What do your "waist" and "waste" have in common? Lisa D. Katic, R.D., walks us through some ways to apply food conservation to your daily life with the side benefit of improving your health.
by guest columnist Lisa D. Katic, R.D.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2015” list, food waste ranks nine out of the top 20 food trends to watch this year. Do we really need a trend survey to tell us that wasting 31% of the food we produce is unacceptable? If it gets the public’s attention then sure, but food waste has been a problem in the United States since the onset of a more convenience-driven diet.
The amount of food wasted globally each year is more than enough to feed the world’s nearly one billion hungry people. Globally, we also happen to be one of the heaviest countries, and I don’t mean in terms of mass but of individual weight with sixty percent (60%) of consumers in the United States being overweight or obese. Is this a coincidence or are there ways in which our waist lines are tied to our waste lines?
What positive changes can you make in your daily lives to decrease your food waste at home and improve your health or waistline at the same time? Here are several simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of food you contribute to our landfills each year:
- Eat Smaller Portions. The first and obvious step. Portion distortion in the United States is contributing as much to the obesity epidemic as it is to the food waste epidemic. We all eat with our eyes and often times our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. When shopping, be mindful of the amount of food you are buying and buy exactly what you need for a particular recipe or meal you are preparing. If a recipe only requires one onion and two carrots then buy only one onion and two carrots for this meal or recipe. We often buy in bulk thinking that we are getting a better deal; however, a great deal of unused food eventually expires and is ultimately tossed before preparation/consumption. It can also lead us to eat beyond our hunger cues because we are trying not to waste food so we eat more than we need to be satisfied.
- Shop Smarter and Plan Ahead. Using meal-planning or grocery shopping apps can be a great way to avoid impulse buying at the grocery store and will fill your cart with foods you will actually use and eat. Here are some well-known and highly recommended apps for this purpose:
- Meal Planning by Food.com: Get five personalized dinner plans, one for each night of the week, an organized grocery list with local sales delivered to the Food.com app.
- Evernote Food: Evernote Food helps you remember the food you love. From finding great new restaurants to documenting how to make family recipes, Evernote Food gives you one place to discover, collect, and remember your life’s memorable moments in food.
- MealBoard and Grocery Planner: MealBoard combines recipe management, meal planning, groceries and pantry management into a single app. It is fully customizable. You can manage your recipes, ingredients, food categories, meal types, stores, store aisles, grocery items and many more with its clean, uncluttered interface.
- Keep a List. When cooking at home, practice keeping a list of what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry. This will mitigate the desire to buy foods we already have in storage. Keeping dates on freezer items will help you rotate food in the freezer more often and give you ideas about what to buy to supplement what is in the freezer. Move older products to the front of your fridge or freezer to ensure using up older items before they expire.
- Ditch the Recipe. Learn to cook without a recipe and establish cooking habits that focus on flavor profiles instead of exact amounts of ingredients. This will allow you to always use what you already have in your pantry or fridge instead of buying new ingredients for the latest recipe. Recipes can be tricky, as you may only need a very small amount of an ingredient; e.g., chilies or tomato paste. Trying to figure out what to do with the remaining portions can be frustrating to the cook and will often times never be used again. The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, encourages free-style and more intuitive cooking using complimentary flavors and techniques; a good resource for those wanting to dump the recipe route and go free-style in the kitchen.
- Don’t Scrap the Scraps. A current and well-practiced trend in restaurants and food service establishments is to use up every part of a vegetable or animal instead of throwing out ingredients that can add flavor to foods. Chefs are finding ways to use broccoli stems, tops of carrots or other roots that would traditionally be discarded due to perceived lack of flavor or appeal. Remember that soft or overripe fruit can be used in smoothies, home-made ice cream, purees/sauces or fruit based salsas. Vegetable and meat scraps are always great additions to soup stocks, sauces or ragus. By increasing your ability to use up all fruits and veggies before they turn on you, you will not only decrease your waste but will find ways to boost your fruit and vegetable quotient which are known to be some of the most nutritious in the food supply.
By simply being aware or adopting any one of these steps, you help starve your local landfill. Remember: buy just enough, eat just enough; it’s good for your health and good for the planet.
Lisa D. Katic is President of K Consulting, a practice based in Washington, DC specializing in food policy, communications and education. K Consulting creates awareness campaigns on hot button issues and provides strategic counsel for a number of clients. Lisa started her own consulting business specializing in communications and public affairs after spending 10 years building a network within the food and nutrition arena.She works on behalf of clients to tell their unique stories to appropriate audiences and creates environments that are favorable for their products.
Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. She is a registered dietitian (RD) and an active member of professional associations, including the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, the Institute of Food Technologists, the American Institute for Wine and Food, and the French Wine Society.
Lisa has debated on critical nutrition issues both domestic and international, has testified on Capitol Hill, and in front of federal, state and international regulatory agencies. She represents her clients with the media and has conducted media interviews on NBC’s Today, CNN, the Food Network and all of the major evening news programs.