The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life

The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life

by Dawn Jackson Blatner


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The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life by Dawn Jackson Blatner

Lose weight, increase energy, and boost your immunity—without giving up meat!

"With her flexible mix-and-match plans, Dawn Jackson Blatner gives us a smart new approach to cooking and eating."

--Joy Bauer, M.S., RD, CDN, "Today" show dietitian and bestselling author of Joy Bauer's Food Cures

"The Flexitarian Diet is a fresh approach to eating that's balanced, smart, and completely do-able."

--Ellie Krieger, host of Food Network's "Healthy Appetite" and author of The Food You Crave

"Offers a comprehensive, simple-to-follow approach to flexitarian eating--the most modern, adaptable, delicious way to eat out there."

--Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, senior food and nutrition editor of Health magazine

"It's about time someone told consumers interested in taking control of their weight and health how to get the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle without having to cut meat completely out of their life."
--Byrd Schas, senior health producer, New Media, Lifetime Entertainment Services

Introducing the flexible way to eat healthy, slim down, and feel great! "Flexitarianism" is the hot new term for healthy dieting that minimizes meat without excluding it altogether. This ingenious plan from a high-profile nutritionist shows you how to use "flexfoods" to get the necessary protein and nutrients--with just a little meat for those who crave it. As the name implies, it’s all about flexibility, giving you a range of options: flexible meal plans, meat-substitute recipes, and weight loss tips. Plus: it’s a great way to introduce the benefits of vegetarianism into your family's lifestyle.

Enjoy these Five Flex Food Groups:

Flex Food Group One: Meat Alternatives (Beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds; Vegetarian versions of meats; Tofu; Eggs)

Flex Food Group Two: Vegetables and Fruits

Flex Food Group Three: Grains (Barley, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, rice, wheat, pasta)

Flex Food Group Four: Dairy

Flex Food Group Five: Natural flavor-enhancers
(Spices, buttermilk ranch, chili powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, herbs; Fats, oils, butter spreads; Sweeteners, granulated sugars, honey, chocolate; Ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, vinegars, low-fat sour cream)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071745796
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 05/10/2010
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 199,446
Product dimensions: 6.42(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN, is a registered and licensed dietitian and a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. She appears regularly in print and video on Lifetime Television's website,, hosts a “Healthy Eating” segment on Chicago's “Fox News in the Morning,” writes a food and nutrition blog for USA Today, and teaches cooking classes at The Chopping Block Cooking School. She is an advisory board expert for Fitness and Time Out Chicago magazines. She has appeared on CNN as well as "Dateline NBC,” “NBC Nightly News,” and other programs. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

the Flexitarian Diet

The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life

McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 Dawn Jackson Blatner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-154958-5

Chapter One

Part One Getting Started: The Five-by-Five Flex Plan Design

The Flexitarian Diet philosophy is simple but powerful: eat more plants and do the best that you can. Remember that the word flexitarian is flexible + vegetarian, so this isn't a strict plan outlining good versus bad foods or providing charts with rigid rules about "Eat this but not that." The Flexitarian Diet doesn't judge what you are currently eating; rather, it asks you to include more plant foods and try new things. Keep an open mind (and mouth) when it comes to this plan and you will succeed.

The Flexitarian Diet asks you to put down the paper and pen and put away the measuring cups and food scale—you will neither count calories nor measure out food. Several studies, including a study in the American Journal of Medicine, 2005, found that you can lose weight on a vegetarian-type diet without measuring or counting calories. Women in the study lost an average of thirteen pounds just by incorporating more plant foods into their diet. Sure, we will review the importance of being mindful at meals and watching portion sizes, but this is not a diet that will have you calculating every morsel, gram, or crumb that touches your lips. Let this diet be about what foods you add to your current routine, not what you will cut, reduce, eliminate, abolish, or omit! The goal is to eat more plants. Do the best you can, and I will show you how I do it and how thousands of my clients have, too ... using the five Flex components in this book.

