Reducing food waste and advising patients and client appropriately on how to do so is actually part of our job as dietitians! So here are some of my tips that I’m going to start implementing myself in my bid to reduce my environmental footprint and save a few dollars along the way too.
(1) Coffee Habits
Aussies love a good cup of coffee! We are estimated to use 1 billion takeaway cups a year, with many of those ending up in the landfill, there has been a huge social shift toward re-usable cups and some cafes even offering discounts for bringing your own cup. Alternatively, why not take some time out and sit-in the cafe and get your caffeine hit out of a glass or ceramic cup?
Cooking for one or two can be challenging, you’re often left with too much pasta or an extra serve of rice. Don’t throw leftovers away! Transform your remains into leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Some tinned tuna or salmon (recycle the can) and some veggies can help to tie up any odd loose ends to turn it into a nourishing meal. Using up leftovers saves your back pocket and landfill too, but remember not leave things sitting in the fridge for too long!
(3) Make your own meals at home
We know that home cooking is linked to better diet quality (1) and it’s budget-friendly! Compared to takeaways where lots of parts of food are disposed because they “don’t look good” and individual wrapping of the each food component and cutlery all in a convenient carry bag generates a whole lot of excess plastic and wrapping. A wholesome home-cooked meal gets rid of a lot of that unnecessary packaging AND provides you with a nutritious meal! If you eat takeaway fairly regularly, start by switching one of those meals once a week to a home-cooked alternative,why not try a homemade version of your favourite Thai noodle dish!
(4) Eat mostly plant-based foods
Plant foods either come in a fully edible packaging (think apples, cucumbers, capsicums) or highly bio-degradable packaging (think banana peels or onion peel). And bonus, there are fewer greenhouse gases emitted from eating a salad for dinner compared to a steak. Cows produce lots of smelly gas in their guts which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions (2). The Meat-Free Monday movement has raised awareness of the benefits of eating plant-based for both the environment and the body.
(5) Toss your scraps into the garden
Toss those carrot ends, wrinkly leaves of lettuce and banana peels into the garden. This will provide your garden with a few extra nutrients and puts it to work by helping other fruit and veg to grow well. If you’ve got a green thumb you could even start your own compost bin to feed your garden.
I’ve been using my kitchen scraps to grow spring onions, just cut off the ends with the roots attached and sprout in a cup of water for a week before planting in the garden.
(6) