Flexitarians: The New Food Consumer

Vegetarian diets are nutritional and heart healthy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It was not that long ago when it seemed that most people could be divided into vegetarians or non-vegetarians, in terms of diet. It was something that you either were, or you weren't.

But today, more and more people are gravitating toward a healthier diet that incorporates less meat and dairy, and far more plant-based food - regardless of whether they've ever defined themselves as vegetarians.

These "occasional vegetarians" are called flexitarians, and product developers are busy creating new veg food products that are delicious and appealing to target them.

"Try a flexitarian diet with more vegetables for heart health."

Research shows that the number of adults who are reducing their consumption of animal-based food products is increasing. There are around six to eight million Americans who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, including Bill Clinton, Natalie Portman and Ellen DeGeneres.

But with the large numbers who are decreasing their meat and dairy intake in favor of vegetarian foods, at least part of the time, manufacturers are increasingly targeting them with better taste and variety.

A diet heavy in meat and dairy has consistently been linked to poor cardiovascular health, and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that well-planned vegetarian diets are not only nutritional and healthy, but may provide benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

Clinton drastically changed his diet to a plant-based one over concerns about weight and heart issues, for example.

Food companies are realizing the need to recognize and attract not only strict vegetarians and vegans, but these sometimes-vegetarians as well, according to the Institute of Food Technologists.

These "flexitarians" are often categorized into two groups: semi-vegetarians (one in eight U.S. adults), who eat a mostly vegetarian diet for health reasons and often purchase meat or dairy alternatives, and meat reducers (one in four U.S. adults), who are not trying to follow a vegetarian diet but are still reducing the amount of meat in their diets, also for health issues.

With this many Americans gravitating, to some extent, to a more vegetarian-based diet, the market is ripe for more of these products. It appears that manufacturers and product developers are heeding the call.

"Perhaps as more people choose to reduce the consumption of animal products in their diets, the evolution of vegetarian food products will continue," writes Karen Nachay of IFT, in the November 2011 issue of Food Technology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 21, 2011
Last Updated:
November 30, 2011