Something I hear a lot from clients and others is that they tend to overeat because they don’t want to waste food. It’s already so difficult to know when to stop eating, but having the looming guilt of food waste over you during a meal can just further complicate matters.
We all know preventing food waste is important. Sadly, up to 30-40% of America’s food supply is wasted according to the USDA. So it’s definitely something we need to be considering, even while embarking on a weight loss journey.
Below is a copy of the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. I believe we as consumers can help the most with source reduction, feeding hungry people, and composting. These are the main factors I’ll be discussing in this post.
While cutting back on your own individual food waste may seem like an impossible feat as you’re simultaneously trying to lose weight, I assure you that you can do both. Keep reading to find out how!
Order with Intentionality
Lots of us go to the same restaurants over and over again. So we often have a good idea of what the portions look like. This being the case, we should be considering portion sizes when ordering. It’s a good idea to order a dish that you know is around 1 portion for you. If you know a dish is usually more than 1 portion, plan to take leftovers home or split a larger dish with someone else.
Something I teach my clients to do when they’re eating out is to allocate larger portions before they start eating. Basically this means separating out a single portion to eat there and putting the rest aside to take home (even if that means just pushing it to the side of your plate). This makes it easier to prevent overeating, because you’re not eating directly from multiple portions-worth of food.
Always Plan for Leftovers
When in doubt, always plan to have leftovers, especially if you’re going to a place you know has large portions. Plan to go somewhere with a fridge afterwards so you’re not keeping your leftovers out for too long. If you know you’re going to a particular restaurant that doesn’t have to-go containers, you can even bring your own (though this isn’t usually an issue in the US).
Learn to Enhance
It’s helpful to get used to enhancing small amounts of leftovers with other foods around the house. This can simply mean keeping easy side dishes or protein in your kitchen to supplement a smaller leftover. Maybe you took half a piece of salmon home? It would be great to have some rice and frozen veggies ready to combine with it. Maybe you have a bunch of extra pasta with vegetables? Having some protein readily available to add to that would be perfect.
Eating At Home
Assess Your Grocery Shopping Habits
We all have those foods that we buy every week only to throw them away once they’ve sat in the fridge and gone bad. This is a huge contributor of food waste. If this is something you do, I recommend asking yourself, “What am I frequently buying that I usually end up throwing away?” Another option is to make sure you have a plan for each item you buy. Meal planning before you go grocery shopping can make all the difference with this! (Check out this blog post for my 5 steps to master meal planning.) Make a plan for what meals you’ll eat each day, and make your grocery list accordingly. The planet and your wallet will thank you.
Freeze or Buy Frozen
Frozen foods tend to have a bad rap. But I’m here to tell you that frozen foods are some of the best things you can buy, for both health and sustainability. Of course, you should be mindful of nutrition labels when shopping in the freezer aisle. But as long as you know what to look for, you’ll be sure to find tons of great options. A few perks of buying frozen foods are they last longer and (if they’re produce) they are typically frozen at peak freshness. While fresh produce is great, it’s often harvested early so it doesn’t become overripe by the time it’s purchased and eaten. With frozen produce, it can be harvested and frozen right away. I always recommend having frozen fruits and veggies around to have go-to nutritious options at home.
Donate or Share
Another great option if you find yourself wasting lots of food at home is to donate or share it with others. This can be as simple as hosting a dinner party with friends or dropping off food at a local food bank. Not only are you preventing waste, but you’re helping others in the process!
The last resort before taking food to the landfill is composting. While it sounds like a complicated process, many cities actually have composting bins available and will come around and collect them. There are other cities that have designated compost drop-off facilities. Even if you’re not throwing away a bunch of edible food, most of us have food scraps that we can be composting.
So there you have it! If you thought the best way to prevent food waste was to keep eating those last few bites, think again! There are many things you can be doing that don’t involve eating past fullness. Keep these ideas in mind next time you’re ordering out and buying food from the grocery store. Together, we can help get that 30-40% down to a much lower number!