Eating Out Sustainably With the Seasons

The Eco-Friendly Perks of Dining at a Restaurant With Seasonal Ingredients

In recent years, a considerable demand has surged into the limelight for sustainable and eco-friendly food choices. It was only natural that the next step extended beyond the grocery store into the restaurant industry, with popular establishments now providing an experience of remarkable quality while inspiring guests to leave free of guilt.

As the need for sustainable eating continues to grow, restaurants are doing their part to help lead the journey for everyone. Majority of the most successful hot spots in the restaurant industry have made pivotal changes toward sustainability, including opting for appliances which optimize the use of water and electricity for maximum conservation, recycling disposable products, scaling back on plastic materials as much as possible, and using paper containers for takeout orders as opposed to Styrofoam, which is non-biodegradable.

Yet one fact is often overlooked: dining at a restaurant with seasonal ingredients offers an abundance of eco-friendly perks you can feel good about, relating to not just the environment as a whole but also your personal health and well-being.

The great news for diners is they don’t have to wait for restaurants to change to make sustainable eating choices. Next time the topic arises, here are some details to keep in mind regarding eco-friendly restaurant practices, along with how to spot these dishes at the right time and dine ethically.

Why Eating Seasonally Is More Sustainable 

There are multiple reasons why eating seasonally is proving to be far more than a trend and has evolved into a permanent fixture of the restaurant industry.

Consider this – would you jump into an outdoor swimming pool on the chilliest day of winter, or take sips from a piping hot mug of cocoa on a humid 100-degree afternoon in Texas? Choosing the most pleasurable actions based upon the current season only makes sense, and that also rings true for the topic of food.

Another advantage of eating seasonally is helping to create a more sustainable world. Choosing to use local, in season foods slashes greenhouse gas emissions by scaling back on transportation demands. When items are used out-of-season, they’re usually coming from somewhere far away, nixing any potential net-positive effect that would benefit the environment.

Lastly, when food tastes better and is all-around healthier, this leads to being finished in its entirety, amounting to less waste. And nothing is greener than reducing how wasteful we have all been at times.

Health Benefits of Eating Seasonally

No one needs proof that a loaf of bread directly out of the oven at the market inside NoPo Café tastes substantially better than a factory-produced bag sitting on a shelf for days. Fresh foods grown and used locally aren’t likely to contain preservatives.

Likewise, we’ve all tasted foods when they were out of season and lacked their regular flavor, such as cantaloupe or tomatoes, even after paying more than usual just to obtain them in their off-months.

One way restaurants are able to keep food costs down for their customers and not regularly fluctuate prices is by emphasizing seasonal items. Of course, this benefit is in addition to the food tasting fully up to its peak by being seasonally fresh and delicious.

For restaurateurs, knowing people aren’t putting unnecessary chemicals into their bodies is a major health benefit of helping them eat seasonally. Plus, supporting organic farming void of GMOs is a way to help build a future where harmful pesticides remain out of everyday foods.

How to Find Restaurants with Seasonal Dishes

In what’s known as the farm-to-table craze which has shaken up kitchens across the country, customers are strongly beginning to prefer a method of eating foods that are sourced locally. Some people might wrongly assume being described as “farm to table” simply implies a Chip-and-Joanna-style aesthetic to design, but in reality the description says it all: no additives are used, and the ingredients are plucked out of the earth and placed directly on the table for consumption. 

For example, as the newest concept from Berg Hospitality, the Trattoria Sofia menu in The Heights neighborhood of Houston uses seasonal and market-fresh ingredients. By sticking to what is fresh at the moment, ingredients are immediately brought into the kitchen where they’re prepared for serving. Dishes like the Bucatini Alla Pesto Siciliano can then integrate key flavors from the finest, perfectly ripe mint leaves, basil, and lemon zest to engulf the eater’s palate in bliss.

What many customers simply need help with is figuring out how to find restaurants with seasonal dishes that incorporate sustainable dining practices. The most promising way to ensure sustainable eating is by checking out menus in advance and reading about the restaurant on their website. Of course, to properly evaluate a menu for its seasonable eating prowess, you’ll first need to know what ingredients are in season.

RELATED: See more about why Berg Hospitality Group created Trattoria Sofia as a romantic dining experience to enjoy rustic Italian fare in a unique but genuine atmosphere.

Popular Ingredients for Each Season

In truth, some restaurants might not even know they’re providing seasonal eating when they use select ingredients year-round. However, you can eye up that menu for yourself and definitely select what’s in season. Here is a little cheat sheet showing a few of the most popular fruits and vegetables for each season.

Spring Recipe Ingredients

Some prominent spring recipes often use the following: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, chives, fava beans, fennel, leeks, mangos, morels, peas, pineapples, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, and watercress.

Summer Recipe Ingredients

You might be surprised how many ingredients hit their prime stage of ripeness in the summer, including: baby carrots, basil, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, capers, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, grapes, honeydew melon, lima beans, okra, parsley, red tomatoes, shallots, strawberries, summer squash, tarragon, tomatillos, watermelon, and zucchini.

Fall Recipe Ingredients

As the leaves fall, keep a lookout for these fall favorites: bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, cranberries, garlic, ginger, grapes, green beans, herbs, kale, kiwifruit, lettuce, mangos, parsnips, pears, peas, pumpkin, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes & yams, Swiss chard, and winter squash.

Winter Recipe Ingredients

Forget about the cold and watch for these ingredients every winter: avocados, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, grapefruit, herbs, kale, kiwifruit, leeks, oranges, parsnips, pears, pumpkin, rutabagas, sweet potatoes & yams, Swiss chard, and winter squash.

Creating a Better Tomorrow With Farm-to-Table Restaurants 

These farm-to-table practices of using seasonal ingredients not only result in meals tasting significantly better, but are no doubt contributing to a better world today and a brighter future for tomorrow. Just the fact you’ve felt compelled enough to research the matter is evidence you’re on the right track. The only next step is to go out and apply the knowledge you’ve gained.