Is it just me or has the once relatively uncomplicated task of having people for dinner gotten a lot more complicated lately? There seems to be an ever-growing number of restricted diets that people are following. In the past you basically ate meat or you didn’t, but now there are several different varieties of both omnivore and herbivore. Just in case you’re feeling as confused as I am, below is a list of some of the more common diets people are following these days:
Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian – “Ovo” is derived from the Latin word for egg and “lacto” is derived from the Latin word meaning milk. Ovo-lacto vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, but consume dairy and eggs.
Pescetarian – Pescetarians eat seafood, dairy and eggs but no other meat.
Vegan – Vegans avoid all animal products, which means no meat, fish, diary, eggs or honey. Most vegans also avoid the use of all products tested on animals, as well as animal-derived non-food products, such as leather, fur, wool and even silk.
Raw Vegan – Raw vegans exclude all food and products of animal origin, as well as food cooked at a temperature above 48 °C. Followers of this diet believe it’s healthier because cooking food can destroy some nutrients and enzymes needed for digestion.
Freegan – Freegans follow a vegan lifestyle unless it’s free. Freeganism can be associated with dumpster diving and is often a lifestyle choice. One of the goals of a freegan diet is to reduce food waste.
Locavore - Locavores only eat food that has been grown close to where they live. Eating locally produced foods helps us reconnect to the seasons and nature of our habitats by asking us to appreciate the plants and animals that thrive in our region. Being a locavore is more of an aspirational goal than a widely practiced diet as there are probably few Australians who would be willing to give up coffee, chocolate or other tropical foods. Nonetheless it is a powerful idea that says we should pay attention to the geographic origins of our food as much as how it’s produced.
Flexitarian – One of the newer eating regimes on the scene and one I’m really hoping will catch on is the flexitarian. A flexitarian is someone who eats a largely plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat. Some flexitarians will only eat meat that is ethically sourced.
Cutting down your meat consumption has so many benefits. Animal products are particularly energy intensive to produce and contribute heavily to greenhouse gasses, so eating less of them is one very important way to live more sustainably.
Another reason to adopt a flexitarian lifestyle is the health benefits. The science clearly shows that eating more plant foods and fewer animal products helps to reduce the risk of many of the common diseases that plague our society – diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Mark Bittman, a New York Times food writer and best-selling author, has recently released a book called “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” in which he recommends eating only plant-based foods before 6pm. Bittman was inspired to adopt this way of eating after being warned by his doctor that his current lifestyle was putting his health at risk. After 4 months on the diet he had lost 15kg, significantly reduced his cholesterol and blood sugar levels and cured his sleep apnoea.
There are a number of small steps you can take to reduce your meat consumption. A very popular movement is Meatless Mondays which encourages cutting out meat one day a week. Trend spotters are predicting that a flexitarian lifestyle is the way of the future so why wait – why not jump on the bandwagon now?