Plant-based and vegan diets have seen a significant rise in popularity over the past few years along with the less strict “flexitarian” movement. While vegan foods fit a specific definition, the term “plant-based” and “flexitarian” are less defined, as people interpret the meaning differently. Mary Ward, a columnist for New Zealand media publication Stuff shed light on the growing interest in flexible plant-based eating in a recent article.
Ward described someone who eats a predominantly vegan diet, with the occasional serving of an animal product, as “the chill vegan.” She nodded to how “plant-based” isn’t a strict term – meals can be based on plants but still contain a non-plant product.
“I’d eat cake or a muffin once a week that no doubt has eggs and butter in it,” Karl Treacher from Sydney, Australia told Stuff. “But I don’t bash myself up for it because I know that I’ve severely limited my impact on climate change and animal suffering.”
“Flexitarianism” was coined by Millennials, or “vegetarian with benefits” as the Guardian noted in 2013.
“The flexitarian [diet] is not saying you can party hard when the sun goes down and eat as much steak as you want, it encourages people to make an effort three or four days a week to consciously choose not to eat meat, and come home after work and plan a plant-based meal,” explained Clare Collins, a professor at the University of Newcastle.
Some people encourage small shifts rather than quick, dramatic lifestyle changes. Ryan Alexander, who is vegan, said: “Many people have these light bulb moments where they turn vegan overnight, which is great. But I think most people, like me, change incrementally over time, cutting out one animal at a time.”
Statistics from across the globe have reflected a growing interest in veganism and plant-based food. For many, this shift in dietary behavior stems from a concern for personal health, while others actively consider animal welfare or sustainability of the planet in their choices.
Within the past three years alone, veganism in the U.S. has soared by 600% while the U.K. has seen a 700% growth in two years. Ward noted that these figures don’t measure how strictly people exercise the lifestyle but do show the rising demand for animal-free foods.
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