Climate Friendly Meals – Meatless Meals that are Better for the Environment
– Eat meat-free meals as often as possible.
– Eat more greens and vegetables.
– Always choose organic foods.
– Re-purpose leftovers to waste less food.
Our planet’s in trouble, and it’s time for us to help. The 2019 climate report from the 2019 United Nations meeting in Paris warns that “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely”.
The report also said that “it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.”
While conservation groups and large corporations may take on large responsibilities in curbing the damage done to the planet, there are steps we as individuals can take, starting with the food we eat.
Meals that contribute the least amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere are referred to as climate-friendly meals.
Climate-friendly meals are created by the choices we make in planning, buying and preparing our foods. Let’s look at the ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, while learning to cook some tasty new recipes that are healthier for you, too.
Always do Meatless Mondays and Super Salad Sundays!
Eat Local and Sustainable
We need to look at where and how our food is produced. Eating foods raised close to home eliminates the energy used through transportation, as well as the preservatives needed to keep food fresh over long distances. Always try and support your nearest farmer’s market and enjoy fresh foods that are in season and not transported from afar.
Get to know your local farmers and ask them about their methods. When shopping for produce at the grocery store, choose organic products. Organic standards require that food is produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or dyes. By supporting organic farmers, you are supporting more natural methods of farming that don’t involve using chemicals which are harmful to the environment.
Eat More Whole Foods and More Organic Foods
83% of the average American’s household food-related carbon emissions come from food production, especially from highly processed, packaged foods. These processed foods are also the least healthful for you & your family’s diet.
Eating whole foods, or foods in their most natural form, keeps the body running more efficiently than processed foods. Whole, unprocessed foods such as organic fruits and vegetables, whole grain flours, brown rice, organically produced meats and dairy products are higher in nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. They satisfy you longer than processed foods, so it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight. They also don’t contain the extra preservatives and sugar that are put into processed foods.
Organically grown foods are better for the environment because they are grown without the use of harmful chemicals. Organic farms promote biodiversity, create less water pollution, and result in less harm to surrounding wildlife.
Eat Less Dairy and Meats
Scientific data shows that livestock production, mainly red meat and dairy, causes great damage to the environment. From clearing forests to produce food for the animals, to transportation costs and the gases produced from animal waste, these processes are the reason that 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from meat consumption alone. To put that into perspective, consider that the entire transportation industry (cars, trains, planes, buses, etc.) is responsible for 13% of global emissions.
The meat industry also takes its toll on the world’s land use. 80% of agricultural land is used to grow feed for animals or growing animals. Only 20% of farmland is used for growing crops that people eat directly. Switching to a more plant-based diet would not only decrease the carbon emissions we produce, but also free up more land for growing fruits, vegetables and grains. In fact, one acre of land can grow either 20,000 pounds of potatoes, or enough cattle feed to produce less than 165 pounds of beef.
Not ready for a big change? Try 3 nights a week!
While changing one’s diet to be completely vegetarian might not appeal to a lot of people, it’s still worth considering the benefits of eating meatless, climate-friendly meals just 3 times a week. It is estimated that if everyone in the U.S. and Europe would eat climate-friendly meals 3 times a week, the impact would be like removing 57 million cars from our streets, or planting nearly 5,000 trees!
Climate-friendly meals are defined, by the numbers, as having at least 50% less carbon emissions (CO2) than the average meal. The average meal has 1583 grams of CO2 emissions; therefore, a climate-friendly meal emit less than 800 grams of CO2. Choosing a higher ratio of plant-based foods vs. animal-based foods will result in a lower carbon footprint. Fruit, vegetables and cereals have a much lighter environmental impact than foods based on livestock breeding, so we will aim to include mostly plant-based foods in our climate-friendly meals.
Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World–80+ Recipes for a Greener Planet and a Healthier You!
Cut Down on Waste
Approximately one-third of all food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This waste not only squanders the world’s resources (water, land, energy and labor) but also produces greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change and global warming. Cutting down on this waste can begin in our own kitchens, starting with these tips:
- Buy only what food you will use for the week, buy a little less than you think you need.
- Make the most of your food by repurposing leftovers. For example, bones from roasts and vegetable trimmings can be boiled and made into stock for soups and sauces.
- Leftovers can easily be repuposed into a new meal for later in the week.
- Compost suitable food scraps, producing oxygen-rich material for gardening while making use of coffee grounds, eggshells, produce scraps and more.
Cutting down on waste can also apply to the energy we use for cooking:
- Cook several items in the oven at once, one on each rack.
- Cook large batches of a recipe and freeze the excess for later. A full freezer works more effectively than a sparsely filled one, so fill it up with meals to grab when you’re short on time!
- Put a lid on a pan when bringing water to a boil. It boils faster this way, saving time and energy.
- Match your pan to the stove ring size. This will save 40% of the energy wasted when using a small pan on a larger ring.
Read more on HOW TO WASTE LESS FOOD.
Recipes for Climate-Friendly Meals
Your commitment to eating 3 climate-friendly meals a week will be easier with some great recipes to put into your weekly meal plan.
