Four Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Improve Eating Habits
This post was originally published on the Ontario Public Health Association Nutrition Resource Centre.
The field of nutrition is all about eating for the health of our bodies, but what about the health of our earth? Sustainability is trending, and for good reason – we’re starting to realize that our every day habits have long term consequence, and we need to change our ways. When we think about sustainable eating, a vegetarian or vegan diet might come to mind, however, there are simpler, more obvious ways to include sustainability in our eating habits. It is estimated that we waste about 40% of our food between farm and fork (1). In Canada that equates to a $31 billion problem (2). Simultaneously, Elle Crevits, co-founder of Food Not Waste, found that in her Kitchener-Waterloo community there were about 28,000 individuals accessing emergency food programs (3). Seeing both food insecurity and food waste as pressing problems, Elle Crevits and her partner Jonathan Ramzan set out to make a change in their community through their social enterprise, Food Not Waste. Food Not Waste acts as a link between restaurants, food retailers, and community organizations. They gather and redistribute food that is still perfectly edible, but that businesses will not sell, and put it in the hands and bellies of those most in need. Having only started operations in mid-July, Food Not Waste has gathered over 7,300 pounds of food, which equates to approximately 6,000 meals. What is most unique about this young and innovative company is that 94% of all the food they get is fresh produce; an essential item many food assistance programs fail to provide adequate amounts of. We (the general public) can contribute to reducing food waste as well. Here are 4 tips that you can share with your clients and networks to help them reduce food waste (and improve eating habits), without a drastic diet change. Don’t wait until you’re starving.
Sometimes our busy lives get in the way of fueling our bodies. Waiting too long between meals will leave your body screaming for energy, and when you’re that hungry, you’re going to eat whatever is in front of you, and probably take too much of it resulting in unnecessary waste! Health professionals recommend eating approximately every 4 hours, and including an adequate source of protein, some complex carbs (think whole grains!) and healthy fats (maybe olive oil, avocado, cheese…). This will help slow your digestion and keep you feeling full and fueled. By refueling every 4 hours, we can potentially waste less food by eating the amount our bodies need. Invest in smaller dishware.
Feeling guilty about leaving food on your plate is a common reason for finishing everything on our plates, even if you’re already full. Cups, bowls, and plates have slowly gotten bigger and bigger over the years. Did you know that eating off of a larger plate will result in you taking more food? If you want to test it out without spending a ton of money, try visiting a local thrift shop and pick up a few used dishes that are smaller than the ones you have at home. We can change our portion sizes by eating from smaller dishes, thereby wasting less food in the process. Organize your fridge.
Do you throw out food that has “gone bad” because you didn’t remember it was in the fridge? Keeping your fridge organized will help prevent this needless waste. Try shopping more frequently and only buying what you need for a few days. This can help you keep better tabs on what you have in your fridge. Creating a ‘veggie bin’ with prepared, ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables and keeping it at eye level is a great way to cut down on food waste. If food is convenient, ready-to-eat, and visible, you’re more likely to eat it. Buy things with an intended purpose.
Avoid impulse buys! New, exotic produce may look interesting, but unless you know what you’re going to do with it, chances are you won’t use it and it will end up in the garbage. Trying new foods is a great way to expand your food skills and palate, but do your research beforehand and have a recipe in mind to ensure you’re not wasting your money and throwing out perfectly good food! Alida Iacobellis is a dietetic student at Brescia University College. With a love of fitness and passion for culinary creativity, she aspires to one day become a Registered Dietitian. Alida shares real food recipes and some insight into the world of nutrition at www.nutritionkitchenblog.com. (1) Gunders D. Wasted: How America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. Natural Resource Defense Council, August 2012. (2) Canadian Grocer [Internet]. Rogers Media; 2015. Martin Gooch’s war on waste. Available from: http://www.canadiangrocer.com/top-stories/martin-goochs-war-on-waste-48567 (3) The Food Bank of Waterloo Region [Internet]. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region; 2011. Hunger Count 2014. Available from: http://www.thefoodbank.ca/en/news/hunger_count.asp