I have developed a strong interest in food waste since I began volunteering at my local food pantry. We help to alleviate food insecurity in the local community by rescuing perfectly edible food that is often past its “sell-by date.” I have cultivated this interest, in part, because food waste also contributes to global warming, another long-time concern of mine.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, if food waste were a country, it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
The worst food waste occurs in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where consumers waste 39% of all food purchased, followed by Europe, where about 31% of all food purchased by consumers is thrown away.
With the global population rising, wastage of products including 45% of all fruit and vegetables and 20% of meat is one of the greatest challenges to achieving food security. If the amount of food wasted around the world were reduced by just 25% there would be enough food to feed all the people who are malnourished, according to the UN.
According to Business Insider, experts estimate that $165 billion worth of food gets tossed each year, much of it wasted, out of fear of bogus expiration dates.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises you to purchase the product before the “sell-by date,” but most expiration dates are largely made up. According to The National Resource Defense Council, the “sell-by dates” simply tell you when food will reach its limits for “optimal quality.”
The USDA notes that it’s OK to eat these foods past the expiration dates on the packaging, with the exception of infant formula. The USDA advises parents to not buy or even use baby formula once the “use by” date rolls around.
A rule of thumb to go by is to pay attention to when you purchased or opened the food, rather than what the packaging says.
If in doubt, the website StillTasty provides helpful tips on when to dispose of hundreds of household goods.
We need more ways to educate the public with regard to the definition of the “sell-by date,” in order to dispel the fear of consuming expired food, thereby reducing food waste. It seems to me that many of us waste a good deal of money, as well as the opportunity help those in need, by disposing of edible food we fear is no longer fit for consumption.
Do you believe that environmental considerations should play a role in setting dietary guidelines? Here in the US, 49 academic centers, health advocacy groups, and environmental advocacy groups that make up the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisary Committee (DGAC) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt tsustainability recommendations developed by the DGAC.
The letter places strong emphasis on plant-based diets, indicating benefits for both human health and the health of the environment. “The food we eat, and how it’s raised, has a profound effect on public health and the environment,” said Bob Martin, director of Food System Policy at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
The letter goes into how the industrial model for meat production in the US is unsustainable and is a potential threat to public health, due in part to the routine use of antibiotics. It also states that the new dietary guidelines should take into account, how meat is raised, (notice they don’t use the word animals) and lowering meat consumption.
In addition, the letter emphasizes sustainable seafood production and eating lower on the aquatic food chain, as industrial fishing over the past half-century has noticeably depleted the topmost links in aquatic food chains, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, one of the technical organizations of the United Nations.
Despite broad support from health and environmental groups, USDA and HHS are facing stiff opposition from lobbying groups for the meat and poultry industries to omit the sustainability recommendations in the final rendition of the revised dietary guidelines. They argue that lean meat consumption is a key component of a healthy diet, and that environmental sustainability should not be discussed with regard to an individual’s diet.
The letter urges the USDA to resist pressure from lobbying groups, stating that “current industrial food production methods can work to undercut the nation’s long-term food security by contributing to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, water contamination, climate change, and antibiotic resistance.”
The public is encouraged to view the Committee’s Advisory Report and provide written comments at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/ The comment period has been extended through 11:59 p.m. E.D.T. on May 8, 2015.
What are your thoughts and concerns regarding dietary guidelines? Do you believe that environmental concerns should play a role in responsible food choices? If so, how much of a role do you think environmental concerns should play in shaping eating habits both collectively and individually?
Whether you choose to be a vegetarian for the environment, for your health, or for the animals, you have the power to reduce your ecological footprint, and save money, simply by changing your eating habits.
Each day, factory farms produce billions of pounds of manure, which ends up in lakes, rivers, and drinking water. The one trillion pounds of waste produced by factory-farmed animals each year are usually used to fertilize crops, and they subsequently end up running off into waterways—along with the drugs and bacteria they contain.
Many tons of waste end up in giant pits in the ground or on crops, polluting the air and groundwater. According to the EPA, agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in USA waterways.
Raising animals (including the land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses 30% of the Earth’s land mass and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined.
Of the grain grown, more than half is fed to farmed animals. Think of how many people around the world could be fed with that grain. To produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of soy protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water.
