Plant-Based Diets

The Mediterranean and Flexitarian Diet

Mediterranean Flexitarian Diet

Mediterranean Flexitarian Diets are Not Exclusively Plant-Based

The Mediterranean Flexitarian diet approaches a method that follows the Mediterranean-style of eating. In general, the diet primarily advocates a plant-based vegetarian diet where most of your meals will be composed of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. It also emphasizes the idea of eating fresh, whole foods instead of processed ones. Eggs and dairy products can also be consumed moderately and you can eat meat but only occasionally. Your main source of fats will be from the oil that you will be using, primarily olive oil. You can also eat fish as your source of meat. Going on the Mediterranean Flexitarian diet will have you eating less meat, but you are not entirely obligated to go completely without it. It is more flexible than vegan, where you won’t be eating any animal products or vegetarian, where you won’t be consuming meat. It is more of enjoying a healthier and cleaner eating habit but still being able to enjoy meat on certain occasions.

pasta with shrimp

A more plant-based approach towards eating is a great way to prevent the risks of heart diseases. A long-term study by Harvard shows that eating meat on a daily basis can increase the risks of developing cardiovascular illnesses by 16 percent and of cancer by ten percent. It will even go higher if your diet is composed of processed meats such as bacon, ham, hotdogs, and sausages.  Choosing a flexitarian approach may be the easiest way to start the journey of healthy eating for many people.

Following a more flexible method with more emphasis towards plant-based consumption can help in decreasing and eventually eliminating such risks. Aside from avoiding the risks of cancer, heart attack and diabetes, individuals who follow this type of diet can also lower their cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar and move towards an ideal body mass index. The food components of the diet also have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Whole, Unprocessed Foods Provide Ample Nutrition and Satisfaction

The Mediterranean flexitarian meals have great taste and are often served in large proportions (lots of veggies).  Since you are consuming high-nutrient-per-calorie density, you feel more satisfied with what you eat and get the right amount of nutrients without having to worry about gaining weight.

Small amount of grains, including rice and whole-grain bread, will be staples in your diet.  Be sure to choose whole-grained bread or pita as these are much healthier than the highly processed alternatives.  To add more flavor to your bread, try dipping it in a little extra virgin olive oil mixed with herbs and spices. Avoid spreading butter, margarine or jams to it, as the first two contains high levels of saturated and trans fat while jams have high sugar content.

orange treePair your grains with greens. With the Mediterranean Flexitarian diet, you have a wide variety of vegetable choices, which add to the color, appeal, and texture to your meals. The main vegetables in most Mediterranean meals include tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, capers, eggplants, chickpeas, lentils and white beans.  A Mediterranean-style diet encourages consuming fruits in season. This is a great thing since you can easily get them from local sources such as seasonal farmer’s markets instead of the imported ones which go through a lot of traveling.  Picking fruits to be ripened also assures you of the freshness quality as well as getting the maximum health benefits that the fruits provide.

Add more flavor to your food by adding natural herbs, spices, and sweeteners. Using spices and herbs instead of salt lower your sodium intake which is beneficial for your health. It also adds a better dimension and volume to the flavor compared to commercial condiments. For the sweeteners, you can use honey, molasses, cinnamon, and anise. Everything about the Mediterranean flexitarian diet is natural, so stay away from artificial sweeteners like Splenda or aspartame.

Animal Products Such As Daily, Fish, and Meat Are Included in Moderation

flexitarian pizza

Compared to vegan and vegetarian diets, you can enjoy some dairy and eggs when you are eating Mediterranean Flexitarian meals. However, this does not mean that you should load up on these. In the Mediterranean, people use more fermented types of dairy such as whole milk feta and yogurt. For snacks, you can munch on a handful of nuts and dried fruits. Nuts are a great source of natural fats while dried nuts contain high amounts of antioxidants as well as fiber. Of course, keep your nuts and dried fruit consumption to a moderate level, to control your fat and sugar intake.

Small amounts of fish and seafood are included in the Mediterranean Flexitarian diets.  These animal proteins are not the main focus of the meal but are added more as a condiment, with the veggies as the predominant ingredient.  The Mediterranean flexitarian diet promotes seafood and fish in their meals as these contain high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory benefits.  Meat and poultry are usually consumed rarely and only on special occasions.

Mediterranean meals typically include olive oil, which is the main source of fats in this diet. Compared to other oils, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which help in reducing the amount of “bad’ cholesterol in the body. Look for the extra-virgin or virgin olive oils since these have higher levels of nutrition from their plant sources and have antioxidant effects. Avoid other types of oils and oil-based products which contain trans fat and saturated fats, as these have negative effects on your health.

cinque terre italy

Whole Plants Are the Primary Focus of the Mediterranean Flexitarian Diet

To maximize this diet, look to protein from plants. One of the biggest concerns in almost all plant-based diets is the low amount of protein that you will be getting from your meals. With proper planning and food considerations, however, you wouldn’t have to scrimp your body with protein if you choose whole, protein-rich foods. Beans, especially organic soy are your best source of protein in this diet. Aside from making it the base of your meal, you can also create your own bean-based dips such as hummus. Another great source of protein are nuts, such as almonds, pistachio, and peanuts. Apart from munching on them for snacks, you can also add nuts to your main salad dish for a healthy protein-rich meal.

You should also strive to make your veggies more exciting. Load up on flavor, portions and appeal by adding unusual combinations with your salad. For example, you can use noodles or pasta mixed with your veggies to get bigger portions without doubling the number of calories. Cut them into larger pieces in lieu of fries, or skewer them with tofu for grilling. Get playful with your food. After all, Mediterranean meals are known for their exciting and colorful combinations.

For your veggies, do not stop with salads. There are a lot of recipes that you can create with vegetables, even steak. Using eggplants, cauliflowers or watermelon with feta, you can grill a very exciting steak meal and add more excitement to your dish. Another great meat substitute in this diet is the mushroom. Mushroom has that meaty and savory flavor which makes it a great alternative to lamb or beef. The next time you are craving for meat, grill or sauté mushrooms instead and enjoy that savory goodness without worrying about your health.

Is the flexitarian diet what you follow?  Please let us know a few of your favorite meals below.

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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