EnvironmentFeaturedFood + Drink

Thoughtful Foodie

The rise of the ‘thoughtfulvore’ – being an advocate for putting more thought into exactly what we’re eating to nourish our future, one mindful bite at a time.

Over the past decade, the concept of sustainability has become a permanent part of our lives. A buzzword in our modern vernacular, we apply sustainability to everything from fuel and materials to the everyday actions we undergo in our lives. One area in which sustainability now goes hand in hand is food. Knowing exactly where our food has come from and how it arrived on our plate is now more important than ever. 

Sustainable eating defined

Being a thoughfulvore means making conscious choices that prioritise the wellbeing of the global environment, our local community and our health. By being more thoughtful when it comes to choosing our food, together we can collectively contribute to a more balanced and regenerative food system, and an evermore harmonious relationship between humans and nature. 

Savouring the flavour of sustainability 

The connection between food and the environment is profound. It reaches deep into ecosystems, cultures and economies. As consumers, we possess the power to reshape the way we produce and consume food, influencing permanent, positive change. When we treat every meal as an opportunity, we choose a path that nurtures not only our bodies but also the intricate web of life that sustains us and our planet. 

“We are living through a time when unprecedented attention is being given to the topic of sustainability, and rightly so,” says Lizzie Rowe from The Sustainable Food Trust (www.sustainablefoodtrust.org) “We face a threat to our very existence in the form of the climate and biodiversity crises. However, when it comes to sustainable diets, the media has tended to boil down this focus into a two-way argument – that between an animal-protein versus a plant-based diet. The story tends to read ‘eating meat is bad, being vegan is good’ and sometimes the ‘meat’ in this argument refers specifically to red meat. However, there is a danger of reducing a hugely complex situation into this single narrative.”

This black and white idea can lead to the problematic assumption that so long as you’re eating a plant-based diet, you’re saving the planet. This, of course, isn’t true. “There’s no point in being vegan for environmental reasons if you are devouring daily avocados with a huge carbon footprint and associated deforestation, or knocking back almond ‘milk’ that fuels a monoculture, destroying biodiversity and killing billions of bees. Nor should you whizz around in a plane all you want because you have been told that ‘a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth’,” says Rowe.

This single narrative fails to recognise conscientious farmers and omnivorous consumers who are part of the solution rather than the problem. Rowe goes on to explain how animal farmers should not be villainized, but instead, agroecological farmers and the consumers who support them should be supported more. Where grazing livestock “enables the maintenance and redeployment of natural grasslands, maximises the production of spontaneous legumes and therefore soil fertility management, it will then contribute to the restoration of biodiversity (including the survival of small mammals like field mice and voles), climate mitigation and high-quality animal production.”  

“If you don’t want to eat animal products, that’s OK,” says Rowe. “So long as you think about the plant-based food you are eating – how it was produced and how it got to you. If you want to eat meat, this is also fine, only if you think about where it came from, and how the animals were raised and killed.” 

A great way to ensure that the highest of standards are met is by looking for the Red Tractor Logo on our foods – another hugely important reason to buy British food – especially meat products, is welfare. Red Tractor is considered world-leading in farming standards, which is why when you see the Red Tractor Logo you can be confident your food and drink is traceable, safe and farmed with care. To be Red Tractor assured, beef, pork, poultry and lamb farmers must work tirelessly to maintain a rigorous set of standards that keep animal welfare at their core and ensure the organisation can deliver full supply chain traceability and safety.

There are of course economic barriers to thoughtful eating. For example, ‘unhealthy’ foods are approximately three times cheaper than healthy ones in the UK. The poorest 10% of UK households would need to spend 75% of their disposable income in order to eat a healthy diet. “These are symptoms of a broken food system that must be remedied if we are to achieve a sustainable future for all,” says Rowe. “In the meantime, for those of us who can already afford to, we must be more thoughtful in our consumer choices.”

But how can we do this? Here are insideKENT’s top tips to becoming a more thoughtful foodie…

Pack in the packaging

Look for unpackaged foods. Loose fruit and veg as well as products with paper packaging is a great way to reduce your plastic footprint. Remember to put the empty bags in the recycling! For packed lunches and leftovers, try beeswax or soy wraps, which are available from Amazon and most supermarkets, instead of clingfilm.

Meal prep to cut the waste

Around 30% of the food we produce is wasted. According to the WWF, if food waste was a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA. Meal planning is a simple and effective way to reduce food waste and be sure you’re eating everything you buy. Check the contents of your fridge, incorporate any leftovers into your meals and freeze anything you can’t eat while it’s fresh.

