Go Further With Food: Promoting Healthier Eating Styles, While Reducing Food Loss and Waste

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Written By: Angela Harpell, Dietetic Intern

The USDA determined that in the United States, between 30-40% of all food grown ends up as food waste. Americans throw away nearly 90 billion pounds of food each year. Food waste can occur either at home or while eating out, with studies showing that nearly 44% of post-farm waste happens at home. And that amount does not include all of the food that goes uneaten at the grocery store or the crops left in the farmers field. The easiest place to start reducing food waste is in your own kitchen.

Planning ahead is a simple way to control the amount of food wasted in our own home. Plan meals based on the foods you already have on hand. Be sure to look in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for foods that are close to expiring. Create a meal plan for the week based on what you already have, make a grocery list, and stick to it. In general, Americans tend to buy more food than they can eat due to impulse buys, sales, or savings by buying in bulk. Avoiding the temptation to buy more than needed, simply because it is on sale, can significantly reduce the amount of food wasted within the home.

When you are making your way through the grocery store look for those items that can be eaten or frozen within a few days. A large portion of in home food waste comes from foods going bad before they can be eaten. Highly perishable foods include fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and fish. By buying vegetables already frozen, buying and freezing meats, and properly storing fruits and vegetables, the average household can drastically reduce the amount of food wasted.

The aim is to make only what you can eat. The average size of the U.S. dinner plate is 36% bigger now than it was in 1960. That increase in size is not only affecting the amount of food wasted but it is also having a negative effect on our waistline and overall health. Use portion control and then get creative with leftovers. Keep the leftovers from ending up in the trash and repurpose them into other meals. Take them to work for lunch, eat a leftover meal later in the week, combine them into soups, freeze for later, or wrap them in a tortilla or pita for a tasty sandwich.

As part of National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website, eatright.org, includes articles, recipes, videos, and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Consumers can also follow National Nutrition Month on Facebook and Twitter (#NationalNutritionMonth).

The Lee County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN, at 919-755-5624.