The Flex Five

The Flexitarian Diet has five components that will lead you to lose 15 percent of your body weight; prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; live longer; and get reenergized to live the life that you want. These five components will guide you to eat and enjoy a balanced, flexible vegetarian diet:

1. Five Flex food groups

2. Five-week Flex meal plan

3. Five-main-ingredient Flex recipes

4. Five Flex fitness factors

5. Five types of FlexLife troubleshooters

Let's look at each of the Flex Five in more detail.

Five Flex Food Groups

Becoming a flexitarian is about adding foods (five Flex food groups to be exact). So often when I tell people I am a flexitarian, they say, "Oh, so you don't eat meat, right?" I guess that is true on a basic level, but the flexitarian lifestyle is not about what you don't eat—it is about what you do eat! The following five Flex food groups will become your finger-licking favorites:

Flex Food Group 1: Meet the New Meat. When meat is taken out of the equation, people often express a concern about where their necessary protein will come from. Really, protein is found in more foods than you realize—many that you may have been intimidated by or reluctant to try.

I will introduce you to many plant proteins that you will look forward to eating because they not only taste good and are easy to prepare but also make you feel much less heavy than a typical meat-based meal does. I will talk about the myth of meat—how we think we need it despite plenty of other ways to get the same nutritional value.

Many of my clients are surprised to learn that part of the reason people may fail at becoming vegetarian is because meat is a textural flavor. We used to be taught that the tongue could taste four main flavors—sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Actually, a fifth taste, umami, is a savory taste common in meats, fish, dairy, and some vegetables. When people cut meat out of their diets without replacing the umami taste, they can feel dissatisfied, as though something is missing. It's not the meat, it's the umami. I discuss the importance of umami and how to reduce (not eliminate) meat intake without feeling deprived. (You can even ask my devoted meat-loving husband on this one: you won't miss it.) For this food group, I will help you use the veggie white meat (I try not to use the word tofu), beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and eggs.

Flex Food Group 2: Veg Out and Satisfy Your Fruit Tooth. Because 50 percent of the word vegetarian is the word vegetable, you have to expect the Flexitarian Diet to have you beef up on your veggies. Studies show that increasing amounts of produce decreases total daily calorie intake without increasing feelings of hunger or deprivation. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, found that when participants were encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables, they consumed 40 percent fewer calories (down from 2,594 to 1,596 calories per day) without increased hunger. I won't just tell you to eat more vegetables—I will give you realistic strategies, show you new tricks, and share great-tasting recipes to naturally rev up your love for veggies. For example, about 25 percent of the population are "supertasters"—people who are extra sensitive to bitter tastes found in foods such as vegetables. I will share three fabulous tricks to help combat the bitter veggie taste. I will also explain how to use a technique called flavor-flavor training to make you want to eat your vegetables and actually find yourself asking for seconds!

We are born with a natural love, affinity, and preference for sweet flavors, so as adults we should not deny ourselves sugary satisfaction. Instead of looking to the Keebler Elves to make us cookies or Ben and Jerry to churn a batch of ice cream—a better solution is to reach for fructose, natural sugar found in fruit.

Fruits help give us the sweet taste we desire with the added benefits of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other disease-fighting compounds. Plus, fruit is filling because it has lots of fiber and is about 75 to 95 percent water. (Research has found that foods full of water help keep us feeling full.) I will show you how to front-load your day with fresh fruits to prevent the 3 P.M. sweet tooth and also how to make indulgent, fancy fruit desserts that will have visions of peaches and plums dancing in your head.

Flex Food Group 3: Go with the Grain. Whole grains have three wholesome parts (what I like to call the "trinity of grainy goodness"): bran, germ, and endosperm. These three parts help prevent diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancers, such as colon cancer. I will help you find interesting new ways to use whole-grain staples such as whole-grain bread and pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, and brown rice. I will also help you explore (and pronounce) more unusual whole grains such as amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, kamut, millet, mochi, quinoa, rye, sorghum, spelt, teff, triticale, and wheat berries.

