Flexitarian: Garden Eating for Good Health
I recently had a personal revelation about using a flexitarian diet to achieve good health. I am going to let you in on a little secret… I am overweight.
A Health Revelation: The Flexitarian Diet
Okay, okay, it’s not a secret. It’s actually rather obvious, but sometimes it catches me off guard. I wasn’t always overweight, after all. In fact, at one point in my life I was an athlete.
The thing is, back then, I could eat whatever I was in the mood for without limitations, and it really didn’t have much of an impact on my health or weight. Not the case anymore.
Three children later, as I move closer to middle age, several health issues have recently surfaced, leading me to take a more focused look at the effects my food intake has on my body and overall wellbeing.
Last winter, at my heaviest, I promised my mom that I would get my health and weight under control. We both knew she was dying, and in a way, I look at it as her final wish for me. I made this promise to her before she passed away several months ago—and now is the time to follow through.
I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian — but I’ve done my research and decided that a flexitarian diet is the right choice for me.
While I have long considered vegetarianism based on my love for gardening and animals—and hatred for factory farming—it has always seemed too overwhelming to give up meat entirely.
I always felt like if I slipped up once, I would give up the lifestyle change entirely.
However, my garden’s bounty over the past season guided me to flexitarian-ism and the acceptance that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing
What is a "Flexitarian" Diet?
Essentially, flexitarian eating is following a primarily vegetarian diet with a little bit of – wiggle room – for animal protein choices. Without strict rules or limitations, flexitarian eating truly is what you make it.
Some who follow the concept will consume more meat than others. Some may limit other animal products like dairy and eggs to a certain extent—but there are no strict requirements other than a heavy focus on fruits, vegetables, and more natural foods over heavily processed choices.
You set your own guidelines on the other components.
My Garden Led Me to Flexitarian-ism
My own personal flexitarian diet started with my garden. This year, my garden produced more than it ever has before. It wasn’t that the weather was ideal for growing… far from it, in fact!
However, I put significantly more time into the garden both during the growing season and also the planning phases this year. For the first time, I:
- Completed early spring plantings
- Practiced succession sowing
- Added late spring and summer crops
- And now I am working on my fall sowing
What this meant for me was… more fresh produce!
As I began to eat more vegetables from the yard, I also started experimenting a bit more in the kitchen.
I quickly learned that vegetable-laden meals can be equally satisfying to those that are centered around an animal protein—and even more beautiful! The flavors that come from fresh produce are wonderful, unique, and naturally extraordinary.
I don’t have to ‘count calories’ when eating mostly natural foods because I fill up on fewer calories than my previous high-calorie, low health food intake.
The Value of Adding a Farm Share
Once I realized how much I actually enjoyed produce-heavy meals, I took another step toward bulking up my vegetable intake and I joined a farm share.
This has really allowed me to branch out and experiment with produce I had never prepared myself before, like:
- Joi Choi (a type of bok choy)
- Spaghetti Squash
- Gold Beets
- Swiss Chard
Amazing Garden-Fresh Flexitarian Meals
I have only been doing this for a short period of time, but already I have lost close to 10 lbs. I am not monitoring my caloric intake but instead, I’m aiming to keep a focus on garden-fresh produce from my own yard or the farm.
I want to know where my food comes from, and how it’s been treated before it makes it to my plate.
The flexitarian plan enables me to focus on this while allowing myself some meals with a portion of lean animal protein occasionally, such as:
- Other Meats
I am also focusing on:
- Whole grains
- Limiting processed foods
- Avoiding sugar as much as possible
Some of my favorite flexi-meals, with pictures sprinkled throughout this post, have been:
- Seven grain-stuffed spaghetti squash with heirloom tomatoes
- Buffalo-style portabella with vegan cheese over garden greens and farm veggies
- Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil
- Grilled portabella stuffed with vegan cheese and pine nut hummus on whole-wheat toast topped with arugula.
- Ground soy taco on corn tortilla over a kale salad with vegan cheese, garden/farm vegetables, and lime juice as a dressing.
- Scallops and rare seared tuna over kale salad (See?! Fish!)
While I flew by the seat of my pants to make these and don’t have official ‘recipes,’ most of them are self-explanatory! I simply combined nutritious ingredients that I thought sounded like they would work together.
Someday, maybe I’ll buy myself a flexitarian cookbook to get some more ideas, but until then—I’m winging it!
Think about the power a garden has—to be able to trigger (and then support!) such a dramatic lifestyle change is nothing short of extraordinary. Trust me, I was NOT making good food choices. I hadn’t been for a very long time.
Now that I am consciously choosing what I put into my body for fuel, I feel more energetic and less lethargic. I wake up ready to start the day, and I get more done throughout the day.
I promise, I’m not preaching the ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle. You do you. I am, however, telling you to get some extra produce in your diet and to branch out with your veggie cooking and growing!. It truly is a lot of fun and the health benefits are an added benefit. Think about this when you go to plan next year’s garden.
What crops can you choose that will support healthy changes in your diet? Figure it out and grow them! Not only will it save you money when you start your healthy habits, but you will enjoy experimenting with both growing and cooking.
Want to follow my flexitarian diet journey? I share all about it in our Spicey Gardens Facebook Group. Join today and share your garden journey with us too!
Regina is an avid gardener who has made dramatic transformations in her gardening style over the past decade. What began as a small container garden haphazardly strewn across the patio has transformed into several raised beds, containers, several flower and herb beds, and an in-ground pollinator garden in memory of her mother who loved the butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
Residing in Zone 6A, Regina is always looking for ways to make the most of her garden space and the growing season. Fanciful decor placed throughout the garden areas adds a touch of whimsy that helps keep her children interested and involved with the growing of healthy, nutritious home-grown foods.