Vegetarian lifestyles; some are ‘freegan’ odd

While researching a project on the Internet, I stumbled across a word that immediately captured my interest: “flexitarianism.” “What could this be?” I wondered. The ability to sit with your ankles behind your ears? A new health insurance payment system? A new religion! No, none of the above.

Flexitarians are flexible
Flexitarianism is the practice of being a vegetarian … sort of. The root of the word “flexitarian” is defined by the MacMillan English Dictionary as “a person who consumes mainly vegetarian food but occasionally eats meat or fish.” So, if you are a vegetarian — or a vegan — and your family insists that Sunday dinner means reservations at Frankie’s Meat Hut — a prime rib platter and Tofutti for dessert is okay with you.

Obviously, I had never heard this word, but it’s been around for some time. Some sources credit Northwestern University registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner as the original source of “flexitarian.”

Then, there is the company Eco-Cuisine®, which claims to have trademarked Flexitarian®, “a newly developed line of vegetarian plant based products developed for health conscious consumers.”

In fact, in 2003, the American Dialect Society voted “flexitarian” as the year’s most useful word, and defined it as “a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.”

Where have I been … living under a rock?

The most interesting part of all of this is that this word was created to describe a new style of living. While it is estimated that true vegetarians account for only around 3 percent of the population, flexitarians may account for as high as 30 to 40 percent of the population, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit vegetarian education organization.

Flexitarians are your customers!
Apparently, we’ve started listening to the medical professionals who have been telling us that we have to eat smarter in order to live longer. This is not so much an instance of vegetarians giving in to meat as much as meat eaters realizing the benefits of focusing on a vegetable-based diet, supplemented by smaller or occasional portions of meat — red, white or other.

According to, some reasons people choose flexitarianism are:
• They consider a vegetarian diet to be healthier, but enjoy eating meat.
• They are not ethically opposed to eating meat, but veggies are less expensive.
• They believe it is rude to refuse a meal cooked by a friend, even if it includes meat.
• Some, like “freegans,” believe that wasting already-cooked food does more damage than eating it.

Now come the ‘freegans’
“Freegan?” What’s a “freegan”? Well, according to Freegans claim to find ample amounts of clean, edible food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores and other food-related industries, and this allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit the world’s resources. Many freegans get free food by pulling it out of the trash, a practice commonly nicknamed dumpster diving.
Freegan is a subject for a whole other column!