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The amount of globally needed agricultural land would be reduced by almost half if no beef or mutton were eaten.

A flexitarian diet, also called a semi-vegetarian diet,[1] is one that is centered on plant foods with limited or occasional inclusion of meat.[2][3][4][5] For example, a flexitarian might eat meat only some days each week. Flexitarian is a portmanteau of the words flexible and vegetarian, signifying its followers' less strict diet pattern when compared to vegetarian pattern diets.[1]



Different definitions of flexitarianism are used. According to the Dutch environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu, a flexitarian eats no meat, fish or lunch meat for at least one day a week.[6] The Dutch research agency I&O Research calls people flexitarian when they do not eat meat one or more days a week. The Dutch Food Health authority Voedingscentrum states that flexitarians do not eat meat (but do eat fish) three or more days a week in between or with a hot meal.[7]

Vegetarianism is the strict practice of abstaining from consuming meat or any other animal tissue. Flexitarianism is a neoteric term that gained a considerable increase in usage in both science and public sectors in the 2010s.[1] Flexitarian was listed in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2012.[8] In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word.[9]

Other neologisms used as synonyms for semi-vegetarianism are demi-vegetarianism,[1] reducetarianism,[10][11] and semi-veganism.[12]



In 2015, according to the Voedingscentrum, 55% of Dutch people were flexitarians.[13] According to Natuur & Milieu, in 2016, 67% of the Dutch were flexitarian.[6] According to research by Wageningen University & Research, the number of Dutch people who call themselves flexitarians increased from 14% in 2011 to 43% in 2019. However, the number of days that self-proclaimed flexitarians ate meat increased over that period from 2.9 days a week to 3.7 days. The researchers suspected that this was mainly due to the inflation of this term among the Dutch.[14]

According to a study by LEI Wageningen UR, the proportion of Dutch people who eat meat daily decreased from 26.7% to 18.4% between 2010 and 2012.[15] According to a study by Dutch research agency Motivaction at the beginning of June 2012, reducing meat consumption is a conscious choice for 35% of the Dutch. 14.8% of the population ate meat no more than one or two days a week.[15] In Flanders, 1 in 6 people in 2013 do not eat meat one or more days a week. A quarter opts for a meat-free day at least once a month.[citation needed]

In 2003, the American Dialect Society chose the word flexitarian as the most useful word of the year.[16]



Common reasons for adopting a flexitarian diet include religious restrictions, weight management,[17] 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,[18] humanitarianism, and animal welfare.[19][20]



The main fundamental of some specific flexitarian 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:

  • Demitarianism: the practice of reducing meat consumption to half of what is culturally typical.[21] The term was devised in October 2009 in Barsac, France at the combined workshop of Nitrogen in Europe (NinE) and Biodiversity in European Grasslands: Impacts of Nitrogen (BEGIN) where they developed "The Barsac Declaration: Environmental Sustainability and the Demitarian Diet".[22]
  • Pescetarian diet: someone who follows this diet eats fish and/or shellfish and may or may not consume dairy and eggs. The consumption of other meat, such as poultry, mammal meat, and the flesh of other land-dwelling animals is abstained from.[23] In the past, some vegetarian societies used to consider it to simply be a less-strict type of vegetarianism.[24] 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 or the meat from mammals or other animals, often for environmental, health or food justice reasons.[25][26]
  • Macrobiotic diet: a plant-based diet that may include occasional fish or other seafood.[27] 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.[28]
  • Planetary health diet: dietary paradigms that have the following aims: to feed a growing world's population, to greatly reduce the worldwide number of deaths caused by poor diet, and to be environmentally sustainable as to prevent the collapse of the natural world.[29][30]

Dietary pattern


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 flexitarian diet rather than a regular plant-based diet. Recurring conditions of a flexitarian include consuming red meat or poultry only once a week.[31][32] One study defined semi-vegetarians as consuming meat or fish three days a week.[33] Occasionally, researchers define semi-vegetarianism as eschewing red meat in entirety and flexitarianism as the distinct practice of eating very little meat.[34][35] Semi-vegetarianism/flexitarianism 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.[36] In many countries, this is often due to financial barriers as higher incomes are associated with diets rich in animal and dairy proteins rather than carbohydrate based staples. One estimate is that 14% of the global population is flexitarian.[37]

Society and culture


In the United Kingdom, there was increased demand for vegan products in 2018.[38] 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.[39] A 2018 poll indicated that 10% of adult Canadians considered themselves as vegetarians or vegans, among whom 42% were young adults.[40]

