The Flexitarian Diet: Your Guide to a Healthier You + 7 Delicious Recipes

In the complex world of dietary lifestyles, the flexitarian diet has emerged as a top choice among health-minded folk everywhere. This inclusive and adaptable diet attracts attention for its many health and environmental benefits, making it an appealing option if you want to make a positive change in your life and the world. In this article, we will explore the benefits of the flexitarian diet and why it might be your ideal choice. Plus, we'll showcase some delicious and nutritious flexitarian recipes so you can see how easy this diet is to adopt. Let's get started!

What is the Flexitarian Diet?

At its core, the flexitarian diet is a 'semi-vegetarian' style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing consumers to eat meat and other animal products in moderation. It's a flexible approach to eating that doesn't impose strict rules as such but promotes a higher intake of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. This dietary approach emphasises the foundational benefits of plant foods rather than excluding animal products, differing from a vegetarian diet. The flexitarian diet is considered a gentle transition if you're aim is to reduce meat intake without completely eliminating it from your diet. Similarly, it's a great way to introduce animal proteins if you're already following a vegetarian diet and want to introduce meat and seafood.

Is the Flexitarian Diet a Good Fit for Me?

If you're wondering whether or not a flexitarian diet is right for you, there are a few key points to consider.

The Risks of Certain Plant-Based Diets

Switching to a mostly plant-based, sustainable diet not only minimises the risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions but also safeguards our planet's health for the long haul. If you're ethically or environmentally minded, chances are you're already following a vegan, vegetarian or similar plant-based diet for similar reasons.

However, the evidence suggests that without some professional intervention, these traditional plant-based diets risk incurring nutritional deficiencies in certain populations. People in these groups include infants and children, teens, child-bearing and breastfeeding women and older adults. These demographics have an inherently higher need for specific nutrients due to rapid growth and development. Older populations face other health challenges, such as osteoporosis, reduced digestive function and poor immune health, meaning they, too, need to ensure an optimal nutrient intake from a healthy, varied diet.

The Healthy Balance of a Flexitarian Diet

This is where the flexitarian diet shines. Compared to a standard vegetarian diet, a flexitarian diet with a foundation of plant-based foods (vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit), minimal red meat, and a moderate intake of dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish provides an appropriate amount of nutrients and energy from food that suits a wide range of the general population.

The diversity and flexibility (get it?) of the flexitarian diet means it's suitable for the average healthy person equally as much as the groups mentioned above. It's not restrictive, easy to follow, generally affordable and enjoyable. It also works well if you have specific dietary needs, as it can be adapted to be gluten-free and dairy-free. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet and Nordic-style diet are also exemplary dietary approaches.

Overall, the flexitarian diet is associated with reduced food waste and is easy to maintain for people who are already consuming a standard Western diet. If you focus on local, seasonal produce, the flexitarian diet is also an environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly option that's healthy as well.

An assortment of flexitarian diet foods.

Health Benefits of the Flexitarian Diet

It may not be as well known as some other diets, but the flexitarian diet is one of today’s healthiest and most doable diets. A New Zealand study from 2021 compared several modern diets to determine which was the overall best to follow, both for individual health and the health of the planet. The results showed that the flexitarian diet strikes a good balance of being a sustainable, healthy and moderately affordable dietary approach. Let's see how the flexitarian diet helps with some specific areas of health.

Maintains Healthy Weight

One of the most compelling reasons people are drawn to the flexitarian diet is its potential for aiding weight management. A diet rich in plant-based foods tends to be lower in calories and higher in fibre, leading to a feeling of fullness and reduced desire for snacking on less healthy foods. The high intake of healthy fats, quality protein and polyphenol-rich produce also contributes to its benefits in weight management.

Better Heart Health

The emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats in the flexitarian diet aligns with dietary recommendations for heart health. Studies have shown that following this diet can lead to a reduction in blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels, both of which contribute to a decreased risk of heart disease.

Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Chronic Diseases

Adopting a flexitarian diet can also decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve the management of existing diabetes by promoting better blood sugar control. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of the flexitarian diet can lead to improvements in chronic bowel diseases.

A lady holding a plate of flexitarian diet foods.

