The beginning of a new year, especially in 2021, is an opportunity to reflect on ways to make a positive impact on our own lives, the lives of others and in the world at large. Although many things may seem beyond our control, making decisions about what we eat is something that may not only help people trim excess weight or lower cholesterol, but food choices can also have an influence on the earth’s climate. The Cool Food movement is catching on not only in private homes, but also restaurants that want to include sustainable options as a part of their regular menu.
According to Cool Food’s website, a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. By shifting to a more plant-based diet, individuals can contribute to lower GHG emissions, helping to protect the environment. A minimally processed plant-rich diet is also associated with significant health benefits and can lower the risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, digestive disease, some types of cancer and obesity, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Businesses that have joined the Cool Food Pledge hope their commitment can reduce the climate impact of food by 25 percent by 2030. Ikea and Panera Bread are among the first chains to receive the Cool Food Meals badge for some of their menu items. Low carbon cool meals on the U.S. and soon the Canadian Panera menu include Ten Vegetable Soup, Mediterranean Bowl, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken and the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt. As of October 2020, more than half of the Panera entrees were considered Cool Food Meals.
Ikea, known not only for dorm furniture but also for their Swedish meatballs has created a plant ball made with pea protein, oats, potatoes, onion and apple. Ikea also serves a veggie hot dog and has committed to making half of their restaurant meals plant-based by 2025 and 80 percent of all packaged food offered plant-based. Vegan ice cream and vegan chocolate mousse are also currently on the menu for take-out along with a variety of vegan and plant-based grocery items from the Swedish Food Market.
With so many options for plant-based foods, it’s important to keep in mind that a healthy diet will include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats while minimizing processed and fried foods, and added sugars. Whether you are trying to eat a little less red meat or adopting a fully vegan lifestyle, it’s important to talk with your doctor or a dietician to ensure all your nutritional needs are being met.