24 April 2024

Creating recipes and menus for a greener, more sustainable kitchen

This week marks World Earth Day. On the 22nd of April every year the world focusses on our one and only home, reflecting on the collective actions we can take to nurture our precious earth, and reminding ourselves that there’s no planet B!

Sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to underestimate the impact of our food choices on the climate crisis. Yet, the truth is quite the opposite. What we choose to put on our plates, how often we do so, and our overall approach and mindset to food consumption plays a pivotal role in sustaining the planet we live on. We can absolutely make positive change with our food to help us and our environment.

Just like at the beginning of most things, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the desire to do it all. And quite frankly we can’t. By focusing on small, achievable steps, we can avoid unrealistic expectations and instead make progress, even if it’s just one small step at a time.

Our advice: Choose one thing, focus in, and do it really well.

Improve the sustainability of your food service business

One way to make your food and beverage business more sustainable it to make a conscious effort to include more plant-based foods in your recipes and menus. Plant-based foods offer an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact with significantly lower environmental footprint than meat and meat products. It’s important to remember that plant-based foods don’t just mean fruits and vegetables, but also lentils, pulses, beans, herbs and spices too.

By incorporating more plant-based foods into your meals and menus, you’re not only improving your environmental impact but also improving your customer’s wellbeing. These eco-friendly food choices enrich diets with fibre, promoting a happy and healthy gut while lowering the risk of disease.

Here’s a few ideas on how you can improve the sustainability of your food service:

  • Add a richer variety of fruits or vegetables to your recipes and listen to your customers’ feedback. Varying plant food sources also encourage a variety of good bacteria to thrive in the gut. Some great places to start are beetroot, kohlrabi, asparagus, fennel, kiwi fruit, and jackfruit. 
  • Get creative and find new ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into every dish served – whether that’s through the perfect-pairing side dish or as the main ingredient. 
  • Today’s socially conscious consumers are actively seeking more meatless options when dining out, so take a look at your vegetarian menu. Can you swap a meat option for something plant-based, or perhaps you have the luxury of adding more additions to your vegetarian menu? 

How do I add more sustainable ingredients into recipes and menus?

Now, we know what you’re thinking – swapping ingredients and creating new menus that comply with UK allergen regulations, like Natasha’s Law, and ensuring accurate nutritional information, including calorie counts, isn’t as simple as it sounds. It may seem like a significant task that’s complicated and takes up a lot of your time. But it doesn’t have to be! Using a cloud-based recipe and menu manager will enable you to swiftly make ingredient swaps and build new menus in a matter of minutes. By connecting directly with suppliers, you will be able to adjust recipes, calculate costs, and provide precise nutritional information, making compliance and sustainable menu updates much more manageable.

Red meat moderation for a greener menu

If you’re a meat consumer, or your business has a focus on a meat-heavy menu, consider taking a closer look at your red meat consumption. It’s estimated that by 2050 we need to halve our red meat consumption globally to reduce carbon emissions enough to slow the rate the earth is warming.

While red meat, particularly beef, carries a substantial carbon footprint, it’s also important to consider its impact on human health. Consuming large amounts of red and processed meats has been associated with increased risks of conditions like colon cancer due to their high levels of saturated fat.

One simple step towards a more sustainable and health-conscious menu is to aim for moderation. Try incorporating red meat – such as beef, lamb, pork, ham, or bacon – into fewer meals. Advice from our nutritionist suggests consumers should keep their weekly consumption under 500 grams, which could equate to, for example, enjoying one 8oz steak, four slices of ham, or a single beef burger per week. Adding more plant-based options to your menus will help your customers make better choices.

Remember, it’s not about eliminating red meat entirely; it’s about finding a balanced approach that prioritises consuming less while still enjoying the foods your customers love.

How do I calculate the carbon footprint of my menu?

If you are considering how much carbon footprint your resturant or food service is producing there are ways to calculate it so you can make better, more sustainable decisions. For each dish you will need to follow the following steps:

  1. Identify your ingredients: Make a list of all the ingredients used in the dish.
  2. Research the emissions: Research the carbon emissions associated with producing each ingredient. This information can be found in databases, or carbon footprint calculators specific to food items. You will also need to look for data on factors like agricultural practices, transportation, and processing methods. 
  3. Calculate quantities: Determine the quantity of each ingredient used in the recipe. This can be in weight or volume, depending on your preference. 
  4. Calculate emissions per ingredient: Multiply the carbon emissions associated with each ingredient by the quantity used, giving you the emissions for each ingredient. 
  5. Add everything up: Sum up the emissions for all ingredients to get the total carbon footprint of the dish. 
  6. Consider your cooking process: Don’t forget to account for the emissions generated during cooking. Energy use, such as gas or electricity, contributes to the overall carbon footprint. You will need to take a best guess estimate the energy consumption based on the cooking method and duration. 

