A new study finds that more than 80% of vegetarians and vegans end up going back to their omnivorous ways—here's the eating plan they should try instead.
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If you've ever tried and failed at cutting out meat, you're not alone: Turns out 84% of vegetarians and vegans revert back to their omnivorous ways, according to a new study by the Humane Research Council. More than 50% said they went back to eating meat within a year.

Why are so many vegetarians and vegans giving up? Though more than half of former veg-only eaters said their main motivation was health, they had plenty of reasons for calling it quits: Many (63%) said they didn’t like that their lifestyle made them stand out. Lack of community also played a role; 84% reported that they were not active in vegetarian or vegan clubs or organizations.

I cook a lot of vegetarian and vegan food—I studied at Natural Gourmet Institute culinary school, where the curriculum focused largely on a plant-based diet—and I post a lot of my concoctions on Instagram, so people are always asking me if I’m vegetarian.

But in fact, my approach is more flexitarian—that is, mostly vegetarian, but I do eat meat occasionally, as well as fish, eggs, and some poultry (though chicken isn’t my personal fave). Like my vegan friends, I’m very concerned about animal welfare and the environment, so I stick to humanely raised meat and always buy organic eggs and dairy. Similar to my Paleo pals, I’m careful to avoid processed foods and steer clear of refined sugar as much as possible. And in line with the much-lauded Mediterranean diet, I tend to load up my plate with fresh produce, enjoy lots of fish, and am not shy with the good-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Flexitarianism to me is the best of all worlds. I love vegetarian food and enjoy the challenge of cooking it as many ways as I can (bonus points if I can get my carnivorous friends to gobble it up it, too). But if I go to a friend’s house, or a special restaurant—or if I’m just craving a burger—there’s no guilt. Why back yourself into a corner if you don’t have to, especially where food is concerned?

If you’re interested in exploring recipes and more information about lessening—but not necessarily eliminating—your meat eating, here are some books to get you started (they would all make great gifts, too):

The Flexitarian Diet by Dawn Jackson Blatner ($15, amazon.com)

The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley ($15, amazon.com)

The VB6 Cookbook by Mark Bittman ($13, amazon.com)

Almost Meatless by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond ($17, amazon.com)

You can also simply start adding more vegetarian recipes to your weekly meal lineup, or try Meatless Monday.