Wow, I never knew that eating balanced was such a challenge! I just assumed that eating sustainable was the greater one. Only around 6% of all meals served in restaurants that we analyzed fulfilled the criteria of having a good energy content and the right proportional distribution of protein, fat and starch. Off course, this is only one perspective of judging the healthiness of a meal, but it is a pretty basic one. Moreover, it is commonly recommended and applied by health and food professionals. Our findings are in line with the Swiss menuCH study which showed that most Swiss eat unbalanced, eating especially too much meat and fat.
In total 229 million years of life are lost due to bad dietary habits and around ⅓ of greenhouse gas emissions originate from food. If every Swiss was to eat climate-friendly 3 times per week, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions would equal 750´000 cars less on the Swiss streets. Eating according to health recommendations only will already reduce our climate impact by up to 35%.
In our latest report „Smart Chefs: health, climate and sustainability“ we summarize the conflicts and synergies between environmental and health goals. As a result of this study Eaternity now delivers transparency and guidance on decisions that influence the climate, the use of scarce water, animal welfare, tropical deforestation and our health.
Now, for the first time we could measure the impact of our food decisions for multiple indicators and fall back on an impressively large dataset of around 20’000 meals served in restaurants during the last year. With this we not only have a reliable insight on the current status quo, but more importantly we can set standards and guidelines as we know where we want to go.
Towards a more healthy planet.
By analyzing the status quo in restaurants and considering global sustainability goals, as well as applicability in practice we defined 3 clear standards for meals: the Climate Score Award, Water Footprint Award and the Health Score Award. The Health Score Award is based on the Health Score which aims at reducing diet-related disease risk. By definition foods receive the Climate Score Award if they have 40% less emissions than average. The Water Footprint Award if they reduce on average 50% of the water scarcity. And the Health Score Award if they reduce at least 20% of the diet related health risks. The Nutrition Label, the Rainforest Score and the Animal Treatment Score inform on balanced nutrition, tropical deforestation and animal treatment. All are by itself noble goals, some more urgent than others.
- Only around 6% of all meals received the Nutrition Score and had their energy sources in good proportions.
- Most important factors to improve are to reduce the amount of fat and protein.
- Only 3% of all meals had enough whole grains in it as opposed to 40% of meals had enough vegetables.
- The most important factors to improve the Health Score are to increase the amount of whole grain products, nuts & seeds and fruits and to reduce the amount of salt and calories.
Water Scarcity Footprint
- Swiss vegetarian meals and meals with meat have similar water footprints. For other countries this can be different. For other countries this can be different. Nevertheless, 62% of Swiss vegetarian meals still receive the Water Footprint Award.
- The most important factors to improve the Water Scarcity Footprint are to avoid products from water scarce regions and if not produced in Switzerland to reduce the amount of animal products. Examples of plant-based products that mostly have a high water scarcity footprint are olive oil, almonds and lentils if they were produced in for example Turkey, but not if they are from Canada.
- Practically all meals (97%) contain soy and/or palm oil. This also includes meals with meat and milk products for which soy was used to feed the animals.
- 72% of meals receive the Rainforest Score of 3 stars mostly, because the palm oil or soy was either certified or stems from an unproblematic production country.
Animal Treatment Score
- 17% of the meals that received the 3 star Animal Treatment Score contained meat, 44% were vegetarian and 39% were vegan..
- To increase animal welfare one can reduce the amount of animal products eaten and buy certified meat and milk products.
Climate Score Award
- 71% of meals that receive the Climate Score Award also receive the Water Footprint Award (16% of all meals in total).
- Only around 10% of all meals received the Climate Score Award and Vita Award at the same time and only 3% of all meals received these 2 and the Water Footprint Award.
Do you want to come along with us?
There is great room and potential for improvement. Do you take this challenge with us? We can improve and reduce all the impacts in multiple ways. But does it taste well and satisfy your stomach? If we consider all goals as equally important, only 1% of current meals served are fit to serve. And yes, more than 50% of the meals that fulfill all environmental and health goals are vegetarian or vegan. Although the numbers are staggering, maybe we should look at it from the bright side. It is possible to eat sustainably and healthy, and there are meals actually served that fulfill these criteria. For the recipes we know, we have a start with almost 186 meals, let us create more!