How To Minimize Food Waste

How To Minimize Food Waste

stop wasting food words on post-it

By Valentine Reed-Johnson, RD, CDN, contributing blogger

We all do it. Wasting food is easy; what’s harder is putting the time in to prevent waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme 30 to 40-percent of the food supply in the U.S. is waste, which equals more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. Furthermore, the Food Waste Alliance states that in 2010, it was estimated that 60 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S., of which nearly 40 million tons went to landfill. Even though we are all guilty of it, data reveals that more than 70-percent of people say they care about food waste and the environment. If we break this down by generation millennials (ages 18 to 26 in 2016) are twice as likely to throw away their food as baby boomers (ages 51 to 70 in 2016). Being aware of food waste and its repercussions can help prevent future wasting.

Understanding Food Labels
Why does so much food go to waste? One hypothesis is that baby boomers learned from their parents and grandparents how to shop wisely based on their families experiences. However, the millennials are so far removed from this history that they have less guilt when it comes to waste.

Understanding the terms on food labels in a good first step. Food dating emerged in the 1970’s, for those consumers wanting to learn more about the foods being imported at that time. It seems most people throw away food based on the “sell by” date. This is unnecessary wasting, seeing as the “sell by” date reflects a date created by the store merchandising system.

“Best before” and “use by” are other terms that are confusing. These dates mean that the food quality is best before or used by the date provided, but still safe to eat. The term to truly be wary of is “expires on”; this is a reasonable date by which to throw away the item.

What You Can Do?
One third of the food produced in the world is wasted per the United Nations Food Programme. That is an incredibly shocking statistic, one which may spark just one person to change their lifestyle.

Ways you can contribute to preventing waste include:

  • Recycling empty food containers
  • Making smarter choices when food shopping
  • Learning to shop for however many people are in your household by initially shopping for less; shopping from a list may help!
  • Preventing vegetables from rotting by cooking them with pasta and rice, and eating them quickly after buying
  • Bringing the fruit you buy to work with you
  • Freezing fruit and vegetables when so they don’t spoil. You can use them for smoothies later
  • Ordering less when at a restaurant; choose a starter and/or side instead of a full entrée, or share dishes.


Spread the awareness wherever possible, because individuals can contribute to large problems, or they can be the seed to make a drastic change.

Valentine is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, currently working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At the hospital she covers general medicine floors. Eventually, Valentine hopes to open up a private practice alongside her hospital position. Valentine believes in providing practical nutrition knowledge, encouraging others to think logically when it comes to their health. Follow Valentine on twitter or check out her website.

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