I grew up in a meat & potatoes family. My mother was a phenomenal cook, especially considering our financial peaks and valleys. Betty Jo always made sure our meals were filling and delicious. What I don’t remember are fruits and vegetables. Red delicious apples and bananas were occasionally on the countertop. A can of Le Sueur peas warmed on the stove. Summertime stuffed bell peppers (and we didn’t eat the pepper.) I learned to eat and love fruits and vegetables as an adult.
But this post is less about my love of vegetables and more about my transition to Flexitarianism. More flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, Flexitarians adopt a style of eating that includes mostly plant-based foods and allows meat in moderation.
I’ve been vegetable-curious for a while. My daughter Emma converted to Veganism five years ago. Since then, she’s transitioned from Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism (dairy + eggs) to Pescatarianism (fish). Along the way, I’ve learned about and cooked the lifestyles with Emma. I dove into cookbooks and researched constantly so as to provide her with support. I’ve watched her nourish her body and thrive, sans meat.
My big move to Flexitarianism came as a result fo my recent physical. Weight gain, dismal cholesterol numbers and a general “I just don’t feel good” were cause for concern. My physician, who is a Flexitarian herself, suggested that I look at the Mediterranean diet – and a very specific iteration of it. Here’s my approach:
Legumes every day: at least two meals per day are based in legumes
Whole Grains: for me, this means scoops not slices – small sides of farro, barley and fornio versus bread
Veggies: big portions of roasted, air fried and stewed veggies
Fruit: lots of berries
Dairy: not much, Greek yogurt is my go-to
Nuts: a small handful most days
Fish & Shellfish: several days at one meal
Chicken: one or two meals per week
Red Meat: once per month
I didn’t have to look far to find recipes that fit. Here are a few of my Flexitarian go-to’s:
Red Lentil Soup – an almost daily part of my diet
Slow Roasted Tomatoes – dollop on fish and those whole grain sides
Pickled Red Onions – perfect for perking up a bowl of canneliini beans
Barramundi – a great farmed fish I keep in my freezer. Listen to me talk about it on my podcast.
Roasted Cauliflower with Walnut Caper Salsa – hands-down, my family’s favorite dish
Iranian Braised Chicken with White Beans – brothy and so full flavored. Plus, it’s fast!
Want to learn more? Here are some of the resources that I use:
Meatless Monday – a great site for info & recipes.
Today Explained podcast episode that explores Flexitariansim
All of Ottolenghi’s books, especially Jerusalem. Me and Emma’s favorite resource!
The Mediterranean Method – tons of books on the subject, but this one covered how my doctor wanted me to approach the lifestyle.