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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

By Moira McCarthy

  • Researchers say eating at restaurants is generally bad for our overall health.
  • They note that 50 percent of full-service restaurant meals and 70 percent of fast-food meals are of poor dietary quality.
  • Experts say you can avoid unhealthy eating habits at restaurants by checking the menu beforehand and saving a portion of your meal for lunch the next day.

There was a time not so long ago when dining out was a rare treat and most of our meals were prepared at home.

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A Buddha bowl vegan meal with kale, quinoa, green sprouts and season greens. fortyforks / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lindsay Campbell

Anthony Myint believes that you can use food to fight climate change.

The San Francisco chef has a new project in the works. In January, Myint hopes to formally launch Restore California, a joint initiative with the State of California that will enlist the golden state's restaurant industry to support climate-beneficial farming practices.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Maskot / Getty Images

Dining out in California may offer an opportunity to fight climate change, thanks to a new initiative.

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Carl's Jr.

By Melinda McKee

Select Carl's Jr. locations now serve the delicious Beyond Burger!

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Taiyou Nomachi / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Anna Ben Yehuda

There has, arguably, never been a better time to be a vegan in America. As chefs across the country create menus reliant on fruits and vegetables in an effort to embrace health, eaters are getting used to the idea of entrées made entirely of vegetables (albeit souffléd, stirred and brined ones). In short: nobody will give you a dirty look if you ask to "hold the cheese."

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Indie Ecology / Instagram

Food, as we know, is a terrible thing to waste. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. But what if we could use food waste to create more food?

That's the elegantly full-circle idea behind Indie Ecology, a West Sussex food waste farm that collects leftovers from some of London's best restaurants and turns it into compost. The nutrient-rich matter is then used to grow high quality produce for the chefs to cook with. Call it table-to-farm-to-table—and again and again.

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Small-scale, local food producers can look forward to stronger markets this year, if the National Restaurant Association’s predictions prove accurate. According to the association’s What’s Hot in 2012 survey of nearly 1,800 professional chefs, children’s nutrition and local sourcing will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus this coming year.

The top 10 menu trends for 2012 will be:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Hyper-local items
5. Sustainability as a culinary theme
6. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
8. Locally produced wine and beer
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals

“The top menu trends we’re seeing in our What’s Hot in 2012 survey reflect the macro-trends we have seen grow over the last several years,” said Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the National Restaurant Association. “Nutrition—especially when it comes to children—is becoming a major focus for the nation’s nearly one million restaurants, in tune with consumers’ increasing interest in healthful eating.”

“Local sourcing of everything—from meat and fish, to produce, to alcoholic beverages—is another big trend for 2012. Local farms and food producers have become an important source of ingredients for chefs and restaurateurs wishing to support the members of their business community and highlight seasonal ingredients on menus,” Dubost added.

“The American Culinary Federation has a long history of working with families to ensure that children receive adequate nutrition, so we are delighted that chefs have chosen to include healthful kids meals in the top 10 menu trends for 2012,” said Michael Ty, American Culinary Federation national president. “We are also pleased to see an emphasis on local sourcing across major ingredient categories, including produce, a vital component of children’s diets.”

If you’ve not already pursued area restaurants as a market for your locally grown products, this could be an opportune time to do so. Chefs are often willing to pay a premium for healthy, fresh, local products, and with an anticipated increase in demand, they could be looking for additional suppliers.

For more information, click here.

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