Flex Food Group 4: Dairy Discovery. Dairy's claim to fame (and why it gets its own food group) is its bone-building dynamic duo of calcium and vitamin D. Dairy is also a protein-rich food with potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorus. I will lead you on a discovery of all types of dairy foods from traditional lowfat milk and flavorful cheeses to immune-boosting yogurt and kefir (a yogurt-type drink) with billions of healthy bacteria to nondairy alternatives such as soy milk.

Flex Food Group 5: Sugar and Spice (and Everything in Between). This food group is all about the little things that take food from fair to fabulous. I will explore ingredients and condiments that give your recipes extra pop, panache, and pizzazz. I will introduce you to my favorite fresh and dried herbs; teach you what spices are must-haves on your rack; share my favorite salad dressing; explore many sweeteners, such as maple, agave nectar, brown rice, and barley syrups; review first-class condiments such as flaxseeds, non-butter spreads, vinegars, and healthy and flavorful oils (beyond the usual favorites of canola and olive); and even experiment with a little seaweed!

Five-Week Flex Meal Plan

The five-week Flex meal plan organizes all of the recipes into the ultimate flexitarian eating approach. Plus, I give you complete weekly Flex grocery lists to make shopping a snap. You don't have to follow the plan exactly to get health and weight benefits; just remember the goal is progress and not perfection.

I began creating meal plans for my clients after reading a study in the 1996 International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders where participants who received meal plans kept off twice as much weight as people who didn't get meal plans. Meal plans work, so I have given you five weeks' worth. The difference between other diet plans and this one is—no surprise—this Flex meal plan is flexible! I have designed it to be mix and match. If the barbecue tofu dinner doesn't sound appealing to you—skip it. If you enjoy eating pistachios as a snack every day—do it. Love to start most mornings off with waffles? Eat 'em! Want dark chocolate for an evening snack? Enjoy it!

In total, there are thirty-five breakfast recipes, thirty-five lunches, thirtyfive dinners, and thirty-five different snacks. I organize all of the recipes into five weeks, each with seven breakfasts, seven lunches, seven dinners, and seven snack choices. You can swap recipes from different weeks to best meet your needs and preferences. If you want to do the plan exactly as I have outlined, that's fine too.

The meals and snacks can be mixed and matched based on my "3-4-5" meal-plan system: breakfast choices are each around 300 calories, lunches are 400 calories, and dinners are 500 calories. (Instead of being as easy as one-two-three, this meal plan is as easy as three-four-five!) The snacks are about 150 calories each, and when you choose two, the day's calories add up to about 1,500—the perfect amount to lose weight without sacrificing satisfaction. The 3-4-5 plan is a good way to evenly spread your calories through the day. About 60 percent of your meal calories come before dinner, which helps control your energy and appetite levels the entire day.

Depending on activity level, gender, height, and weight, you may need slightly more or fewer calories. Women typically need 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, and men may need 1,800 to 2,000. At 1,500 calories per day, the Flex plan is a good place for most people to start. To make it a 1,200-calorie plan, omit the snacks. For an 1,800-calorie plan, double the portion at breakfast. If you are losing too slowly, pay more attention to portions, and if you are losing too fast, add a snack or an extra portion at the meal when you are the hungriest.

Get bored easily when on a diet plan? There are more than 8,000,000 (yes, that is not a misprint: eight million!) different ways you can mix and match these breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks (thanks to my mathematical, genius brother for number crunching the possible meal and snack combos!). Too busy to cook? The plan is designed to be quick and easy so you can sink your teeth into the flavorful meals and snacks even on your most time-crunched days.

