November is Flexitarian Month – what does that mean? To get a better sense of what ‘Flexitarian’ means – and why it is considered a more planet-friendly lifestyle – we spoke to our sustainability lead at Compass Group Canada, Jana Vodicka. Jana has spent 14 years leading sustainability programs at Compass Group Canada and other public and private sector organizations.
Flexitarian Lifestyle and Its Effect on our Planet
By Jana Vodicka
What is Flexitarian?
Let’s jump right in; the advantage of a flexitarian diet is it is not about absolutes, unlike vegan and vegetarian counterparts – it is a lifestyle that offers flexibility between protein choices (including both animal and plant-based), however favouring the plant-based protein options as both a health and planet conscience decision. The overall goal is to simply increase the amount of meals that are plant based and actively choosing to eat fewer animal products in everyday meals.
According to a recent report from the United Nations, “almost two thirds of food system emissions come from agriculture and land use…”. The message here is simple. As participants in our global community, we need to look for alternative food sources if we intend to have a real impact when it comes to meeting our recent Planet Promise commitment of Global Net Zero by 2050.
Given Compass Group is one of the largest food suppliers in the world, this puts us in a unique position to own that scale and have a real impact when it comes to issues like reducing carbon emissions directly related to animal agriculture and food waste.
This is not a new concept for us; we are constantly driving new and innovative solutions that support our planet health, a great example being our ongoing participation in the annual Stop Food Waste Day campaign, a digital initiative that shares tips and recipes on how we can reduce food waste at home.
The Choice for a Healthy Planet
As I mentioned, the effect of animal agriculture has been implicated by the United Nations as one of the top contributors to the global environmental problems. The land, water and fossil fuels required to farm and keep animals is significant, not to mention deforestation of property to make space for additional livestock.
With meat consumption across the globe rising, the supply of livestock must grow to keep up. The resulting consequence being an ongoing increase of the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emissions released into the atmosphere. Currently, meat production accounts for approximately 18% of human caused GHG’s, meaning our eating habits have a significant influence on climate change.
To address this issue, we have adopted a Plant-Forward approach to our menu selection. This is not a new philosophy, in fact, in 2012 – Compass was one of the founding members of Menus of Change, which focuses on putting plants at the centre of each plate and has been in practice by our Chefs since its inception.
When meal planning with a focus on plant-based proteins, we offer our guests an opportunity to participate in both a healthier diet choice, as well as reducing their intake of animal agriculture and therefore, harmful emissions.
Putting Flexitarian into Practice
As we look at climate-friendly menus, our goal is to approach the practice in simplified ways that can be easily replicated at home. I checked in with Executive Chef Tyler Hallam, who explains our philosophy to include more plants into meals.
“We’ve built this by focusing on 3 main principles: Flip, Blend and Swap.
- Flip: the tradition portions of meat with vegetables, giving meat a smaller role on the plate
- Blend: meat with vegetable for items like burgers, meatballs and meatloaf
- Swap: traditional meat items for plant-based alternatives”
Of course, I must mention that in our business, this practice is brought to life by our truly talented Compass Group Canada chefs, who scour the world for inspiration when it comes to plant-based foods. They thrive within the opportunity to experiment with flavours and ingredients – creating delicious meals and many happen to be plant-based.
I Want to Follow a More Plant-Based Diet – Where Do I Start?
There are lots of simple ways to incorporate more veggies into your diet. For example, the simple act of swapping half your meatball recipe to include grated veggies like carrots and/or zucchini, is an easy way to move towards a flexitarian diet, without giving up family staples.
Another great way to explore a more flexitarian diet? Look outside your traditional meal selections. As Chef Tyler Hallam says “Taking inspiration from a variety of cultural cuisines is not only great for exploring new flavours and ideas, but it can also help to include more vegetables as there are many cultures that eat more plant-based foods as part of their traditional cuisine!”
Thanks for reading! I wish all of you luck on your flexitarian journey!
Sustainability Lead, Compass Group Canada
Looking for more food waste and plant-based recipe tips? Follow us on Instagram @compassgroupcan where we regularly post new and interesting ways to support a plant-based diet and sustainable food choices!