Stacey Frattinger, RD, CHFS, Certified Integrative Health Coach, currently resides in Sparks, NV. She owns a virtual health coaching and nutrition counseling practice, mainly focusing on one-on-one, individualized whole body wellness practices.
This diet does not include a strict plan or have rigid rules about what you can and can't eat. There is no calorie counting involved or tracking of carbohydrate grams involved. Instead, Blatner has designed something she calls a "Five-by-Five Flex Plan," offering five components that she claims will help you lose 15 percent of your body weight. The five components include: 1) Flex food groups 2) Five-week meal plan 3) Flex recipes 4) Flex fitness factors 5) Flex-life troubleshooters. The author has included a section devoted entirely to “The Flex recipes”, which provide the foundation for the eating plan. In addition, Blatner provides you with weekly shopping lists to allow you to incorporate your preferred foods more often and design some of your own meals without following her recipes.
The Flexitarian diet, developed by Dawn Blatner, RD, LDN, is the byproduct of two words, flexible and vegetarian. “Flexitarianism” is considered to be an “inclusive” eating plan that focuses on minimizing meat consumption without avoiding it altogether. Followers of this plan are encouraged to aim for a plant-based diet, but be flexible enough to allow for consumption of meat, poultry and fish on occasion. The focus of the diet is on adding new choices to the foods already eat consistently as part of your usual diet. The Flexitarian Diet is designed to guide you to eat more vegetables, potentially easing you into the benefits of vegetarianism through flexible meal plans and recipes that incorporate meat-substitutes.
The Flexitarian plan requires a dedication to preparing meals at home and grocery shopping according to a somewhat strict list. Difficulty may arise for people who don't have much experience in the kitchen, specifically with cooking fresh vegetables, beans and legumes. While no foods are forbidden for Flexitarian followers, the process of decision making at meal and snack times may be complicated and lead to a lack of compliance.
The money you will most likely save with the avoidance of lean meats and animal proteins, particularly if you are used to purchasing organic, will most likely just be transferred to your produce bill as you start to buy more fruits and vegetables. In addition, dry staples, such as oatmeal, beans, or lentils, are not costly and will last for quite some time before needing to be restocked.
Between reading Blatner’s book, designing a grocery list from the meal plan, preparing foods from the meal plan, and then setting aside time to exercise, plan to devote more time to your lifestyle and dietary plan. The best way to save time with this plan is probably to repeat the same meals and recipes frequently within the same week. If you can invest one or two days cooking in bulk, and store your leftovers in Tupperware or glass containers, you will have more time to spend engaging in your intentional physical activity.
The diet itself appears to be quite safe and the potential for experiencing any side-effects from eating this way is very minimal. Based upon the debate around soy, you might be a little safer staying away from soy-based products and instead choosing to eat more beans or legumes.
The underlying message to follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian plan is not all that contentious or debated; however, there is debate around the benefit of including soy in one’s diet. Most of the health concerns about soy stem from its concentration of phytoestrogens, a group of natural compounds that resemble estrogen chemically. While some experts have questioned whether soy might lower testosterone levels in men, soy is often not recommended for estrogen-dominant women or those recovering from breast cancer.
Benefits: The Flexitarian Diet offers advice for eating more healthfully. Both the book and the author’s website guide you through some simple recipes and provide a list of staple ingredients to get you started on this plan. Because this ecologically friendly way of eating, revolves around a “clean” eating program, you will find yourself eating more whole foods and avoiding processed, chemically-laden food. Along with the avoidance of processed foods, you most likely will be eating a diet low in refined sugar, low in trans-fats, and high in fiber.
Downsides: The diet’s lack of rigidity, with somewhat fuzzy guidance on how to incorporate animal-based proteins, may also be its downfall. While there is some flexibility with the plan, some individuals may start to feel overwhelmed by all of the choices they are faced with. As the author sites in her book, there are more than eight million meal combinations that can be created with the recipes provided. If you need specific direction, this plan will lead to a feeling of frustration.
The Bottom Line: Even if you purchase the book, the resource doesn't actually provide step-by-step instructions on how to how to wean yourself gradually from meat, poultry and fish. It might better to invest your time and energy in a plan that is a little less complicated by simply choosing to follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.