows:
“The Flexitarian Diet is a semi-vegetarian style of eating that encourages less meat and more plant-based foods. There are no specific rules or suggestions, making it an appealing option for people who are looking to cut back on animal products.”
The guidelines for following a Flexitarian Diet are:
- Start every meal with vegetables and fruit.
- Next, choose legumes and grains.
- Incorporate meat and animal products in moderation.
- Limit heavily processed products, greasy foods, and sweets
- Focus on whole foods as the primary source of your nutrition.
In other words: Eat mostly vegetables (and some fruit) as many times per day as possible. And then continue to choose mostly whole-food items including whole grains, dairy, legumes, nuts, lean proteins (poultry, salmon, eggs, etc.) with room for the occasional indulgence several times per week, too.
While the “official” Flexitarian Diet has suggestions in their “food pyramid” for the number of servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, sweets, etc. that you should consume, there is no rigid restriction like you’ll find in a ketogenic or vegan diet.
Moderation is a key component of the Flexitarian Diet. While you have the freedom to eat a few slices of pizza on Friday night and still be following the guidelines of your nutrition program, the goal would still be that the rest of that day’s food was very wholesome and plant-based.
Note: As with any diet, knowing how much to eat is important no matter how healthy your diet is, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight (which can be the goal sometimes). You can use the guide to calculating your daily calorie need on Diabetes Strong to find out how much to eat to reach your weight goals
Why a Flexitarian Diet is ideal for some people with diabetes:
The most important part of any approach to nutrition is that it is something you can sustain for a long-term, stable, positive relationship with food.
If you have found that through eating a ketogenic, low-carb, vegan, etc. type of diet, that is wonderful! But the reason there are so many approaches to nutrition out there is that we (society) have yet to find one approach to works well for everyone.
Every individual’s genetics, religious and moral beliefs, additional health conditions, body type, personality type, history with food, and budget vary tremendously. All of these factors play heavily when a person is trying to create a healthy and sustainable relationship with food.
For some people, following a strict ketogenic diet or low-carb diet or vegan diet or LFHC (low-fat, high-carb) diet is great. They see the benefits in their blood sugar levels, they feel good eating that way, and they enjoy the firm rules and limits.
For others (myself included), following an extremely rigid diet actually creates more problems than it solves for people with diabetes (PWDs):
- Many PWDs actually see their insulin needs rise on a ketogenic diet because of dietary fat’s impact on insulin resistance — despite the severe reduction in carbohydrates.
- Many PWDs find that putting intense limitations on what they’re “allowed” to eat leads to binge-eating those items after several days of avoiding them. This is common in the non-diabetic population, too.
- Many PWDs have other health conditions that further dictate their nutritional needs. (Personally, eating a lot of carbohydrates triggers other symptoms in my fibromyalgia.)
- Many PWDs do not feel healthy eating a large number of carbohydrates — no matter how healthy and wholesome those carbohydrates may be. (For instance, I feel downright awful after eating gluten-free oats and other gluten-free grains.)
- Many PWDs don’t feel it’s necessary to follow an extremely rigid diet in order to achieve healthy blood sugar levels.
- Many PWDs don’t feel it’s necessary to achieve HbA1c’s in the low 5s (like a ketogenic has proven to achieve for some) in order to live a long, healthy life with diabetes.
It’s easy to want others to find the same success and satisfaction you’ve found through a specific approach to eating, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s about so much more than eating.
The Flexitarian Diet offers guidance to your nutrition while still giving you plenty of flexibility to make adjustments based on your personal needs and wants. (Because it’s okay to want ice cream every now and then, too!)
Continue reading the full article here: https://diabetesstrong.com/flexitarian-diet-for-diabetes-management
Ginger Vieira has lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease since 1999 and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the Digital Content Manager at BeyondType1 and BeyondType2, and is the author of several books, including: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, and Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger has written for many websites, including: DiabetesMine, Diathrive, MySugr, Omnipod, and more. Her background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in professional writing, certifications in coaching, personal training, and yoga, and 14 records in drug-free powerlifting back in her youth! Find Ginger on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.