Food Ethics: Vegetarianism, Veganism and Slow Food

Food Ethics: Vegetarianism, Veganism and Slow Food

Fast food restaurants across Southern Europe are increasingly offering products that are as good for you as they are for the environment.

In the past, eating for convenience was synonymous with eating unhealthily. The term “fast food” conjured up images of highly processed burgers and chicken wings loaded with additives, sugar and saturated fat – and produced in ways that were detrimental to the environment. Fortunately, trends are changing both globally and across Southern Europe, with more on-the-go restaurants than ever now offering healthy, ethically made alternatives that are equally good for your body and your conscience.

A change in perception

In recent years, people have become more conscious than ever before about the effects of eating unhealthily. There has also been a shift towards a more ethical way of eating – vegetarianism, veganism and the slow food movement have all gained momentum as people look for ways to minimise their impact on the planet in this era of end-stage climate change. Some of the perception shift can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants closed and people were confined to their homes, they found they had time to cook healthy, sustainable meals that tasted great and made them feel great too. It’s hard to go back to processed food once you’ve become used to wholesome home cooking.

The increased demand for plant-based products is driven by a new level of awareness, generated in part by celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix and Billie Eilish espousing their views on social media, and by documentaries like Cowspiracy and The Game Changers. The films shed light on the environmental damage caused by a carnivorous diet and also show that sacrificing meat does not mean sacrificing personal fitness. Animal products have always reigned supreme in Southern Europe, from jamón ibérico to escargots. Now almost a tenth of people living in France, Italy and Spain avoid eating meat, according to a recent Statista study. In France, the sales value of plant-based meat alternatives increased by 100% from 2018 to 2020.

Eating well, on the go

This rise in demand for plant-based foods (from vegans and vegetarians, as well as from flexitarians, who still eat animal products but strive to go meat-free on certain days for health or ethical reasons) has inevitably affected the menus in fast food restaurants everywhere. In Southern Europe, this means you can now order veggie burgers at all the big fast food chains. Most restaurants now publish calorie and ingredients information, giving consumers better information about what they’re putting into their bodies.

It has also given rise to numerous chains that are entirely devoted to healthy eating, with restaurants serving fast food made using fresh ingredients, sourced locally to reduce carbon emissions, now in cities across Spain, France, Portugal and more. From salads to soup and quiches, healthy fast food options are now easy to come by in Southern European restaurants, while high levels of lactose intolerance in Spain and Italy help to drive the availability of milk alternatives for your café con leche or latte to go.

(*) Average meal price calculated on the basis of starter and main course or main course and dessert, excluding drinks, menu and promotional offers. The average price is an estimate only, calculated according to the prices provided by the restaurant. Depending on the country, the average price may or may not include all taxes.