Choose the Blue Label and Red Tractor Logo

Buying fish? Look out for the blue MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label. The MSC works with fisheries, scientists and industry to ensure that fish is sourced sustainably, protecting the health of our oceans and preserving stocks. Buying milk, meat, veggies or crops? Look out for the Red Tractor Label for assured high standards in food and farming. Buying eggs? Make sure they’re always free range. When you’re shopping look for products containing RSPO certified sustainable palm oil to help stop deforestation.

Eat seasonally

Always try to include seasonal produce from your local Kent farm shop, greengrocer or British growers in your diet. As well as supporting your local economy, you might get to know local producers and more community faces, not to mention tips on how to prepare seasonal foods. When supporting local economies and people, you will also reduce the energy required for their production and transportation. 

Support ethical practices

As well as Red Tractor and Blue Label, select brands, local businesses, supermarkets and products that prioritise fair labour practices, respect animal welfare and demonstrate commitment to social and environmental responsibility. 

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask how these brands and businesses implement these ethical practices, asking them exactly where their produce has come from. If you can’t find in-season British produce in your local supermarket, ask them why.

Shop local and buy British

Read all about why it is so important to be a ‘locavore’ on pages 28-32. Modern food systems, characterised by intensive farming, long supply chains and excessive resource consumption contribute significantly to environmental degradation – this happens when you buy fresh food not grown in the UK instead of buying British. The production, transportation and disposal of food can generate a substantial carbon footprint, release pollutants into the air and water, and contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction. Not to mention when you opt to buy locally, you help your local economy – and in turn yourself – to thrive. It’s even healthier for you to eat local food, too.  

Try out these Kentish businesses to be a thoughtful foodie 

The Ferry House, Isle of Sheppey

The Ferry House firmly believes that local is best – and you don’t get much more local than your own back garden. Taking ‘pride of plate’ on their menu is the bountiful produce from their large kitchen garden, beef and game from their family-farm and local estate, plus award-winning spirits, distilled from their own grains. What they can’t grow, farm or forage, they source from a handpicked selection of Kent’s best local producers.

The Small Holding, Kilndown

This restaurant and farm in Kilndown serves a set menu celebrating the best ingredients available in our region, delivering a unique connection between the land and our table. Opened in 2018 by brothers Will and Matt Devlin, The Small Holding has a key focus on sustainability, with growing and foraging at the heart of what they do.

The Small Holding

Angela’s of Margate

A Michelin Green Star restaurant, Angela’s serves local seafood alongside simple, seasonal vegetable-based dishes. It also has a wine shop selling English and European organic, biodynamic and low-intervention wines that respect both soil and grape. Angela’s work directly with growers, fishermen and suppliers who understand how to make the most of their produce and at the same time minimise the impact on our environment. Angela’s also researches the removal of plastic from their supply chain, from dairy, vegetables and oil through to fish and salt. Angela’s have also started our own co-operative farm and work directly with local fishermen to ensure they help towards the survival of the very small local fleet.

Water Lane

Water Lane, Hawkhurst 

Idyllic walled garden with a vinery, Victorian glasshouses, restaurant and shop. A long-term project over years to come, the historic site is being transformed into a garden for all, combining recreation, dining, experiences and education. The working kitchen garden provides vegetables for the Water Lane restaurant and seasonal cut flowers for florists and events. A short and ever-changing menu, guided by the seasons and the garden, with produce-led cooking that is simple and elegant but prepared with imagination and care. Harking back to its roots, the garden is slowly being returned to its original purpose of growing fruit and vegetables, using organic methods and following the ‘no-dig’ philosophy.

Water Lane

Green Farm, Shadoxhurst

A unique rural retreat and home to the charity The Pearce Coggan Foundation. The 600-year-old main farmhouse, surrounding outbuildings and land have been carefully restored and lovingly nurtured to create a nature-led environment for traditional conservation farming, countryside wellness experiences. Experience wellness weekends, spa stays, a self-catered holiday barn, luxury farmhouse accommodation, boutique spa, yoga studio, classes, events and workshops, and a farm-gate shop as well as a community wildlife and vegetable garden.

Green Farm

Elmley Nature Reserve

An extraordinary place to discover, gather, marry, unwind and connect with nature. With sustainability at the heart of everything they do, Elmley has become a beautiful and thoughtfully designed place to stay for an unforgettable Kent staycation.

Elmley Nature Reserve

Pleasant Land Distillery 

Specialists in distilling local and international produce using 100% renewable energy and passionate about running a fully sustainable business, Pleasant Land have created their own unique processes to reduce their impact on the environment to almost zero. A carbon-neutral business, with processes designed as a circular system, Pleasant Land has reduced their water consumption and waste production by 90%, and their power is produced using 100% renewable sources.

Previous post

A recipe for culinary success: Amazon Prime members now get free delivery on all HelloFresh orders

Next post

Rocksalt's Wine Bar Relaunched