March is National Nutrition Month® and the theme for 2018 is encouraging all to
“Go Further with Food,” not only by welcoming the numerous benefits of healthy eating habits and
physical activity, but also by urging us to find ways to cut back on food waste.
I am a fan of this year’s theme because it reminds us, the consumers,
to manage food resources at home while saving both nutrients and money.
Some commonly wasted foods are fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and
seafood. This results in wasted nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber,
and vitamins, as well as minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D.
Let’s celebrate National Nutrition Month® and
“Go Further with Food” all year. Here are five tips to get started.
Plan meals based on foods you already have.
Look into your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. The items on hand will
give you inspiration for meals that you can prepare for the week. If you’re
missing ingredients for a recipe, you can go to the store with a plan
and purchase what you actually need.
Only buy food you’re able to eat before its expiration.
Do you ever find yourself walking down the aisles of your local grocery
store and end up buying items that you had to throw away 1 week later
because you forgot it was in the refrigerator and no longer was safe to
consume? Next time shop with a list and only buy the amount of food that
you or your family will eat or freeze in the next few days. The purchased
foods that are likely to spoil quickly should be visible so that you remember
to eat them.
Store food properly to prevent food spoilage.
Planning meals is an important step in reducing food waste, but by planning
to only purchase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that will be
used within a few days can further reduce nutrients and food wasted. Also,
washing produce is an essential food safety practice, however washing
some fruit too far in advance and placing it in the refrigerator can speed
up the fruits’ decay due to excess moisture. In addition, how you
store produce in the refrigerator is also important to prevent food spoilage.
For example, food science suggests apples can cause some other fruits
and vegetables to ripen more quickly, therefore keep them in a separate drawer.
Read dates on food items.
What do “use by…best by…best before…and sell
by” dates actually mean? Food manufactures provide these dates based
on what they consider to be the best quality for that specific food item.
Foods like ketchup, mustard, and other condiments have suggestions of
“use by” dates, however in many cases these items are safe
to eat beyond the stamp date if they have been stored properly. Perishable
foods such as meats and dairy typically have a “sell by” date.
It is possible these foods may be used few days after the stamp date as
long they were stored at safe temperatures. Regardless of the date stamped
on the package, don’t risk eating or drinking anything that you
suspect has spoiled. For more information on food proper storage refer to
Is My Food Safe or the
USDA Food keeper apps.
Go further with food when you eat out. Be mindful of portion sizes. Portions of food over the years have increased
in size, therefore order smaller sizes of foods or drinks when eating
away from home. If that is not an option, ask for a to-go container at
the start of the meal, and set aside some left overs you can enjoy for
the next day.