Monday, 19 February 2018

The rise of the Flexitarian

"Isn't being a flexitarian just cheating at being vegetarian?" was my first thought after reading about being a Flexitarian; however with 37% of households cutting out processed meat (Nielsen,2015) and 29% of evening meals not containing any meat products from the 12 weeks before January in the UK (Kantar, 2018), I can see why it holds sway over those who don't want to cut out meat entirely. 

Since January, I have shifted from having chicken for every dinner meal (really - every. single. meal. Unless I was being fancy, and having steak of course), to moving towards either having fish, a meat substitute such as Quorn, or a vegetable alternative. This isn't because of any documentary on Netlfix, or any magazine article which told me I had three years left to live as I ate meat and drank milkshakes, this was simply because I was bored of my food choices and decided to throw a load of new items in my basket whilst food shopping. 

Don't get me wrong, my favourite restaurant in the world is a meat restaurant, and I like nothing more than a KFC or a meat feast pizza whilst sitting hungover in my pyjamas on a Saturday evening; but I am enjoying trying out new things whilst still not venturing near salmon, prawns or tofu. 

It's hard to miss the constant stream of mis-information coming from magazines, tv shows and social media outlets, with each source giving conflicting information on the health risks associated with eating meat, what type of meat you shouldn't be eating, and whether you're killing the planet (and a pig) whilst you tuck in to your bacon sandwich. 
I tend to strongly avoid any health documentaries which aren't looking at the pros and cons for a diet, which is precisely why I have never bought in to the Netflix shows What the Health and Cowspiracy. It's very easy to manipulate facts to serve your own cause, with Dr Hazel Wallace of the Food Medic slamming What The Health in a conference for it's outright dangerous message that it was sending to the masses. 

I, for the most part, only eat meat with my dinners a few times a week now, and will happily silent cheer myself for not eating meat every night of the week whilst trying to navigate what fish I can and cannot eat without gagging. This isn't for any particular health reason, although I have seen several studies documenting the correlation (not causation) of red meats and certain types of cancers such as bowel (this has been commented on by Cancer Research UK, as the bowel and colon cannot break down certain types of meat very well, which can (but doesn't always) cause bacteria build up in that area). My views are, as always my own, and if I still want to eat chicken fajitas mid-week, then I damn well will. If I want to eat a broccoli and stilton bake, then I will happily munch away whilst not feeling like something is 'missing' from the plate.

We, as a nation, are becoming increasingly aware of what we eat and how that food got to our plates, and for some people, that is not something they can handle or be a part of full stop, which is fine. I, for one, am educating myself in where my meat comes from, and I am now far more selective of what meat I purchase than a few years ago when I first started university (although, saying that, my diet did mostly contain pizza, new potatoes and the occasional carrot).

People can be a flexitarian for many reasons; health, diet, meal variety, partner/friend diets are all reasons in which people are turning away from meat, and several scandals involving horse meat within the UK readymeal distribution a few years ago saw the sales of ready meals fall off a cliff, as parents rushed to promise their children they hadn't eaten Scooby the Shetland pony who they hadn't seen in a few months.
Being classed as a flexitarian gives you the opportunity to ease yourself in to less meat dominated meals, whilst avoiding the raised eyebrows of your colleagues as you bring a Big Mac in to the office, whilst swearing blind just a month ago that you were becoming vegetarian this year as part of your new years resolution - who sticks to them anyway??


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