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Part-Time Vegetarianism Takes Root

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A growing number of experts and common folk in the US are becoming fans of ‘flexitarianism’-being a vegetarian of convenience. They say that cutting back on meat, rather than abstaining completely, may be a practical compromise that benefits our bodies and our environment.

“It gives you the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to follow the strict rules,” Newsweek magazine quoted Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life, as saying. “We know that people live longer and live healthier when they eat vegetarian, but it’s just too darn hard to do it 100% of the time.”

Its unclear how many people are official “flexitarian” converts, but nutritionists believe there are a growing number of people who are simply eating fewer meat entrees whether it’s for health, or economic reasons or because there are more good meatless dishes on offer, the magazine reported.

And while only 2 to 3% of Americans are traditional vegetarians, who shun anything that ever had a face, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, vegetarian foods have become increasingly popular among non-vegetarians. “If you look around at grocery stores, you have soy milk right next to regular milk, you have veggie burgers in the frozen section, and tubs of tofu sitting there in the produce section,” says Blatner.

She suggests that many of those who buy these products may be flextitarians and not even realize it. Even dedicated vegetarians say they are somewhat flexible. A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that two out of three vegetarians say they can’t stick to a pure veggie diet all the time.

Many former vegetarians turn to fish or meat because they feel they need more protein. And of course there are those who start adding a little fish or meat to their diets because what their friend or roommate is cooking simply smells too good to resist.

Many famous vegetarian cookbook authors like the idea of flexitarianism-though they tend to dislike the name. “How about just moderation?” says Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Though she eats mainly a plant-based diet, she indulges in meat about once a week.

Some vegetarian advocates hope that a movement that begins with eating less meat might lead to more people embracing a no-meat, no-fish and no-fowl lifestyle. Vegetarian Resource Group co-director Charles Stahler calls it a “step in the right direction.” It should also inspire more restaurants to create veggie options, and more people to realize that it’s “easy to be a vegetarian”, he says.

Still, not everyone agrees that it’s a great idea to be mostly vegetarian instead of going whole hog-so to speak. “Given the environmental, cruelty and health impact of a meat-based diet, going vegan is best, going vegetarian is good, and being a flexitarian is like smoking two packs of cigarettes instead of ten, beating one pig down the slaughter ramp instead of two, and pouring a pint of gasoline down a drain instead of pouring down a gallon,” says Kathy Guillermo, director of research for the Peta.

The Times Of India

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