EAT WELL: How to fight food waste

Cheryl Mussatto | MS, RD, LD

One of our most precious commodities we need to survive is food. Food is simply too good to waste. No matter how sustainable a farm may be, if the food is wasted it does no one any good. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month, which is equivalent to Americans throwing out $165 billion each year.

“When food is wasted, it not only is expensive but it also places pressure on the environment since resources such as water and land are needed to produce our food,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Where wasted food ends up is at landfills where it sits there rotting. This makes wasted food the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste that accounts for a large portion of methane emissions in this country. This is not acceptable and we all can do better.”

If food waste could be reduced by just 15 percent, that would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food in their home.
The good news is there are several things each of us can do on our part to help fight food waste and become a food waste warrior. Here are some things you can do to make the most of the groceries you bring home and cut back on what ends up in the compost bin or landfill.

• Always plan ahead when buying food
Before you step out the door to go grocery shopping, be sure to check your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer to see what you need and what you do not. Bring a shopping list with you, sticking to that list, and avoid shopping when hungry. Having a full stomach can help consumers avoid over-buying food.

• Keep an organized fridge
Put items close to their expiration date at the front of the fridge so they get eaten sooner. Use clear storage containers to help you quickly identify foods. Consider using an app like Fridgely, which can help you record and track your fridge contents.

• Donate food to feed the hungry
One in six Americans is food insecure.
“Donating excess food to community organizations or food banks is an excellent way to help get food to those who need it most,” Dr. Samadi said. “Become familiar with organizations or food banks within your community to know where to take food to donate. Have a plan to donate as frequently as possible as these facilities are always in need of whatever we can give to help those with little to eat.”

• Plan your perishables
Be sure to eat up your most perishable fruits and veggies first to avoid food waste that will only end up in the trash. Buy only what you will need and use at a time or consider purchasing frozen or canned versions that will last longer.

• Don’t throw vegetable scraps away
Get creative with scraps of veggies instead of tossing them out. Add them as garnishes to salads, stir into soups, mix in with a casserole or grow them, for example, instead of throwing away unused sprigs of parsley, fill a glass jar about a quarter full of water, place the cut ends of parsley in it and watch it grow. You will never have the need to buy parsley again. Check out savethefood.com for a collection of recipes that use chicken bones, stale bread, potato peels and other food scraps.

• Freeze in portions
Freezing is one of our best methods of preserving food while maintaining its nutrients. Some sage advice from savethefood.com suggests using a muffin tin to freeze stews and chili in portions that are perfect for lunch. Freeze berries on a cookie sheet separately for about half an hour then transfer to a bag so they do not stick together in a clump. Even sauces can be stored in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes out of the trays when you need them to avoid defrosting too much.

• Love your leftovers
According to the website lovefoodhatewaste.com, a major reason people waste food is that they prepare too much. The solution? Save, properly store and repurpose leftovers. Keep leftovers in the fridge and eat them within two to three days, or recreate leftovers into new dishes such as post-holiday turkey sandwiches or omelets made with leftover veggies.

• Store food properly
Proper storage makes a huge difference in how long food stays fresh.

“Storage temperature affects food safety more than just about any other factor,” Dr. Samadi said. “Little things like keeping your refrigerator temperature set at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at zero degrees to keep food fresher longer is important. Keeping ready-to-eat food on the top or middle shelves, raw meat on the bottom and fruits and vegetables in refrigerator drawers in their original packaging can keep foods safe and fresh.”

Check out www.savethefood.com/food-storage that provides guidance on how to store and revive your favorite foods, including keeping herbs with their stems in a glass of water, wrapping cheese in wax paper, not plastic, and recrisping celery by soaking it in ice water.

Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and is a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi and www.nutroutine.com, an online market place connecting nutrition experts with customers worldwide. View her website at www.eatwell2bewellrd.com and she can be contacted at cmussatto@hotmail.com.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News channel’s Medical A-Team and Sunday Housecall and is the chief medical correspondent for AM 970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m. www.samadimd.com

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