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A semi-vegetarian diet (SVD), also called a flexitarian[1][2] diet, is one that is centered around plant foods and with the occasional inclusion of meat.[3][4][5][6] In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word.[7] Flexitarian is a portmanteau of the words flexible and vegetarian, signifying its followers' less strict diet pattern when compared to other vegetarian pattern diets.[8]


Vegetarianism is the strict practice of abstaining from consuming meat. Flexitarianism is a neoteric term that gained a considerable increase in usage in both science and public sectors in the 2010s.[8] Flexitarian was listed in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2012.[9] Other neologisms used as synonyms for semi-vegetarianism are demi-vegetarianism[8] and reducetarianism.[10][11]


Common reasons for adopting a semi-vegetarian diet include religious restrictions, weight management,[12] health consciousness, issues relating to animal welfare or animal rights (see ethical omnivorism), the environment (see environmental vegetarianism), or reducing resource use (see economic vegetarianism). Flexitarians may have attitudes and endorsement behavior concerning health issues,[13] humanitarianism, and animal welfare.[14][15]


The main fundamental of some specific semi-vegetarian diets is about the inflexible adherence to a diet that omits multiple classes and types of animals from the diet in entirety, rather than a sole focus on reduction in consumption frequency. Some examples include:

  • Macrobiotic diet: a plant-based diet and it may include occasional fish or other seafood.[16] Cereals, especially brown rice, are the staples of the macrobiotic diet, supplemented by small amounts of vegetables and occasionally fish. Some advocates of the macrobiotic diet promote a vegetarian (or nearly vegan) approach as the ideal.[17]
  • Pescetarian diet: someone who follows this diet eats fish and/or shellfish and may or may not consume dairy and eggs. The consumption of meat, such as poultry, mammal meat and the flesh of any other animal is abstained from.[18] In the past, some vegetarian societies used to consider it to simply be a less-strict type of vegetarianism.[19] This is no longer the case now that modern day vegetarian societies object to the consumption of all fish and shellfish.
  • Pollotarian diet: someone who follows this diet eats chicken and/or other poultry and usually eggs as well. A pollotarian would not consume seafood, the meat from mammals, or other animals often for environmental, health or food justice reasons.[20][21] This term is the most recently coined term for a semi-vegetarian diet pattern; it's not particularly as well established and accepted in the English lexicon. The structure of the word pollotarian may have been inspired by the well known term pescetarian in that it is a portmanteau of a word borrowed from Italian, possibly pollame, and the English word vegetarian.
  • Kangatarian diet: is a recent practice of following a diet which excludes meat except kangaroo on environmental and ethical grounds. Several Australian newspapers wrote about the neologism "kangatarianism" in February 2010, describing eating a vegetarian diet with the addition of kangaroo meat as a choice with environmental benefits because indigenous wild kangaroos require no extra land or water for farming and produce little methane (a greenhouse gas), unlike cattle or other farm animals.[22][23][24][25]

Dietary pattern[edit]

All semi-vegetarians could accurately be described as people who eat a plant-based diet, but there is no firm consensus how infrequently someone would have to eat meat and fish for their diet to be considered a semi-vegetarian diet rather than a regular plant-based diet. The average American consumed an estimated 222 pounds (101 kg) of meat in 2018,[26] so comparatively a semi-vegetarian would have to eat much less. Once someone is able to consistently forgo meat for 5+ days a week, they can be considered a flexitarian.[27]

Recurring conditions of a semi-vegetarian include consuming red meat or poultry only once a week.[28][29] One study defined semi-vegetarians as consuming meat or fish three days a week.[30] Semi-vegetarianism may be the default diet for much of the world, where meals based on plant materials provide the bulk of people's regular energy intake.[31] One estimate is that 14% of the global population is flexitarian.[32]

Society and culture[edit]

