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Is ‘climatarian’ diet the eco-friendly answer to food wastage? Here’s what experts say

We cannot talk about healthy eating and keeping ourselves fit without considering the environment. ‘Health’ is not an isolated concept, but one with a holistic standpoint that takes into account many factors.

Around the world, people have come to understand that every action has repercussions that ultimately affect the planet. As such, there has been a conscious shift in diet for many people, who have started choosing plant-based foods over those that are animal-derived. Mostly, the word that comes to mind is ‘veganism’, or even ‘vegetarianism’. While the latter factors out meat and poultry, the former excludes all forms of meat and products that are derived from animals.

Then, there is something called the ‘climatarian’ diet which, in addition to ditching meat, also factors in ways in which the environment can be protected, by making sure there is reduced carbon footprint. In other words, people who follow the climatarian diet consciously choose lower-carbon options as much as possible.

It is understood that in 2015, The New York Times had first included the term ‘climatarian’ on its list of new food-related words, defining it as “a diet whose primary goal is to reverse climate change”.

“A climatarian diet strives to reduce carbon footprint through sustainable eating — for example, eating foods that don’t cause high carbon emissions in their production, eating local food with less associated air miles, eating organic food, and minimising food wastage. Lowering your carbon footprint does not mean you have to buy only sustainable products. Being mindful and intentional of how we use and maintain our products also has a big impact,” Riddhi Jadhwani, health coach and founder of PositivEats, tells indianexpress.com.

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Agreeing with her, Dubai and Delhi-based wellness advocate and nutrition coach Eshanka Wahi says diets such as flexitarian and climatarian promote sustainable eating. “We can make environment-friendly choices if people make a shift towards diets such as flexitarian or climatarian that limit or cease the over-consumption of products that affect the environment. Personally, I am not vegan or vegetarian, but have created a sustainable habit to eat vegetarian food 70-80 per cent of the time. If one can’t give up all forms [of meat and animal-derived food] completely due to their nutrition needs, decreasing and limiting non-veg intake is a great step towards reducing carbon footprint,” she tells this outlet.

According to Wahi, before one makes the switch to a climatarian diet, they should keep these two things in mind:

1. Climatarian diet is focused on reducing the carbon footprint. So, helping the environment and the surroundings.

2. It involves limiting non-veg intake; so if you are a big fan of non-veg food and consume large amounts regularly, you may want to keep in mind that it may be a big change for you. It is suggested that before completely switching to a climatarian diet, you may want to first gradually reduce the non-veg intake as it could affect your body’s nutritional needs.

Jadhwani states that every new product requires more resources to be extracted, processed and disposed of. One can eliminate this wastage and incorporate sustainable food practices in life by doing the following:

* Asking if you really need the new item.
* Opting to share.
* Buying second-hand and borrowing.
* Reducing food waste.
* Planning your meals beforehand — so you buy only the food you need.
* Preserving food near expiration.
* Creating awareness among peers.
* Being open to opposing opinions.
* Seeking to understand other’s opinions and brainstorming to have a positive environmental impact.
* Bringing people together creates a network that supports and builds.

Climatarian diet and health

The food that we eat decides our health. Doing a dietary shift, especially without consulting with an expert, can cause some health problems. Dr Rohini Patil, a nutritionist and author of The Lifestyle Diet, cautions that if a person — who has been consuming meat throughout their life — decides to switch to a vegan diet or climatarian diet abruptly, it won’t be wise, “as the body gets used to a certain diet, which we consume since childhood, and our bodies metabolism, functioning and digestion revolves around it”.

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“Moreover, we need to analyse our body’s nutritional needs and see that the particular diet, which we are switching to, is providing all necessary nutrients. Following one without proper information and research can lead to nutritional deficiencies and medical issues. People who have been taking a normal diet — which includes both non-vegetarian and vegetarian meals — get both plant and animal-based nutrients, and in some cases, animal-based nutrients are of better quality and more bioavailable to the body,” the doctor explains.

