If you’re looking for a healthy weight loss food regime that’s easy flexible enough to fit into your lifestyle, free of fad claims and backed by expert opinions, then a flexitarian diet may be it.
The flexitarian diet has beaten 38 other diets to receive the top vote by a panel of health experts as 2021’s ‘best diet for weight loss’ in the annual U.S. News & World Report diet rankings. The eating style also tied with the Mediterranean diet for the best diabetes diet.
Flexible vegetarianism – or flexitarianism – is less a strict diet and more a loose eating plan that allows you to consume meat occasionally, as long as you follow a vegetarian diet most of the time.
“For that reason, it may fit easily into people’s lifestyles, and also help you to be mindful and creative with what you put on our plate."
“By eating more plants and less meat, it’s suggested that adherents to the diet will not only lose weight but can improve their overall health, lowering their rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and live longer as a result,” the rating site explains.
“It encourages people to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, while also being flexible and including some animal foods,” Curtain tells SBS. “For that reason, it may fit easily into people’s lifestyles, and also help you to be mindful and creative with what you put on our plate.
“There is also research to support that plant-based diets that are high in fibre. This can promote a healthy weight and improve glycaemic control, which are both positive aspects for all Australians, as well as those with diabetes.”
However, Curtain stresses that a flexitarian diet is so flexible, it won’t always guarantee weight loss. You could drop the amount of meat you consume but your diet may still be unhealthy.
“There are foods that can fit within this diet that are also less healthy. These are [discretionary] foods like chips and vegan desserts that may not be animal-based must still be eaten in moderation.”
The title of 'best diet overall' goes to...
This year’s diet rankings also rated the Mediterranean diet as the ‘best diet overall’. The gold medal marks the fourth year in a row for the Mediterranean diet – a food philosophy that reflects the way people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea ate in the early 1960s.
The diet advocates consuming plenty of legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Moderate amounts of fish, poultry and red wine are also traditionally consumed. Small amounts of red meat are eaten and olive oil is the main source of fat.
The Mediterranean Diet was also rated as 2021’s best plant-based diet and easiest diet to follow.
“The diet doesn’t just focus on what foods you’re eating – it also focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, suggesting that people remain active, get rest, stay social and share meals with family and friends,” Curtain tells SBS.
“It's an enjoyable diet, based around delicious, home-cooked foods that also happen to be healthy.”
The Mediterranean Diet was also rated as 2021’s best plant-based diet and the easiest diet to follow.
“The Mediterranean Diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control,” the explanation of the rating online reads. “By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.”
However, the ratings didn’t score the Mediterranean diet well for everything, getting placed 24 out of 39 diets for fast weight loss.
“When it comes to losing weight, we know there is no ‘magic bullet’ and that one size does not fit all when it comes to our health,” Curtain tells SBS.
“Unlike other diets in the list, the Mediterranean diet isn't focused on weight loss, but is instead a ‘whole lifestyle approach’ to health. For that reason, it could help to encourage a more sustainable way of eating, and support good health long-term.”