Five-Main-Ingredient Flex Recipes

The Flex recipes are the foundation of the Flexitarian Diet. The two goals of the Flex recipes are to help you (1) easily prepare healthy flexitarian foods and (2) enjoy eating healthy flexitarian foods. The recipes average just five main ingredients. I tried to keep them around five ingredients because that is the average number of items a person buys at the grocery store to make a quick meal (75 percent of us make same-day dinner decisions and grab our five dinner ingredients off grocery store shelves in less than twenty minutes). For most of us, meals take about thirty-four minutes to prepare—so these recipes are designed with our need for speed in mind! The meals are so fast that I would call it "meal assembly" rather than really cooking.

The Flex recipes take healthy, quick, and convenient ingredients, such as canned beans, from blah to ta-dah. I developed these recipes while experimenting in my kitchen—the recipes in this book are all things I love to eat. I make these meals all week long and even for special occasions. I also use these recipes in the magazine articles I write and the cooking classes I teach. Even if you see a recipe with ingredients you are reluctant to eat or think you don't like—try it! In each of my cooking classes, I have at least one class participant who begins class by bean bashing—announcing how much he or she loathes beans—only to become a bean believer after tasting the recipes. Tasting is believing.

Of course, you won't like every recipe and meal idea here. So I include Flex Swap tips for ingredients in some recipes for variations that may better suit your taste preferences or to help you use other ingredients you may have on hand in your kitchen. In addition to the recipes, I'll give you a must-have list of Flex fridge, pantry, and spice rack staples, and a checklist of essential Flex kitchen tools that any healthy, efficient kitchen should keep stocked. Just trying one of the Flex recipes is the first step to becoming a leaner, healthier, and more energetic you.

The recipes are organized and grouped into a five-week meal plan. Please remember you don't have to do the full five-week Flex meal plan—you can just try a recipe here and there. Becoming flexitarian needs to happen on your own timeline—making lifestyle changes should be somewhat challenging but shouldn't be frustrating or overwhelming. In the end, you should have fun being flexible and enjoy your flexitarian food while getting fabulous results—whether you do it one Flex recipe at a time, try one week's worth of Flex meals, or embark on the full five-week Flex meal plan. In addition to trying the meal plans and recipes, the Flexitarian Diet is a lifestyle, so the next part of the book focuses on facets of your fitness life.

Five Flex Fitness Factors

I know this isn't news to anyone: for any weight-loss diet or healthy-living plan to work long-term, you need to exercise. In 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association clearly outlined minimum exercise recommendations: in addition to light activities of daily living, adults should moderately exercise for thirty minutes, five days per week (or intensely exercise for twenty minutes, three times per week), and strength train at least two days per week.

A variety of barriers can prevent starting and sticking with an exercise program. In this part we will first emphasize the key mantra to maintaining a flexitarian exercise program: "Anything is better than nothing." I will outline how to look at the world as your gym, use start-up strategies, maintain motivation, try tools of the trade, and beat exercise barriers.

Five Types of FlexLife Troubleshooters

The five types of FlexLife troubleshooters are valuable tips to help you overcome the hurdles of healthy changes and weight loss. They are diet-survival strategies for the challenges life can throw at you. There are more than fifty troubleshooters in all, so you should find information and inspiration from one of five different categories (each with its own eye-catching icon) on just about any page:

FlexLife Troubleshooter 1: Fact Stack

Fact Stack troubleshooters answer frequently asked questions about flexitarianism, dieting, and weight loss.

FlexLife Troubleshooter 2: Time Crunch

Time Crunch troubleshooters make healthy changes speedy and efficient.

FlexLife Troubleshooter 3: Craving Control

Craving Control troubleshooters are tips to tame even your most ferocious cravings and curb emotional eating.

FlexLife Troubleshooter 4: Out and About

Out and About troubleshooters cover common diet roadblocks and challenges at restaurants, at parties, and while traveling.

FlexLife Troubleshooter 5: Feeling Good

Feeling Good troubleshooters focus on mental wellness and healthy attitude adjustments.