According to a report by the California State Senate, “Studies have shown that animal waste lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause “inflammatory, immune, and neurochemical problems in humans.”
Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80 percent is used to raise animals for food and to grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states. In the “finishing” phase alone, in which pigs grow from 100 pounds to 240 pounds, each hog consumes more than 500 pounds of grain, corn, and soybeans; this means that across the U.S., pigs eat tens of millions of tons of feed every year.
Chickens, pigs, cattle, and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the USA. A single pig consumes 3-5 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 30 gallons daily. It takes more than 450 gallons of water to produce one pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make one pound of whole wheat flour.
The Worldwatch Institute estimates that at least 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide can be attributed to “livestock and their byproducts.”
If the switch to a vegetarian diet seems too extreme, I suggest cutting back on your consumption of meat and poultry for a few days each week, by experimenting instead, with vegetarian meals.
Being a vegetarian is easier than ever before. I (again) made the switch to a vegetarian diet three years ago, and this time, I haven’t looked back.
Please share your ideas and your questions about vegetarianism and what it means to you.
Because children have smaller stomachs than adults, they need to eat more often to meet their needs for optimum growth and development. Between-meal snacks are an important way for your child to meet part of his or her daily nutritional requirements. After-school snacking provides about one-third of most children’s total daily calories during the week, according to Iowa State University Extension.
Healthy low-sugar snacks for your child can be found within the all of the food groups. This includes grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans. Vary the color and texture of snacks to hold your child’s interest while helping to meet his or her nutritional needs.
In addition to limiting sugar intake, healthy low-sugar snacks should be high in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Healthy low-sugar snacks should have less than 10 to 15g of sugar per serving. They should also have less than 10 percent of the Daily Value for total fat and sodium.
Healthy low-sugar snacks for children include fresh sliced fruits; fruits packed in their own juice,; fresh cut vegetables with low-fat dip; low-fat cottage cheese; low-fat string cheese or sliced cheese; popcorn; low-sugar cereals, such as toasted oats; whole-grain breads; animal crackers; graham crackers; low-fat granola; unsalted nuts and seeds; and low fat milk. Combine these foods to create delicious snacks such as trail mix, individual pizzas and low-fat smoothies.
Reheat small servings of leftovers from the night before to provide a healthy snack for your child. Healthy low-sugar snacks can still taste sweet. Offer frozen fruit bars, low-fat fruit yogurt or dried fruits, such as raisins, dried apples, apricots, pineapple or cranberries. To set a good example and avoid temptation, keep high-sugar snack foods out of the house.
Please share your comments, questions, and in particular, suggestions for future posts.
When dining out, we are faced with many tempting food selections. This post offers straightforward tips for making healthy food choices when ordering a meal in a restaurant.
1. Ask how the food is prepared and take your time when ordering.
2. The more simply something is prepared, the more control you have over what you are eating. Choose plain baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, poached, or steamed food without added sauces or gravy.
4. Avoid foods that are breaded, deep fried, sautéed, scalloped, creamed, in cheese sauce, or prepared with mayonnaise. Ask that the chef to prepare your food with very little butter or oil or none at all.
5. Ask how large the serving size is. If the meal is large, ask that half of it arrive on your plate and the other half be given to you in a take-out bag to go. This way you can stretch the meal into two meals.
6. Ask that bread not be served or if a bread basket is brought to the table, take one piece and then have your server take the rest of the bread away.
7. Order an appetizer and a small salad instead of an entrée or share an entrée with your dining companion.
8. Be selective at salad bars. Choose fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, and low fat or fat free salad dressings. Avoid salads prepared with mayonnaise.
9. Order healthy side dishes such as vegetables or a baked potato.
10. Skip dessert, share a dessert, or order fruit (even if you don’t see it listed on the menu) for dessert.
11. Limit yourself to one or two alcoholic beverages.
12. Ask for fat-free or 1% milk so you can add it to your coffee instead of cream or half-and-half.
14. You can always try virtual reality dining, an experiment in its early stages which includes virtual reality headsets, along with food aromas, to make users think that they are enjoying a range of delicious foods such as lasagne and steak.
Please leave a comment or question. What is your greatest challenge when dining out? What type of ethnic restaurants do you prefer? What future food related topics would you like to read more about in future posts?