It’s National Nutrition Month: Eat healthier while cutting back on food waste
Each year, billions of pounds of food are thrown away in the U.S. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that such waste equates to roughly 300 pounds of food per year for the average American.
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month and with it comes an opportunity to encourage individuals to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits. This year, MHealthy — the university’s health and well-being program — is also focusing its National Nutrition Month efforts on helping those at Michigan Medicine find ways to cut back on food waste.
“By reducing food waste, you are helping to reduce what goes into landfills, helping the environment and, likely, saving money,” said Erica Owen, R.D., manager of nutrition and weight management programs at MHealthy. “Making thoughtful decisions about your food also means having control over what you’re eating. Planning meals and using what you have on hand is the perfect chance to choose foods that provide you the energy and nutrients needed to stay fueled and focused throughout the day.”
Here are five ways to help reduce your food waste footprint while making healthier food choices:
- Check your stock: Who hasn’t forgotten the chicken that ends up in the back of the freezer? Every so often, do a quick inventory of what foods you already have in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, then plan meals around them.
- Make a list: Once you know what you already have, make a list of just those ingredients you need. It may be hard to resist sales or be tempted by foods you see at the grocery store, but having a list makes you more likely to buy only what’s needed.
- Keep it in sight: Place foods that spoil quickly, like fruits and vegetables, within sight so that you remember to eat them. For example, placing a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter is a great reminder to eat a healthy snack.
- Watch portion sizes: To reduce waste when dining out, as well as to avoid overeating, order a lunch or child-size portion, split a meal with a friend, or ask for a to-go container at the start of the meal.
- Understand dates: Confusion about what dates on foods and drinks mean is another factor that contributes to food waste. Condiments like mustard and ketchup typically have “Use by,” “Best by” or “Best before” dates. If stored properly, these items can be safe to eat beyond the date stamp. Regardless of the date stamped, if you suspect a food is spoiled, don’t eat it.
For more information about food loss and waste in the U.S., visit the Further with Food website.
On campus, Planet Blue’s U-M Sustainable Food Program helps to create a sustainable food system at the university.
And don’t forget, MHealthy provides year-round nutrition programs, healthy dining resources, weight management programs and more to help faculty and staff make smarter food choices. Click here to learn more about MHealthy.