2018-03-09 / Viewpoint

‘Going further with food’ may not include picnic basket

Capt. Lori Maggioni
Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center

COURTESY PHOTO COURTESY PHOTO For National Nutrition Month 2018, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to “Go Further with Food.” Whether it’s starting the day off with a healthy breakfast or fueling before a workout, the foods you choose can make a real difference. Also highlighted this month are ways you can reduce food waste.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food waste occurs when an edible item goes unconsumed. This can happen for many reasons. Retailers like grocery stores may throw out foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, due to how they look; or consumers may leave food on their plates due to large portion sizes. Other examples include buying too much produce, which causes it to spoil before being used, or not using foods before their “best by” dates and throwing them out as a result.

Another term you might hear about is “food loss.” It’s defined as the amount of food that is available for human consumption after it’s been harvested but goes uneaten. This could result from agricultural conditions, such as damage from pests or improper storage conditions. It even includes food loss from cooking, which occurs when foods shrink in size. Food waste is just one aspect of food loss. Both are important but as consumers, we have more control over food waste.

Food waste is important

According to the Eat Right Foundation’s State of America’s Food Waste Report for 2016, “The average American throws away 50 percent more food today [2016] than in 1970. In 2010, Americans threw away 133 billion pounds of food with an estimated net [value] of over $130 billion. To bring these statistics to a more relatable level, the average American tosses out around 300 pounds of food each year. The USDA estimates that the amount of wasted food in 2010 translated into 141 trillion lost calories, which equates to over 1,200 calories wasted per person every day.”

Wasted food is important on many levels and it impacts all parts of the food supply chain. For example, the cost for producing food that goes uneaten affects farmers and business owners, as well as our economy. Consumers are faced with higher food prices and lose money when food spoils at home or gets thrown out as plate waste. Food waste also negatively affects the environment as much of the food that is tossed out winds up in landfills.

Not all food that is wasted can be saved and eaten, but most food waste can be prevented, especially at home. Planning meals and snacks in advance is a good place to start and will help you use the foods you already have on hand. Check to see what food you have in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry first. These items can inspire ideas about what recipes to make for the week. List the ingredients you don’t have so that when you go the store you will only buy what you need.

Help prevent food waste:

• Buy only the amount of food that can be eaten or frozen within a few days

• Place foods that spoil quickly within sight

• Store fruits and vegetables properly: Separate produce that is known to cause others to ripen too quickly

• Get creative with leftovers. Transform meals into soups, salads or sandwiches

• Donate extra food that is still safe to eat to a local food pantry

• Consider composting

This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, but it also urges us to find ways to cut back on food waste. Learning how to manage food resources at home will help you “Go Further with Food,” while saving both nutrients and money. Improving overall well-being requires a commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, emphasizing lasting and enjoyable eating practices, and regular physical activity. To find a personalized plan that works best for you and your family, consult a registered dietitian.

The DDEAMC Nutrition Clinic is located on the 11th floor and offers a variety of group classes and one-on-one counseling sessions to meet individualized nutrition goals. For an appointment, call (706)787-2243, (706)787-3081 or visit IKEnet.

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