While epidemics of chronic disease are currently by far our leading causes of death, global warming is considered a looming public health threat. How can we eat to combat dietary diseases and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time?
These merging plant-based food trends could have an enormous impact on the limited-service industry.
Portion sizes have increased dramatically in the last half century. Although it seems intuitive to link the larger portions to Americans' growing waistlines, the relationship between calorie quantity and quality must be carefully considered to ensure that changes in portion size produce real benefits.
The amount and types of protein consumed can have significant effects on environmental impacts and the risk of chronic diseases and premature death.
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and displace less healthy food options in the diet. Yet, Americans’ consumption of fruits and vegetables falls very short of recommendations.
Seafood is a healthy and relatively environmentally friendly choice. And yet, annual U.S. seafood consumption is less than 15 pounds per year. And despite up to 500 different species of fish and shellfish being available in the U.S., the top 10 types comprise 90 percent of the volume consumed.
The foodservice industry must be part of the solution to climate change by improving overall global food security and helping to stabilize the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food production and utilization.
Reducing meat consumption and raising awareness about water stress are helpful measures that consumers and chefs can take. These trends, however, do not yet reflect broad efforts needed from the foodservice industry as producers face prolonged periods of drought.
The last year has seen some encouraging shifts from producers, retailers, and foodservice operators. Responding to increasing consumer demand for meat raised without antibiotics, several companies have announced plans to stop using antibiotics in their chickens.
Innovative school programs are developing awareness of the connection between the food we eat and our health. But they require the ongoing support of the healthcare, culinary, and public health communities to make a real difference.
Better, alternative practices are being employed by a small group of producers, and some promising legislative and policy initiatives are being proposed and passed. However, in general there remains substantial room for improvement with regards to animal welfare.
It can be hard not to become skeptical when experts disagree, the advice is contradictory, and there is little other basis on which to make a decision. Such is the case for what is "healthy" and what is "sustainable."
The high-profile nature of the leaders of plant- forward restaurants and menus is creating media buzz around such dining practices—tying them to flavor, creativity, and sustainability, rather than only to health. It is for now purely speculative, but this might go a long way in helping diners think of plant-based meals as indulgent too.
The divide between the tech and culinary worlds has long been glaring, with two communities speaking utterly different languages. But with that divide have also come currents of opportunity, and a palpable change has occurred in the last few years.
Over the past five years, venture capital firms have invested more than a half billion dollars into new food companies. And more and more, professional investors are supporting businesses that embrace environmental sustainability, public health, and social benefits.
To address the rising cost of healthcare and skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, medical publication The Permanente Journal recently released an article encouraging physicians to advise patients to reduce meat, dairy, and processed food consumption and implement a plant-based diet.
Menus of Change: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food Choices is a ground-breaking initiative developed by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in collaboration with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Together, the CIA and Harvard are working to create a long-term, practical vision for the integration of optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice sector and beyond.