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Published on January 25th, 2008 | by Guest Contributor


Sustainable Restaurants Offer Healthy Eating Options

Luckily, the days of dreary “health-food” dining with its meager offerings of bland tofu and alfalfa sprouts are long past.  These days, any city you travel to will likely feature restaurants serving food that is both nutritious and a delight to your palate.

Aside from the shift to make healthy food more innovative and appealing, there is a growing interest among chefs and restaurant owners to make their businesses more sustainable.  It is no longer uncommon for restaurants to support local and organic producers, and to design their menus only around foods that are in season.

A new emphasis on quality ingredients combined with an awareness of the social, cultural, and environmental impacts of food production and procurement has revolutionized the restaurant as we once knew it.  The concept of “eating well” now encompasses a much broader spectrum, entailing more than taste alone…

The Slow Food Movement

“Slow Food” is everything that fast food is not.  The Slow Food Manifesto declares that: “A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.”

Tapas for Slow Food EatingThe Slow Food Movement, founded in the 1980’s by Carlo Petrini, resulted from Petrini’s resistance to the opening of a McDonald’s on the steps of Rome’s Piazza di Spagne.

Since then, the movement has grown and given birth to the Slow Food Organization, with more than 80,000 members in over 100 countries.  The Slow Food Movement contributes to growing awareness of the benefits of focusing on a slower, more natural, and organic lifestyle by promoting the principles of:

  • environmental sustainability
  • economic equality
  • social justice
  • high quality
  • taste

Throughout the developed world, the movement works to preserve culinary heritage and protect biodiversity and threatened agricultural practices.  Its objectives include:

  • developing programs to preserve family farms
  • teaching gardening and slow food values to youth
  • lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering.
  • rallying to save endangered breeds of animals and heirloom species of produce by sponsoring strategies for trying to save them.

Judging from recent statistics—which state that 93% of American food product diversity has been lost since 1900, 33% of livestock varieties have virtually disappeared, and 30,000 vegetable varieties have become extinct in the last century—Slow Food has not come a moment too soon.

Online Restaurant Resources

Visit the Slow Food USA Web site to learn more about the Slow Food Movement, find out about upcoming events near you, and locate slow food restaurants in your area.  If you are outside of the U.S., consult the Slow Food International site.

Another indispensable online source for finding restaurants that are in line with your sustainable living values is Local Harvest’s restaurant directory.  Simply type in your zip code and click ‘search’ to discover a world of healthy, organic, and sustainable restaurants, whether it’s on your next vacation or just a special night out away from home.

Vegetarian and Vegan Dining

Food Preparation

Depending on where you are in the world, following a vegetarian or vegan diet can be challenging when you are away from home and have to rely on restaurants for your meals.  Many restaurants do not cater at all to vegetarians.  Even when a dish is said to be composed of all vegetables, it may have elements of meat in some part of its preparation.

But finding restaurant dishes without meat is often easier than finding dishes that are fit for a vegan.  As butter, eggs, and cheese are staples in the culinary world, a vegan can find themself hard pressed to locate a menu item that doesn’t contain at least one of these ingredients.

Knowing your vegetarian/vegan restaurant options before you leave home is one way to ensure that the restaurants you visit will have delicious and healthy food that you can eat.  A comprehensive guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants around the world can be found at vegguide.org.

Raw Food

Raw Food Dish

Uncooked plant-based foods are considered to be raw and alive.  Raw foods include thing like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, sprouted legumes, seaweed, and micro algae.  Raw foodists maintain that the heat from cooking food destroys the valuable live enzymes that offer superior nutritional value.  Switching to a raw food diet has helped many people overcome years of poor health and illness.  Raw food’s positive reputation as a means of achieving vibrant health and increased energy continues to flourish.

Raw restaurants are cropping up all over the U.S. and most incorporate very high-quality, organic ingredients into their menus.  For a good online directory to raw food restaurants, search the rawfoodinfo.com database, which covers 30 states and six countries outside of the U.S.

The concept of “eating well” now encompasses a much broader spectrum, entailing more than taste alone…

Last year, the National Restaurant Association reported that, in the next decade, more than half of Americans’ average food budget will be spent on meals bought outside the home.  It is undeniable that the restaurant has become an essential element of the busy American lifestyle.  Your choice to support sustainable restauranteurs can spare you not only the time it takes to make dinner—it can also spare your health and the food supply for future generations.

Article Contributors: Julie Reid

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