Healthy eaters can be proud of their nutrient-rich diets, but a recent study shows that the healthier you eat the more food you are likely to waste. The average American wastes nearly a pound of food every day, a new University of Vermont study concluded. But a person’s exact amount depends on how healthy their diet is.
In the study, published April 18 in the journal PLOS One, researches found that consumers who ate higher-quality diets were also those who were the most prone to planet-harming food waste. Investigators reported that as much as 39 percent of food waste in the United States is made up of fruits, vegetables and dishes made from produce. Dairy was the second biggest culprit, making up 17 percent of the nation’s waste. Meat made up 14 percent.
“Eating healthy is important and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste,” study co-author Meredith Niles, an ecologist at the University of Vermont, said in a statement.
The study also found that healthier diets used less land than lower quality diets, but they led to greater waste in irrigation water and more prevalent use of pesticides — both frequently used products of maintaining successful cropland.
Things you can do to help cut down on food waste
Americans waste about 150,000 tons of food daily. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Embrace “imperfect” food. That disfigured eggplant or that ugly carrot — they’re just as nutritionally healthy as the pretty version. Help reduce food waste by buying produce others may pass up. That bruised banana would go great in some banana bread.
- Abrasion versus spoilage. If you know the difference, you can prevent yourself from tossing produce that is still safe and tasty.
- Pay attention. A lot of food gets tossed because people forget about it on a shelf or shove it to the back of the fridge. Keep tabs on what you have, and know what you have before you head to the grocery store again.
- Use what you have. Before you head to go buy more food, get creative. Sure you may want to make lasagne that night, but maybe you toss some veggies into that ricotta to help use them up. Or maybe it’s summer wraps with a delicious Thai peanut sauce. The possibilities for produce are endless. If all else fails, smoothies and juicing are also great ways to use up odds and ends.
- Proper storage. Between grapefruits going on the countertop, to cantaloupe going in the fridge, changes are you’re storing something wrong. Some produce is best kept in paper bags and others in plastic bags. Do a little research to help extend the life of your produce to give you enough time to actually use it up.