So where did the term ‘Flexitarianism’ come from?

Some of my ‘vegetarian’ friends have eating habits that appear to defy their principles. They accept dinner invitations with the prerequisite “you know I don’t eat meat,” then appear to have no issues with fish or chicken or sometimes even meat, as long as it’s organic. Their ‘veggie’ children have much stricter principles: ones that involve not actually eating vegetables. Sometimes fish fingers are the only option – and scratching my head in response to the whole hearted “we’re vegetarians” declaration.

Siganture dish at 1847 Brighton - Flexitarian

Vegetarians with Benefits

There’s a word to describe these vegetarians with benefits – flexitarians. Also known as veggie-vores, these are people whose diet is largely plant based but can make room in the their stomachs and their consciences for the occasional steak or salmon. They are people who would prefer that their meat intake did not contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest but would like to go out to dinner and not make too much of a thing of not eating it.

Silo, restaurant, bakery, coffee house, Brighton - Flexitarian

So isn’t this actually not being vegetarian?

Well, the super principled might say so but think of it more as the difference between being an alcoholic and having the odd drink. So, you’re not teetotal but neither are you over indulging on a daily basis.

The benefits of this flexi diet are numerous.

Cheaper and more environmentally friendly

Veggie foods tend to be cheaper, more environmentally friendly (the amount of land needed to rear livestock is much greater than that needed to produce crops, plus cows are great producers of methane – one of the great global warming contributors) and it’s better for your health (less saturated fats, lower cholesterol, less calories and more fibre, vitamins and minerals).

Still, meat is a valuable source of protein and iron and the great thing about the flexi diet is you’re balancing the pros and cons of each diet.

Indian Summer, curry, Brighton, best restaurant - Flexitarian

So where did flexitarianism come from?

Some credit Paul and Stella McCartney’s ‘Meat Free Monday’ campaign, others the documentary Cowspiracy, which did the rounds on Netflix last year and made even hardcore carnivores quiver. And Friends of the Earth launched its version of ‘dry January’ with a ‘Meat Free May’, which encourages people to sign up online and forgo meat and fish in favour or gathering nuts in May… you know the chorus.

Food For Friends, Brighton, vegetarian restaurant - Flexitarian

It’s probably easier to go without meat now than it ever has been.

An Expanding Meat Free Brighton

There are so many meat free foods on the markets, even meat free ‘meat’ for those who really miss the taste and texture. And Brighton, with its numerous stockists including Infinity Foods and Hisbe (How it Should Be), has got to be one of the easiest places to find them. Plus the city holds its annual Vegfest and, with an amazingly high proportion of veggie restaurants and cafes per capita, you’re never going to come unstuck while eating out.

The Chilli Pickle, Indian restaurant, Brighton - Flexitarian

The Olive Magazine – Flexitarian UK Top Ten

Strict vegetarian restaurants like Terre a Terre, Food for Friends, 1847 [now closed], Vbites and Iydea offer plenty of veggie food for thought, while many others have menus weighted towards meat free dishes.

Did you know: Brighton’s Curry Leaf Café was listed amongst Olive magazines top flexi restaurants.

Perhaps unsurprisingly as in India and other Eastern countries, meat remains an expensive occasional treat and vegetarian cooking flourishes. Indian Summer, Chilli Pickle, The Eastern Eye,  The Bali Brasserie, Gars and Senor Buddha all have numerous veggie choices, while Bombay Aloo and Planet India’s menus are solely vegetarian.

Curry Leaf Cafe, Brighton, Kanthi, video masterclass, Temple Bar, restaurant - Flexitarian

Forever Expanding Flexitarian Options

And even in traditional restaurants and pubs vegetables often take centre stage.

64 Degrees offers dishes such as whole baked hispi cabbage with a broad bean puree as one of its courses, while the Chimney House does a delicious root vegetables with walnuts and pickles and Hotel Du Vin’s Bistro currently offers Piedmontese peppers, stuffed with couscous, mozzarella and tangy salsa.

There has to also be a great mention for new kids on the block Silo who are offer an excellent herbivore and carnivore menu, along with their zero waste philosophy.

Cauliflower, The Better Half, Hove - Flexitarian

To The Spectacular

The most spectacular veggie presentation I’ve seen was at 24 St. Georges [Now closed] in Kemptown, where vegetable terrine arrives as an ensemble of yellow and green courgettes, red pepper and tomatoes, which looks as if they have been woven together, producing a rather beautiful basket effect. the below is not the dish in question, but it gives you the idea of how stunning their food is.

Cauliflower 24 St Georges - Flexitarian

So what’s stopping you?

Obviously there’s not so much moral high ground to be had as being a fully-fledged veggie or vegan but cutting down on meat is, for most people, a more viable option than giving it up altogether.

So, for everyone who has ever said “I could be vegetarian, were it not for bacon sandwiches,” flexitarianism is the way to go…

Seaweed-Gars Chinese Restaurant Brighton - Flexitarian