Food waste is a continuous issue in our society. Approximately one-third of the food produced for human consumption is thrown out or lost. Efforts to consume healthier diets have recently become popular in industrialized countries. However, according to a study done by the University of Vermont, individuals who eat healthier tend to produce more food waste than those who eat a lower quality diet. The study found that fruit and vegetable dishes were most likely to be thrown away (39%), compared to dairy (17%) and meat dishes (14%). What can we do to prevent this from happening, while still promoting healthy eating?
Food Waste Prevention
Sharing information about the proper time to throw away food will give individuals an understanding of how long the food in the fridge is good for. The same applies to sharing information on alternative ways to use the produce as it begins to wear and tear. There is a difference between abrasion and spoilage of fruits and vegetables. Abrasion in food includes the imperfections—small bruises, scrapes, or mushy areas. These imperfections can be cut off or used in stir-fries, soups, smoothies, or juices. Spoiled food is when food has deteriorated and deformed so that the quality is too poor for human consumption. Spoiled food items should be decomposed. Education surrounding best-before labels, meal prep, and shopping on task is useful for helping consumers make decisions in the grocery store that lead towards a reduction in food waste.
Tips on using your fruits and vegetables before they go bad.
Freeze your kitchen scraps for vegetable stocks, gravy, or vinegar kitchen cleaners.
Vegetable stock: boil and soak vegetable scraps for a couple hours to draw out the rich flavours for a soup base, strain the liquid mixture and decompose of the solids. Store the vegetable stock for up to a week in the fridge or freeze for up to a month.
Gravy: prepare vegetable stock, add flour, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper until thickened and desired taste is reached. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or freeze for 2-3 weeks.
Kitchen citrus cleaner: add citrus peels to a glass jar, cover with white vinegar, let sit for 2-3 weeks. Fill up a glass bottle halfway with the citrus vinegar, top up with water and add essential oils (optional). Use on kitchen and bathroom surfaces or floors. Compost leftover peels.
Kitchen composting: bury your scraps 8-10 inches below ground level, cover with dirt and turn over the compost material every week, mist with water frequently. After decomposed, you may use the soil as fertilizer in your garden to grow vegetation.
Low-quality diets may produce less food waste, but they are associated with negative health impacts. To truly reap the benefits of a healthy diet, individuals should strive towards eating healthy food while also keeping food waste minimization in mind and in practice.