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  • Writer's pictureJim Parks, CFP, AIF

Vegetarian, Vegan, Flexitarian

A fair number of Americans have adopted vegetarian, vegan, and various other versions of plant-based diets only to discover they missed eating meat. A 2020 Packaged Facts survey of Americans reported that:

  • 3 percent were vegan (no red/white meat, fish, dairy, or eggs)

  • 3 percent were pescatarian (no red/white meat)

  • 5 percent were vegetarian (no red/white meat or fish)

It’s notable more than one-third (36 percent) of those surveyed indicated they were flexitarian, which means they primarily eat plant-based meals. However, they also eat red and white meat, fish, and other protein, in moderation.1, 2

Why are people eating less meat?

Most Americans (70 percent) choose to eat less meat for health reasons, according to Gallup polls. Studies of the world’s Blue Zones – regions with the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world – have found people in these communities tend to consume plant-based diets that, occasionally, include meat. In other words, they are flexitarians. (The longevity of people in Blue Zones is not solely related to diet. They socialize and exercise a lot, too.)3, 4

In Frontiers of Nutrition, Emma Derbyshire reviewed the findings of 39 papers studying the effects of flexitarian diets (FDs). She reported, “FDs may have emerging health benefits in relation to weight loss, metabolic health, and diabetes prevention. While most flexitarians presently seem to be female, there is a clear need to communicate the potential health benefits of these diets to males.”5

Many Americans (49 percent) eat less meat because they believe it is better for the environment. While research suggests a whole-food, plant-based diet may be better for the environment, it is not always true, according to CNBC. Plant-based diets that include highly-processed meat alternatives or fruits and vegetables imported from other countries may offer limited environmental benefits, reported the BBC.6, 7

Another reason Americans gave for flexitarian eating was convenience. When younger family members are pursuing vegan, pescatarian, vegetarian, or flexitarian diets, it’s just easier to plan a meal that everyone can eat.

No matter the reason, many Americans are eating more veggies and it’s having some positive effects.



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