In the United Kingdom, there was increased demand for vegan products in 2018.[33] A 2018 study estimated that the amount of UK consumers following a “meat-free diet” had increased to 12%, including 6% vegetarians, 4% pescetarians and 2% vegans.[34] A 2018 poll indicated that 10% of adult Canadians considered themselves as vegetarians or vegans, among whom 42% were young adults.[35] A high estimate for meat consumption per person in 2007 was 301 pounds (137 kg) (for Luxembourg), including consumption of beef, pork, turkey, and chicken.[36] In 2019, an international group stated that the adoption of the flexitarian diet would "save lives, feed 10 billion people and all without causing catastrophic damage to the planet," when compared to the current western diet.[37]

The term flexitarian has been criticized by some vegetarians and vegans as an oxymoron,[38] because people following the diet are not vegetarians but omnivores as they still consume the flesh of animals. In 2006, authors Karen and Michael Iacobbo who surveyed vegetarians and vegans found that the majority disagreed with the term.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Types of Vegetarians - Definitions". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  2. ^ "What is a Flexitarian?". 5 April 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  3. ^ Langley-Evans, Simon (2009). Nutrition: A Lifespan Approach. Wiley. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-4443-1640-7. There are many forms of vegetarian diet from the semi-vegetarian (consumes meat infrequently)...
  4. ^ "Becoming a Vegetarian". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Semi-Vegetarian - Vegetarianism". Medicine Online. semi-vegetarian: mostly follows a vegetarian diet but eats meat, poultry and fish occasionally
  6. ^ Koletzko, Berthold (2008). Pediatric Nutrition in Practice. Karger. p. 130. ISBN 978-3-8055-8477-7.
  7. ^ "2003 Words of the Year". American Dialect Society. 13 January 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  8. ^ a b c Derbyshire, Emma J. (6 January 2017). "Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature". Frontiers in Nutrition. 3: 55. doi:10.3389/fnut.2016.00055. ISSN 2296-861X. PMC 5216044. PMID 28111625.
  9. ^ Italie, Leanne. "F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary". The Washington Times. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. ^ Mary MacVean (8 January 2015). "Getting through the lobster feast as a vegan". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ Samantha Olson (6 January 2015). "Meat-Eaters And Vegetarians Meet In The Middle: The Birth Of 'Reducetarianism'". Medical Daily.
  12. ^ Forestell, Catherine A. (10 July 2018). "Flexitarian Diet and Weight Control: Healthy or Risky Eating Behavior?". Frontiers in Nutrition. 5: 59. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00059. ISSN 2296-861X. PMC 6048256. PMID 30042947.
  13. ^ de Boer, Joop; Schösler, Hanna; Aiking, Harry (1 June 2017). "Towards a reduced meat diet: Mindset and motivation of young vegetarians, low, medium and high meat-eaters". Appetite. 113: 387–397. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.03.007. hdl:1871.1/6cdbf2da-61bc-4cd9-84b0-7fed528ed6a6. ISSN 1095-8304. PMID 28300608.
  14. ^ De Backer, Charlotte J.S.; Hudders, Liselot (30 October 2014). "From meatless Mondays to meatless Sundays: motivations for meat reduction among vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who mildly or significantly reduce their meat intake". Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 53 (6): 639–657. doi:10.1080/03670244.2014.896797. ISSN 1543-5237. PMID 25357269.
  15. ^ Hoek, Annet C.; Luning, Pieternel A.; Stafleu, Annette; de Graaf, Cees (2004). "Food-related lifestyle and health attitudes of Dutch vegetarians, non-vegetarian consumers of meat substitutes, and meat consumers". Appetite. 42 (3): 265–272. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2003.12.003. ISSN 0195-6663. PMID 15183917.
  16. ^ Kushi, Michio; Blauer, Stephen (8 March 2004). The macrobiotic way: the complete macrobiotic lifestyle book. Penguin. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-58333-180-4. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  17. ^ Miller, ER (November 2006). "The effects of macronutrients on blood pressure and lipids: an overview of the DASH and OmniHeart trials". Curr Atheroscler Rep. 8 (6): 460–5. doi:10.1007/s11883-006-0020-1. PMID 17045071.
