March is National Nutrition Month and the theme is “Go Further with Food!” We already discussed how you can ‘go further with food’ as fuel by its power to enhance the quality and duration of your workouts but how about addressing how we can stretch our food dollar, decrease waste and improve environmental health? It’s a win-win-WIN!
Our food choices not only affect our direct health but affect everything from the farm worker, to the manufacturer, to the gas emissions from shipping, to the earth itself related to the waste produced (or avoided). Food waste is a serious issue in the United States with undeniable consequences, but it is also an opportunity for everyone to up their game, be more mindful of, and choose to make choices to affect positive change. The National Resource Defense Council reports that America is not consuming up to 40% of their food,1 that is astonishing and an unfortunate fact we have the power to alter.
- Americans throw out more than 1,250 calories per day per person, more than 400 pounds of food per person annually.2
- Food waste accounts for a loss of up to $218 billion each year, costing a household of four an average of $1,800 annually.
- 42 million Americans face food insecurity—and less than one-third of the food we throw out would be enough to feed this population completely.
- On a global context, the average American consumer wastes 10 times as much as his/her counterpart in Southeast Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.1
We can come together to make a real difference in addressing this issue. Each of our individual choices adds up to significant changes.
Four simple ways to reduce food waste is literally at your fingertips, can you commit to do your part today?
4 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
- Check the pantry and refrigerator: Before you head to the grocery store, scan your kitchen for what’s already there. Use what you have before it spoils, goes stale or gets forgotten about and save from getting repeat items you already have while saving some $$. It only takes a moment but is so important, make a list of items that could compliment these to make meals, snacks or goodies for the pot luck or school gathering.
- Understand dates and food labels: Food labels that have a “best if used by” or “sell by” date don’t necessarily mean they should be thrown away at this time. It simply means that the quality is at its peak before this date. In most cases, these foods are safe to eat beyond the date listed when stored properly. Unsure, go to https://www.foodsafety.gov/ or download the App.
- Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry and freezer: Remember the leftovers from last weekend, or soup mom brought? “Oh yea!” Well, “Out of sight, Out of mind” rings true when it comes to storing food in fridges, pantries, freezers, drawers, backpacks, coolers…. Try to keep things neat and visible, moving things from the back to the front (oldest to newest = front to back), an easy way to keep it fresh and organized. Think “first in, first out,” When you buy new groceries, move the older products to the front so you consume them first, easy peasy!
- Get Creative with Leftovers (and actually eat them!): Have some veggies leftover in the fridge from the day before? Use them in an omelet or stir-fry! Milk on the brink? Make a point to have cereal for breakfast the next few days. Simple choices, awareness and intention in behavior can add up to a big difference in the home over time. Dining out? Try to scale back on size of entrees, split with a friend, if you don’t intend to eat the leftovers or bring your own container to bring back home.2It’s the simple, small steps that can reduce our food waste. We may not be able to solve all of these issues immediately, but we can all do something toward food waste reduction. It truly does matter.
Going further with your food not only helps the environment, but your wallet and waistline as well. Want more info? Check out
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Further with Food: The Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions
- U.S. Food Waste Challenge
And as always, contacting a registered dietitian can always be a useful resource when it comes to fresh and new ideas to reduce your food waste and improve your health!
- Gunder, D., & Bloom, J. (2017). WASTED: HOW AMERICA IS LOSING UP TO 40 PERCENT OF ITS FOOD FROM FARM TO FORK TO LANDFILL. The Natural Resources Defense Council, 4-5. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf.
- Spiker ML, Hiza HAB, Siddiqi SM, Neff RA. Wasted Food, Wasted Nutrients: Nutrient Loss from Wasted Food in the United States and Comparisons to Gaps in Dietary Intake. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017;117(7):1031-104