Reducing waste and eating less red meat are great steps toward reducing carbon emissions and slowing down climate change. But to greatly boost our impact on the environment, we need to take that extra step of eating meatless at least 3 times a week. Here’s a few recipes to get you started.
Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
- 2 (10 oz.) cans enchilada sauce
- 2 cups chopped leftover chicken
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained, rinsed
- 1 can (4.5 oz. chopped green chiles, undrained)
- 8 whole wheat tortillas (6”)
- 1-½ cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend (6 oz.)
- 1 container (8 oz.) sour cream
- Heat oven to 375. Spray a 11×7 casserole dish with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken, cilantro, black beans and green chiles.
- Spread 2 tablespoons of enchilada sauce in bottom of dish. Lay 4 tortillas over the sauce, overlapping as needed. Spoon half the chicken mixture over tortillas, sprinkle with ½ cup cheese. Spoon half of the remaining enchilada sauce and half of the sour cream on the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining tortillas, chicken mixture, ½ cup cheese, enchilada sauce and sour cream.
- Cover pan with foil. Bake 35 minutes until hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered 5 more minutes until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Zucchini Noodles with Arrabbiata Sauce
This recipe replaces traditional pasta with healthy and delicious zucchini noodles, so you can indulge in it often without any guilt about the planet or your waistline.
All’arrabbiata is a spicy Italian red sauce made with red pepper flakes.
- 4 large firm zucchini, peeled
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh basil, washed, dried and cut into thin slices
- Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Perepare the sauce by heating olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and heat until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add tomato paste, tomatoes, oregano, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce is cooking, slice zucchini into thin, long noodles with a spiral slicer. (If using the Paderno Tri-Blade Vegetable Spiral Slicer, use the small “shredder” blade to create spaghetti-like strands).
- Cut the noodles with kitchen scissors once they reach 10-12” long. Place cut noodles on paper or clean kitchen towels to absorb excess moisture and set aside.
- Heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic turns golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and remove garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon or fork and discard. Add zucchini noodles to skillet and sauté for approximately 2 minutes. While cooking, use tongs to flip the noodles to ensure they are warmed on each side. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and set aside.
- Remove from heat and toss with warm arrabbiata sauce. Transfer to a serving dish and top with sliced basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
Tomato Tofu Scramble
Wake up to this tangy, fluffy breakfast dish loaded with vegetables and aromatic spices!
(Recipe adapted from The Complete Vegan Cookbook by The Natural Gourmet Center with Alexandra Shytsman and Rebecca French. Found on Amazon – get the book right here -> Complete Vegan Cookbook.
- 1 pound firm tofu, drained
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
- Whole-wheat toast, to serve (optional)
- Line a plate with paper towels and place the tofu on top. Place another paper towel on the tofu, then top with another plate. Weigh the plate down with cans for 25 minutes to remove excess water, draining the water off now and then. Crumble the tofu into small pieces, using a fork or your hands.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in pine nuts, garlic, cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes. Cook another 2 minutes.
- Add the crumbled tofu, tomato, salt and lime juice. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until tofu is hot, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.
Crispy Quinoa Vegetable Burgers
You won’t miss the meat after tasting the freshness of these veggie burgers!
(Recipe adapted from the book, The Pollan Family Table
Crispy Quinoa Vegetable Burgers
- 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
- 1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped carrots
- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large egg (replace with 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp hot water or another egg substitute to make vegan)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 multigrain hamburger buns
- 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
- burger toppings for serving
- Combine quinoa and broth in a small saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool slightly.
- In large bowl, mash the beans with a potato masher, leaving a few chunks. Add scallions, carrots, breadcrumbs, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper. Mix well. Add the cooked quinoa and egg. Using your hands, form the mixture into four patties and set aside.
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add patties and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and brown the other sides, about 5 minutes more.
- Assemble the burgers and buns on a platter. Top with avocado slices, if desired, and serve with your favorite toppings.
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. Enjoy their complex flavors in this hearty dinner time pasta dish!
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
- 2 zucchini, cut into thin strips
- 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon Italian herbs
- 1 pound whole wheat rotini or penne pasta
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray.
- In large bowl, toss vegetables with the oil, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to the 2 large baking sheets. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, and cook another 10 minutes, until carrots are tender and vegetables have begun to brown.
- While vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Cook pasta in boiling water for about 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Toss the pasta with the roasted vegetables, adding some of the cooking liquid to moisten, as needed. Season with pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Serve onto 6 plates and enjoy!
Chicken Stock from Chicken Bones
Once you’ve scraped as much meat off that roast chicken as possible, using them in recipes like the one above, you can repurpose those chicken bones into stock for soup. Nothing wasted!
Chicken Stock Recipe
- Leftover bones and skin from a large roasted chicken carcass
- 1 large celery rib, with celery tops, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, quartered (no need to peel)
- 1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Place bones and skin into large pot. Add vegetables.
- Cover with water. Add salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
- Simmer 4 hours, partly covered. Occasionally skim off any foam that rises.
- Remove bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve.
Your stock is ready for your favorite chicken soup recipes!