  18. ^ Graham Hill (31 July 2000). "Pescatarian". Oxford. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  19. ^ "International Health Exhibition", The Medical Times and Gazette, 24 May 1884, 712. "There are two kinds of vegetarians—one an extreme form, the members of which eat no animal food whatever; and a less extreme sect, who do not object to eggs, milk, or fish. The Vegetarian Society ... belongs to the latter more moderate division."
  20. ^ Preedy, Victor R.; Burrow, Gerard N.; Watson, Ronald (9 February 2009). Comprehensive Handbook of Iodine: Nutritional, Biochemical, Pathological and Therapeutic Aspects. Academic Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-12-374135-6. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  21. ^ Hayes, Dayle; Laudan, Rachel (September 2008). Food and Nutrition; Editorial Advisers, Dayle Hayes, Rachel Laudan. Marshall Cavendish. p. 1058. ISBN 978-0-7614-7827-0. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  22. ^ Tayissa Barone (9 February 2010). "Kangatarians jump the divide". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  23. ^ Kerry Maxwell (10 January 2011). "kangatarian". BuzzWord. Macmillan Dictionary. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  24. ^ Bonnie Malkin (12 February 2010). "'Kangatarians' emerge in Australia". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  25. ^ Wendy Zukerman (13 October 2010). "Eating Skippy: Is kangaroo the kindest meat?". New Scientist. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  26. ^ Maynard, Micheline. "Veggies May Be Healthier, But In 2018, Americans Will Eat A Record Amount Of Meat". Forbes. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Flexitarian Diet Review: Less Meat and Weight Loss?". WebMD. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  28. ^ Tonstad, Serena; Butler, Terry; Yan, Ru; Fraser, Gary E. (May 2009). "Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes". Diabetes Care. 32 (5): 791–796. doi:10.2337/dc08-1886. ISSN 0149-5992. PMC 2671114. PMID 19351712.
  29. ^ Clarys, Peter; Deliens, Tom; Huybrechts, Inge; Deriemaeker, Peter; Vanaelst, Barbara; De Keyzer, Willem; Hebbelinck, Marcel; Mullie, Patrick (24 March 2014). "Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet". Nutrients. 6 (3): 1318–1332. doi:10.3390/nu6031318. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 3967195. PMID 24667136.
  30. ^ De Backer, Charlotte J. S.; Hudders, Liselot (2014). "From meatless Mondays to meatless Sundays: motivations for meat reduction among vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who mildly or significantly reduce their meat intake". Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 53 (6): 639–657. doi:10.1080/03670244.2014.896797. ISSN 1543-5237. PMID 25357269.
  31. ^ Hicks, Talia M.; Knowles, Scott O.; Farouk, Mustafa M. (14 June 2018). "Global Provisioning of Red Meat for Flexitarian Diets". Frontiers in Nutrition. 5: 50. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00050. ISSN 2296-861X. PMC 6010543. PMID 29963555.
  32. ^ "An exploration into diets around the world" (PDF). Ipsos MORI Global Advisor Survey. 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  33. ^ Sarah Butler (8 June 2018). "Appetite grows for vegan products at UK supermarkets". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  34. ^ Megan Tatum (13 April 2018). "12% of Brits follow meat-free diet, The Grocer research shows". The Grocer. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  35. ^ "'Mind-blowing': Survey finds most vegans, vegetarians in Canada are under 35". CTV News. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  36. ^ Eliza Barklay. "A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up". Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  37. ^ Gallagher, James (17 January 2019). "Meat, veg, nuts - a diet designed to feed 10bn". BBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  38. ^ a b Iacobbo, Karen; Iacobbo, Michael. (2006). Vegetarians and Vegans in America Today. Praeger. pp. 164-168. ISBN 0-275-99016-8

Further reading[edit]