She, however, adds that products that come from red meat like beef, lamb, pork, mutton etc., are considered to be harmful for health, because of their higher fat content. “There are various meat products like ham, salami, sausages, etc., which are not good for health, as they are processed red meat products made using different methods like curing, fermentation, communication, etc. Plant-based diet is a healthier alternative, as it adds more fibre to our diet, improves digestion, protects us from heart diseases, helps lower cholesterol, etc.,” she says.

So, what should be done?

Jadhwani says that since a climatarian diet isn’t just about what you eat, but also about how you shop and cook, buying just what you need to avoid food wastage, and filling your freezer with leftovers can help reduce food waste and support healthy eating. She suggests the following:

– If you are choosing to go 100 per cent plant-based, children and adults need to supplement with vitamin B12.
– Buy local and seasonal fruits and veggies. The ingredients for your salad or soup should never have to take a long haul flight – buying local and seasonal food reduces the C02 emissions from processing, packaging, and transportation.
– Opt for whole grains with their lower GI (glycaemic index) rating – meaning they release energy more slowly – they’re better nutritionally.
– Stock up on nuts and seeds. They are great for snacking or adding to smoothies or overnight oats, and are great sources of protein.
– Look for brands that offer refillable or reusable packaging.
– Bring your own reusable shopping bags.
– Read the labels and know what they mean.
– While shopping, do your best to seek out eco-friendly options that are recyclable, reusable, biodegradable, and sustainable.

The popularity of climatarian diet and dining options

As mentioned earlier, since the climatarian diet isn’t just about what you eat, but also about how you shop for food, and how it reaches your plate, chef Anurudh Khanna, the multi-property executive chef at The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, says consumers today have become much more nuanced, health-focused and they want to know the source of food they are consuming.

“It is important for us to realise the kind of daily logistics we are indulging in, what eventually we are putting up on the menu, and most importantly, the amount of waste we are generating. At The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, we have only bettered the techniques and nuances of the ‘Farm-to-Table’ concept. In collaboration with our skillful horticulturists, we design and showcase menus that are globally-inspired, but locally-created,” he says.

The chef adds that they have an ‘EAT WELL’ menu that is “designed to nourish our guest’s well-being”. “The menu comprises expert-curated options that keep you fuelled and feeling your best. These options have been inspired by seasonal produce, and I feel certain foods taste best when they are in season. They are fresher, since they haven’t been transported over long distances.

“I foresee more people getting inclined towards making sustainable, eco-conscious choices. They want to consume dishes that are made from gooseberries and sweet potatoes, or have greens like regular spinach which is known to be a natural immunity booster,” he mentions.

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He shares one such delectable recipe for pumpkin bharta, curried tomato achaar, and ragi crisp.

Ingredients

Pumpkin — 500 g
Tomatoes — 4/5 (medium size)
Red onion — 3/4 (medium size)
Ragi flour — 100 g
Sugar — 50 g
Heeng (asafoetida) — 1 pinch
Baking powder — 1 pinch
Water — 50 g
Mustard seeds — 1 pinch
Curry leaves — 2/3
Salt — 1 tsp
Pepper — 1 tsp
Turmeric — 1 tsp
Edible flower — 2/3
Sunflower cress — 4/5
Refined flour — 2 tbsp

Method

Pumpkin bharta

– Dice and peel the pumpkin and cook it with sliced onion in mustard oil.
– Add heeng and curry leaves to it and season with salt and pepper.
– Cook until pumpkin attains a mashed texture.
– Set aside and allow it to cool.

Curried tomato jam

– Cook sliced onion and sliced tomato together in oil over medium heat.
– Temper with mustard seeds, curry leaves and heeng.
– Continue to cook over medium heat and add sugar. Cook for another 25 minutes.
– Blend it well with oil and set aside.

Ragi crisp

– Make a dough with ragi flour, baking soda, refined flour and water.
– Rest, roll out the dough and cut it into triangles.
– Bake in the preheated oven at 200-degree Celsius.

To plate

– Make a quenelle of pumpkin bharta and place it over spooned tomato jam.
– Garnish with a ragi crisp and edible flowers.

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