Final Thoughts on the Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet offers a sensible and enjoyable way to improve your health, reduce your ecological footprint, and explore a world of culinary diversity. Whether you're a seasoned vegetarian looking for more flexibility, a meat-eater who's interested in the health benefits of a plant-based diet, or an eco-conscious individual aiming to make more sustainable food choices, the flexitarian diet might just be the perfect fit for you. With its numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases and potential for environmental sustainability, the flexitarian diet stands firmly as a valuable middle-ground diet that's balanced, accessible and eco-conscious for just about everyone.

7 Flexitarian Diet Recipes For a Healthier You

To inspire your flexitarian journey, here are a few delicious flexitarian diet recipes that are both nutritious and tasty. These recipes celebrate plant-based ingredients combined with healthy proteins. Each can be adapted according to your personal preference, making them ideal if you're a flexitarian newbie or a vego veteran looking for diversity in your meal planning.


Asian-Inspired Chicken Soup

A soothing bowl of chicken broth infused with ginger and garlic, accompanied by chicken, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and rice noodles, garnished with sliced green onions. It's light, fragrant, and fits the flexitarian brief! Yum!


  • 2 quarts chicken bone broth
  • 400g breast or thighs, skinless and boneless
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup bok choy, chopped
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 packet of rice noodles
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Fresh Thai basil leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Red chilli flakes (optional, for heat)


  1. Pour the chicken bone broth into a large pot and gently simmer.
  2. Add the chicken, ginger, and garlic, cooking over medium heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the cooked chicken from the pot, allow it to cool, and then shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  4. Stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to simmer on low for an additional 10 minutes for the flavours to combine.
  5. Add bok choy and shiitake mushrooms to the pot, cooking until they are tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions.
  7. Divide the cooked noodles among soup bowls, and ladle the hot broth with vegetables over them.
  8. Top with shredded chicken, sliced green onions, and, if using, Thai basil leaves and a sprinkle of chilli flakes for a spicy kick.
  9. Serve hot and enjoy the comfort of this fragrant soup

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Avocado Cream

Grilled or baked white fish served in warm corn tortillas, topped with a crunchy cabbage slaw dressed in a light citrus vinaigrette and a dollop of avocado cream. This one is a flexitarian diet recipe the whole family will love!

Ingredients for the Fish Tacos

  • 500g flathead fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Ingredients for the Cabbage Slaw

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Avocado Cream

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste


  1. Preheat the grill or a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, chilli powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Coat the flathead fish fillets with the spice mixture.
  3. Grill or pan-fry the fish for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until it is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Remove from heat and let rest.
  4. For the cabbage slaw, in a large bowl whisk together lime juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Add the cabbage, red onion, and carrot, tossing to coat. Set aside to marinate.
  5. For the avocado cream, mash the avocado in a bowl and mix in the sour cream or Greek yoghurt and lime juice until smooth. Season with salt to taste.
  6. To assemble the tacos, break the fish into chunks and distribute them evenly among the warmed corn tortillas. Top with the cabbage slaw and a dollop of avocado cream. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  7. Serve immediately, with extra lime wedges on the side if desired. Enjoy!

Hearty Lentil Vegetable Soup

This soup is a wholesome and satisfying dish and a perfect intro to the flexitarian diet. Packed with protein-rich lentils and a bounty of fresh vegetables, it's good for you and a comforting meal for those cooler days.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, and capsicum to the pot, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the lentils, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, water, dried thyme, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
  5. Add the chopped kale or spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the greens have wilted.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. For a zesty kick, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice just before serving.

Lemony Chicken Bone Broth Risotto

Creamy arborio rice slow-cooked in rich chicken bone broth brightened with a splash of lemon juice and zest. Finish with a handful of fresh greens like parsley, spinach or kale.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken bone broth, warm
  • 500g cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the Arborio rice and cook for 1 minute until the grains are well-coated and slightly toasted.
  3. Pour in the white wine and stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Add the warm chicken bone broth a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. Continue this process until the rice is creamy and al dente, about 18-20 minutes.
  5. Fold in the shredded chicken, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter until melted and combined.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.
  8. Serve the risotto warm and enjoy the rich, tangy flavours balanced by the heartiness of bone broth.