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Going meatless, one step at a time: The flexibility of a flexitarian diet

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, December 11, 2020  /  03:40 pm
Going meatless, one step at a time: The flexibility of a flexitarian diet

In flexitarianism, fruits and vegetables make up a larger portion of the meal as they contain substances that optimize the body's metabolic reactions. (Shutterstock/Evgeniia Freeman)

For content creator Astri Puji Lestari, going on a flexitarian diet is a journey of self-discovery through food.

Considered "semi-vegan", a flexitarian diet is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat. The dietary regime was said to be growing even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Astri, who became a flexitarian six years ago, changed her eating habits as she planned to have children after five years of marriage, and her doctor suggested she increase her fruits and vegetables intake. “I believe that being healthy isn’t only about food, but also mind, body, soul and spirit,” Astri told The Jakarta Post during a webinar titled Flexitarian: Sustaining the Healthy Habits with Real Food by cold-pressed juice company Re.juve on Dec. 3.

After maintaining her eating habits, Astri felt she had more energy and her mood improved. “I think the diet is realistic. I eat what I usually eat with more fruits and vegetables. I still eat meat in moderation. I also learn to control my appetite instead of being controlled by it,” she said.


A post shared by Astri Puji Lestari (@atiit)

Astrid experimented with various ingredients and animal product alternatives for her dishes, which she then posted on Instagram. Her experiences include combining lupis (steamed glutinous rice), a gift from her neighbor, with a small-sized saba (mackerel) and a portion of sundubu jjigae (Korean tofu stew). Along with getting creative with food, Astrid encouraged people to start slow by going meatless for one day to see how their body responds to the habit, then increase the frequency along the way.

Flexitarianism is believed to an ideal diet to eat during the COVID-19 outbreak, as it maintains the immune system and reduces the risks of developing non-communicable diseases.

Author and nutritionist Rita Ramayulis said the five types of foods consumed by flexitarians were fruits, vegetables, beans and their processed products (tempeh, tofu), milk and its processed products (yoghurt, cheese) and whole wheat as well as whole grains.

Fruits and vegetables make up the larger portion of the meal as they contain substances (fibers, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals) that optimize the body’s metabolic reactions, from organs to hormones. A low fiber intake will cause an increase in blood sugar level and high blood pressure which may lead to noncommunicable diseases.

“Flexitarianism isn’t an extreme diet, it bears a resemblance to the Health Ministry’s balanced diet instructions. Its principle is prioritizing plant-based foods,” said Rita.

Apart from maintaining the immune system, the dietary regimen also reduces energy and cholesterol intake that will lead to a balanced body weight as well as increase the consumption of fiber, vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, vitamin B, potassium, calcium, non-saturated fat and phytochemical substances.

“The goal is not weight loss but improvement of the body’s metabolism, which so far has been dominated by animal-based foods that are high in cholesterol, sugar, salt and fat, but low in fiber,” Rita said. “Flexitarian means being flexible because there’s no food that you can’t consume. You can eat fish and meat, but it’s up to you when you’re going to eat it. It’s personal.”

CEO and president director of Re.juve Richard Anthony said people could adjust flexitarianism to their lifestyle to make it more enjoyable and consistent. As the dietary program doesn't really put limitations on what foods and drinks can be consumed, people will not miss the taste of certain foods.

Richard continued that they held the webinar following numerous studies that linked people's significant weight gains to a lack of outdoor activities, high stress level and poor diet in this challenging time. "This should be an alarm for us as the combination of the aforementioned elements will badly affect our health," he said. "Our discussion aims to remind people of the importance of maintaining a balanced nutritional intake, physical activities and good stress management to avoid diseases." (wng)

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