What is on the ecotarian menu?

19 December 2018

By Simone LamersGoedBegin.blog

This article is the second of a set of which the first article, titled ‘What defines the ecotarian?’ introduces the term for planet proof eaters and explains, based on the climate impact of several product categories, what would be avoided in an ecotarian menu. For the total impact of a product, land use, soil acidification, pollution, pesticides and method of production should be considered. But a good relative comparison between categories can be made looking at water use and CO2 emission as displayed in the graph.

Chart 1

Production of plant and vegetable products obviously are least damaging for our planet. Though water use for plant products is in some cases comparable to that of animal products, the CO2 emission is far lower. The total impact on the environment of plant products therefor turns out lower than that of animal products. Besides this, influence on pollution, soil acidification, deforestation and land use are in nearly all cases less harmful for plant products.

As the ecotarian reduces the amount of animal products consumed, I can hear you think: ‘no meat, less cheese, dairy and fish; all I can eat is salad.’ Luckily for you, this article shows what you can actually eat as ecotarian. Online, tons of recipes with climate proof products are available to make your life easier, and the dietary centre of nutrition has formed an extensive advice showing that an ecotarian menu supports your dietary needs.

Meat and dairy replacers

The supermarket shelves are filled with them, products designed to replace your piece of meat one on one. These products turn out to be the easiest choice for an amateur ecotarian. Besides convenience, an additional advantage is that these products are fortified with vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be obtained from animal products. Usually, meat replacers are based on soy, lupine, wheat or oats. Other variants contain cheese or eggs. These options naturally are less sustainable.

Plant based dairy substitutes are based on soy, rice, nuts, oats or spelt. Of these options, oats, being to most sustainable, are the way to go. The origin of soy beans is important to consider for a complete sustainability picture. Outside of Europe soy farming practices are not always as sustainable for forests and meadows are turned into production acres to answer the growing demand for soy (often for feed). Countries such as France and Italy also grow soy. On websites of plant based dairy brands the origin and sustainability of the resources used is often elucidated.


Chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, brown beans, white beans, black beans, pinto beans, lima beans and kidney beans. All legumes and often used in dishes without meat, cheese, egg or dairy. Your cooking creativity will be challenged to go behind traditional combinations, but the internet of things is your best friend in these cases. Furthermore, several rather well-known products are made of legumes, such as tempeh, tofu, falafel and hummus.

Nuts, seeds and peanuts

Nuts are generally praised for their health benefits. Just like seeds, they are packed with minerals and good unsaturated fats. Great, as nuts and seeds are perfectly fit for an ecotarian menu. The graph shows that despite all the benefits, growing nuts requires a decent amount of water. The CO2 emission related to growing nuts is however much lower than for animal products.

When buying nuts pay attention to the country of origin. Many nuts are grown on the other side of the world which directly means harmful transportation over a long distance is required. Furthermore, there is a difference in water use between types of nuts. Pistachio nuts, cashew nuts and almonds require a lot of water. Chestnuts, peanuts and walnuts use more sparing.

Seaweed, algae and insects

Great sources of protein for the ecotarian, packed with minerals and vitamins, are algae, insects and seaweed. The first products from companies such as Seamore Food, Sea Green, Jimini’s and Goodlife are already in the supermarkets, and start-ups like Burgsfoods are working hard on making these products conventional food choices.

Considering land use, (fresh) water use, CO2 emission and pollution, these new protein sources are super sustainable. The nutritional values are promising. Insects, algae and seaweed can provide us with essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. This means they could be fully adequate to replace the traditional piece of meat. Research and development in this field is ongoing and regulations and a complete nutritional advice are still being formed.

Are you the next ecotarian?

You’ve got your head on your shoulders. I know this, as despite your resistance against reducing your consumption of meat, cheese and dairy, you still finished this blog post. In the end, we all want to be happy. The choice for harmful products might give you short term happiness, your long-term happiness however will be restricted as the earth is directed to an uninhabitable environment. Can we not all truly enjoy what we eat just a bit more? Buy high quality, really use our senses when eating and therefore feel satisfied after our meals? Could we go for less is more and feel utterly treated when we get to celebrate at Christmas, Easter, Eid al-Fitr and wedding days? I hope you are inspired to gradually move towards being an ecotarian.

Product Daily portion CO2 

(kg/kg product)


(kg/daily portion)

Water usage

(L/kg product)

Water usage

(L/daily portion)

Milk 150 ml 2 0.3 1020 153
Soymilk 150 ml 0.8 0.12 296** 44.4
Egg 120 gr (2 eggs) 5.1 612 3300 396
Cheese 40 gr (for 1,5 sandwich) 12.9 516 5100 204
Legumes** 70 gr () 0,9*** 63 4055 283.85
Walnuts 25 gr (1 handful) 2.3*** 0.0575 9000 225
Chicken 100 gr 13.4 1.34 4325 432.5
Pork 100 gr 14.3 1.43 6000 600
Beef 100 gr 57.9 5.79 15415 1541.5

*water use is the total global average of fresh water sources, rain water and water required to clean pollution caused by production. This concerns water for growing feed crops, drinking water for the animals, service water for cleaning of stables and cows and water used in meat processing. The CO2 emission and water use values are based on calculations of the centre of dietary, blockconsultants and waterfootprint, complemented with values from the artikel, the water footprint of soy milk and soy burger and equivalent animal products; A. Ertug Ercina,*, Maite M. Aldaya B, Arjen Y. Hoekstra en *** greeneatz.


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