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A semi-vegetarian or flexitarian[1][2] diet is one that is plant-based 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]

Difference between similar terms and diets[edit]

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from consuming meat. Along with the term flexitarian, which was listed in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2012,[8] other neologisms for semi-vegetarianism are reducetarianism[9][10][11] and lessetarianism.[12][13][14]

Common reasons for adopting a semi-vegetarian diet may be ethical issues relating to animal welfare (including health) or animal rights, the environment (see environmental vegetarianism) or reducing resource use (see economic vegetarianism), which are also arguments in favor of adopting a fully vegetarian diet. While semi-vegetarians may view the meat or animal products as occasional indulgences,[15] staunch vegetarians may resent the term or view it as cheating or as a moral lapse.[16] In contrast, many proponents of veganism embrace semi-vegetarianism as a way to get a broader section of the general public to act on arguments for veganism, with the consequence that more animal suffering and environmental devastation will be prevented than if the public views meat-reduction as all-or-nothing.[17]

Specific semi-vegetarian diets that restrict consumption specific animals include:

  • Pollotarian: someone who eats chicken or other poultry, but not meat from mammals or other animals often for environmental, health or food justice reasons.[18][19]
  • Pescetarian: someone who eats fish or shellfish, but not poultry, meat from mammals, or any other animal flesh.[20] In the past, some vegetarian societies used to consider it to be a less-strict type of vegetarianism.[21] This is no longer the case now that modern day vegetarian societies object to the consumption of all fish and shellfish.
  • Macrobiotic diet: plant-based, and may include occasional fish or other seafood.[22]

Society and culture[edit]

A ranking by U.S. News & World Report, involving a panel of experts, evaluated 32 popular diets based on several variables including health, weight loss, and ease of following. In the 2014 list, the semi-vegetarian diet came in sixth place, ahead of both the vegan and vegetarian diets.[23]

In the United Kingdom veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism are all increasing. Major food retailers are increasing their stocks of vegan and vegetarian products to cater for increased demand.[24]

In Canada, a study from Dalhousie University, led by Sylvain Charlebois, suggested in 2018 that 10.2 percent of adult Canadians considered themselves to be flexitarians. Of that group, 42 percent were Boomers.[25]

In 2019, an international group of 37 scientists from a variety of disciplines found 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.[26]

Comparison of vegan, vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian diets[edit]

Name Livestock Poultry Seafood Dairy Eggs Honey Root vegetables Fruits, nuts, seeds
Fruitarianism No No No No No No No Yes
Jain vegetarianism No No No Yes No No No Yes
Veganism No No No No No No Yes Yes
Lacto vegetarianism No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Greek Orthodox fasting No No Sometimes No No Yes Yes Yes
Ovo vegetarianism No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ovo-lacto vegetarianism No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pescetarianism No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pollo-vegetarianism No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pollo-pescetarianism No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Types of Vegetarians - Definitions". Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  2. ^ "What is a Flexitarian?". 2014-04-05. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  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 2015-05-02.
  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. 2007-01-13. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
  8. ^ Italie, Leanne. "F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary". The Washington Times. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  9. ^ Mary MacVean (8 January 2015). "Getting through the lobster feast as a vegan". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Samantha Olson (6 January 2015). "Meat-Eaters And Vegetarians Meet In The Middle: The Birth Of 'Reducetarianism'". Medical Daily.
  11. ^ Martha Rosenberg (2 January 2015). "Not Going Vegetarian, But Cutting Down on Meat? There's a Name for That". Alternet.
  12. ^ "Be a Lessetarian: It's Easy!"
  13. ^ "Why I am a Lessetarian" (June 8, 2010) by Cindy Young, One Part Sunshine: Your Guide to Growing Green Kids (blog)
  14. ^ "Different Types of Vegetarians,"
  15. ^ "Are you a 'flexitarian?'". Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  16. ^ "Flexitarianism: isn't it just vegetarianism with cheating?". Guardian. London. 21 January 2013.
  17. ^ Graham Hill (1 Feb 2010). "Why I'm a Weekday Vegetarian". TED. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  18. ^ Preedy, Victor R.; Burrow, Gerard N.; Watson, Ronald (2009-02-09). Comprehensive Handbook of Iodine: Nutritional, Biochemical, Pathological and Therapeutic Aspects. Academic Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-12-374135-6. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Graham Hill (31 July 2000). "Pescatarian". Oxford. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  21. ^ "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."
  22. ^ Kushi, Michio; Blauer, Stephen (2004-03-08). The macrobiotic way: the complete macrobiotic lifestyle book. Penguin. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-58333-180-4. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  23. ^ "Best Diets Overall". U.S.News & World Report. 2012.
  24. ^ Appetite grows for vegan products at UK supermarkets The Guardian
  25. ^
  26. ^

Further reading[edit]