These 20 Food Trends Are Actually Good for the Environment

|Updated Aug 31, 2021
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In a time where everything on our social feed is visual, food trends quickly morph into statements: That stack of pancakes gets a designer twist, while plain old noodles get turned into trending chips. We're also in an era of climate change, which means that recreating the latest food trends quickly leads to questions about ingredient's sustainability.

Our global food system currently accounts for 25 percent of man-made fossil fuel emissions, according to one recent study, and that number could rise even higher in the near future. Luckily, there is a way to stay ahead of the foodie curve while lowering your own carbon footprint and reducing the impact your diet has on the environment.

These 20 viral food trends are worth re-creating, not just for their delicious taste and visual impact, but also because they have among the lowest impact on the environment, which unfortunately cannot be said for most foods, some of which are terrible for the environment.

Eat Plant-Based For the Environment

First, the healthiest foods to eat for you and the planet are plant-based. Just by leaving meat off your plate, you are helping lower the environmental impact of your meals. When we look at the dishes that are worst for the planet, they include meat or dairy. A cheeseburger, for example, is the number one worst food to eat if you're concerned about the planet, generating 5,768 total gCO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent), whereas spicy pickled garlic gives off 83 gCO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) which is completely vegan.

A cheeseburger versus garlic may not seem like an even match, but the point is that raising a cow requires much more energy, and shipping that food to you expends more resources than growing a plant. For example, a single cow will drink 50 gallons of water per day, twice that on a hot day, whereas garlic just needs 16 inches of total water during its growing season. In addition, animals raised on factory farms produce 500 million tons of manure each year, according to the EPA, often stored in waste “lagoons,” reports PETA. These waste-filled lagoons "emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans," according to a report by the California State Senate. There's no parallel to be made with garlic for this one. Add to that the carbon footprint of the feed it takes to raise the animal and you get into exponential numbers of greenhouse gases.

Be Aware Which Foods Are Climate Friendly

The second best way to ensure a healthier environment and reduce your carbon footprint is to choose climate-friendly foods. Therefore, Uswitch, a tech service company investigated which food trends contribute the most and the least greenhouse gas emissions. To check a favorite of your food choices, use the My Emissions Food Carbon Footprint Calculator.

The list is based on the top trending foods on TikTok, and the findings are meant to raise awareness about the consumer choices we make – and encourage more people to skip the cheeseburgers and choose the quinoa salad instead. Of the list of the 20, the top nine are totally planet-friendly foods, and after that, the list includes some dairy, shellfish, and meat.

Here are the top 20 food trends in order based on their impact on the climate. This list may make you re-think your next meal.

  1. Spicy Pickled Garlic, Total Emissions: 83
  2. Corn Ribs, Total Emissions: 289
  3. Acai Bowl, Total Emissions: 354
  4. Beetroot Hummus, Total Emissions: 375
  5. Smashed Brussels Sprouts, Total Emissions: 428
  6. Tiktok Pasta Chips, Total Emissions: 468
  7. Grazing Boards, Total Emissions: 476
  8. Homemade Bread, Total Emissions: 484
  9. Baked Oats, Total Emissions: 501
  10. Chilli Garlic Scallops, Total Emissions: 522
  11. Bruschetta, Total Emissions: 541
  12. 3-Ingredient Creme Brulee*, Total Emissions:  564
  13. Cloud Bread, Total Emissions:  582
  14. Bacon and Pancakes, Total Emissions:  583
  15. Vegan Buffalo Wings, Total Emissions: 642
  16. Cream Tea, Total Emissions: 643
  17. Potato Galette, Total Emissions:  647
  18. Sunday Roast - Nut roast, Total Emissions:  702
  19. Chilli Oil Eggs, Total Emissions: 713
  20. Eggs Florentine, Total Emissions:  735

If you would like to eat begin eating plant-based or add more plant-based foods to your diet, sign up for The Beet's free 7 Day Beginner's Guide for daily recipes and helpful tips to stay motivated.