I hope it is obvious that I have all your diet needs covered. This is about more than just information—all the facts in the world won't help you lose weight. Beyond the facts, I offer you quick recipes, realistic fitness tips, and workable strategies to overcome barriers, obstacles, life events, and personal foibles that get in the way of weight loss and living the healthy life you want. With the Flexitarian Diet, there is no way to fail ... but there are five-by-five paths to success.


Excerpted from the Flexitarian Diet by DAWN JACKSON BLATNER Copyright © 2009 by Dawn Jackson Blatner. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Flex Effects--weight loss, disease prevention and so much more
SECTION ONE: Getting Started--The 5-by-5 Flex Plan
The Flex 5: food groups, meal plan, recipes, fitness, troubleshooters
Setting the Right Flex Goal
Your FlexScore: How Flex Are You?
SECTION TWO: 5 Flex Food Groups

Flex Food Group 1: Meet the New Meat
Flex Food Group 2: Veg Out and Satisfy Your Fruit Tooth
Flex Food Group 3: Go With the Grain
Flex Food Group 4: Dairy Discovery
Flex Food Group 5: Sugar & Spice (and everything in between)
Fill in the Nutrient Gaps from A to Z
SECTION THREE: 5 Week Flex Meal Plan & 5 Ingredient Flex Recipes
Flex Fridge, Pantry & Spice Rack Staples
Essential Flex Kitchen Tools
Week One Recipes, Meal Plan, Shopping List
Week Two Recipes, Meal Plan, Shopping List
Week Three Recipes, Meal Plan, Shopping List
Week Four Recipes, Meal Plan, Shopping List
Week Five Recipes, Meal Plan, Shopping List
SECTION FOUR: 5 Flex Fitness Factor

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The Flexitarian Diet 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book could have been titled Healthier and Thinner in Five Easy Steps! What do you want? Do you want to lose weight? It's covered. Get healthy? It's covered. Discover new foods? It's covered. Find easy and healthy recipes? They are here, too! The premise of this book is that you don't have to go to extremes to be healthy. As Dawn Jackson Blatner says on page 1, this diet isn't about rigid rules, it's about eating more plants and doing the best you can. She never judges you for what you eat, but makes suggestions about how to add healthy foods and habits to your busy life. The Flexitarian Diet is filled with yummy recipes (most have no more than five ingredients!), shopping lists, and expert suggestions for curbing cravings and generally feeling good. The book focuses on five main areas of eating: meat alternatives (although meat is still 'allowed'), fruits and veggies, grains, dairy, and sugar and spice. The author introduces one area per week, describing the nutritionist's favorite ways to incorporate new foods into your diet, or new ways to enjoy foods you already eat. I tend to eat pretty healthily already, but I learned a lot from this book. I've tagged the pages with the recipes I've tried and loved, as well as at least a dozen I can't wait to try. But I think my favorite thing about it is that it supports the way I like to think about health and eating. I used to be a vegetarian, but I went back to eating meat a few years ago. I always felt a little guilty about it, as though I wasn't strong enough to resist the smell of a steak on the grill. Flexitarian eating is about trusting yourself and understanding that diet is flexible, and that flexibility is a strength, not a weakness. Thank you, Dawn Jackson Blatner!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book, it has great information. It's super easy to read and it's also very user friendly. My only complaint has nothing to do with the content of the book- I bought the e book version and many of the recipes get lost in translation which is a major bummer. So I guess I'll be taking the "flex" concept to another level by making up the measurments as I go. Get this book but buy the hard copy!
ThirstyApe More than 1 year ago
This book is filled with great nutrition advice and really delicious recipes. It is the most realistic way for most people to eat. The author is witty, funny and very knowledgeable on the topics of nutrition and disease prevention. Not only is this book awesome check out the author's website for a plethora of recipes and more health & nutrition information.
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