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.[41] The term flexitarian has been criticized by many vegetarians and vegans as an oxymoron because people following the diet consume the flesh of animals.[42]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d 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. PMC 5216044. PMID 28111625.
  2. ^ 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)...
  3. ^ "Becoming a Vegetarian". Kidshealth.org. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Semi-Vegetarian - Vegetarianism". Medicine Online. semi-vegetarian: mostly follows a vegetarian diet but eats meat, poultry and fish occasionally
  5. ^ Koletzko, Berthold (2008). Pediatric Nutrition in Practice. Karger. p. 130. ISBN 978-3-8055-8477-7.
  6. ^ a b "Onderzoek: 67% Nederlanders is flexitarier" (in Dutch). Natuur & Milieu. 29 September 2016. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  7. ^ "Eet de flexitariër soms een broodje aap?". Mountainview Research (in Dutch). 9 March 2020. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  8. ^ Italie, Leanne. "F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary". The Washington Times. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  9. ^ "2003 Words of the Year". American Dialect Society. 13 January 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  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. ^ Bittman, Mark. (2011). "No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Meer dan de helft van de Nederlanders is 'flexitariër' | Voedingscentrum". www.voedingscentrum.nl. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  14. ^ "Factsheet Consumptiecijfers en aantallen vegetariërs | Vegetariersbond" (in Dutch). De Nederlandse Vegetariërsbond. June 2020. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  15. ^ a b Hans Dagevos, Jantine Voordouw, et.al, Vlees vooral(snog) vanzelfsprekend: Consumenten over vlees eten en vleesminderen. LEI Wageningen UR, juni 2012
  16. ^ "2003 Words of the Year". American Dialect Society. 13 January 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  17. ^ 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. PMC 6048256. PMID 30042947.
  18. ^ de Boer, Joop; Schösler, Hanna; Aiking, Harry (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. PMID 28300608. S2CID 3646506.
  19. ^ De Backer, Charlotte J. S.; Hudders, Liselot (2 November 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. hdl:10067/1205320151162165141. PMID 25357269. S2CID 5449566.
  20. ^ Hoek, Annet C.; Luning, Pieternel A.; Stafleu, Annette; de Graaf, Cees (June 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. PMID 15183917. S2CID 24018607.
  21. ^ Harvey, Fiona (18 February 2013). "Halve meat consumption, scientists urge rich world | Environment". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  22. ^ "The Barsac Declaration: Environmental Sustainability and the Demitarian Diet", 2009 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 November 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Graham Hill (31 July 2000). "Pescatarian". Oxford. Archived from the original on 9 February 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  24. ^ "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."
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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. S2CID 72616374.
  29. ^ "Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems". www.thelancet.com. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  30. ^ Gallagher, James. (2019). "A bit of meat, a lot of veg - the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn". BBC News. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  31. ^ Tonstad, S.; Butler, T.; Yan, R.; Fraser, G. E. (1 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. PMC 2671114. PMID 19351712.
  32. ^ 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. PMC 3967195. PMID 24667136.
  33. ^ De Backer, Charlotte J. S.; Hudders, Liselot (2 November 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. hdl:10067/1205320151162165141. PMID 25357269. S2CID 5449566.
  34. ^ Forestell, Catherine A.; Spaeth, Andrea M.; Kane, Stephanie A. (1 February 2012). "To eat or not to eat red meat. A closer look at the relationship between restrained eating and vegetarianism in college females". Appetite. 58 (1): 319–325. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.10.015. PMID 22079892. S2CID 22041112. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  35. ^ Baines, Surinder; Powers, Jennifer; Brown, Wendy J (May 2007). "How does the health and well-being of young Australian vegetarian and semi-vegetarian women compare with non-vegetarians?". Public Health Nutrition. 10 (5): 436–442. doi:10.1017/S1368980007217938. PMID 17411462.
  36. ^ 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. PMC 6010543. PMID 29963555.
  37. ^ "An exploration into diets around the world" (PDF). Ipsos MORI Global Advisor Survey. 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  38. ^ Sarah Butler (8 June 2018). "Appetite grows for vegan products at UK supermarkets". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  39. ^ Megan Tatum (13 April 2018). "12% of Brits follow meat-free diet, The Grocer research shows". The Grocer. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  40. ^ "'Mind-blowing': Survey finds most vegans, vegetarians in Canada are under 35". CTV News. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  41. ^ Gallagher, James (17 January 2019). "Meat, veg, nuts - a diet designed to feed 10bn". BBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  42. ^ Iacobbo, Karen; Iacobbo, Michael. (2006). Vegetarians and Vegans in America Today. Praeger. pp. 164-168. ISBN 0-275-99016-8