While this method provides an estimate of your carbon footprint per recipe, it’s important to understand its limitations – it may not be entirely accurate, and the calculations can be time-consuming for your day-to-day food service operations. While we believe that time spent contributing to a greener planet is time well spent, we also recognise the importance of efficiency. A recipe menu management system that integrates with a carbon emissions database and calculator can accomplish all of the above and more. These integrations can generate reports and food labels automatically, helping you inform socially conscious customers and strengthen your brand’s commitment to sustainability. 

Explore plant-based dairy options and alternatives

Dairy products are a powerhouse of nutrients. They contain protein for growing muscles, iodine for metabolism and brain development and milk is a great option for rehydration. However, it’s important to consider their environmental footprint. A study conducted in 2018 revealed that compared to plant-based alternatives such as almond, rice, soy, or oat drinks, a single 200ml glass of cow’s milk has the highest environmental impact. This covers land-use, water-use and emissions.  

While this information may encourage exploration of plant-based alternatives like oat, almond, soy, or coconut milk, it’s essential to approach dietary changes with balance and mindfulness. Removing dairy entirely from your diet is not necessarily advisable unless you have a specific allergy or intolerance. 

By incorporating a variety of dairy and plant-based options into your menu, you can enjoy the benefits of both while making choices that align with your customer’s personal preferences and environmental considerations.

Creating sustainable, allergen-friendly menus

We’ve mentioned it above, so let’s quickly touch upon how your food and beverage business can become more eco-friendly whilst still keeping customers safe. The solution is straightforward: employing allergen management software. This software is essential for delivering precise, and sometimes lifesaving, information to your customers swiftly and effortlessly. A reliable hospitality management system should connect with all of your suppliers, ensuring a continuous flow of accurate, up-to-date information. It should also offer features like customisable labelling, detailed menu information, and allergen reports for your back-office operations.

Making a positive environmental impact at home

The majority of food waste in the UK does come from the home. From our homes alone we are still wasting 6.4 million tons each year (WRAP, 2023). 

Here are a couple simple steps towards having a greener kitchen at home: 

  • Make a realistic meal plan. This doesn’t mean planning every single meal on every single day. It means planning 4-5 dinners per week, making lunches, and having enough options for breakfast. It means having flexibility with what you cook, and it means freezing meals for nights when you need them. If you are continually throwing out the soggy lettuce at the back of the fridge then it’s time to take if off the shopping list. Being organised with your meals also means you are more likely to cook nutritious meals. 
  • Weigh up the costs: If the prospect of reducing food waste doesn’t immediately resonate with you, consider the potential financial benefits. According to a report by The Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP), food waste costs each four-person household roughly £1,000 per year – imagine the impact it has on your business!  

Eco-friendly hydration

Finally, water plays an incredible role in keeping our bodies healthy, constituting more than 80% of our bodies. Staying hydrated is essential for our wellbeing, and fortunately, there are countless eco-friendly ways to do so.

One step towards sustainability is to consider reusable options for water consumption. Investing in a refillable bottle and cup not only helps to reduce waste and empowers you to take charge of your environmental footprint, and let’s be honest – there are so many options to choose from, it also adds a touch of personality to your everyday routine! Make it a habit to carry your own bottle wherever you go, ensuring you have access to hydration without relying on single-use plastics.

By opting for reusable options, we can all play a part in protecting our planet’s precious resources and build a better environment for everyone.

Make your food and beverage business more sustainable

It’s clear that small changes in our culinary habits can produce significant benefits for the planet and our businesses. By producing more plant-based ingredients and meals, we not only reduce our carbon footprint but also nourish our customers bodies with nutrient-rich options.  

All food and beverage businesses should have access to the tools that enable them to prioritise sustainability practices and understand how they contribute to making our planet a better place. If this is something you’re interested in discussing, reach out to our team today.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash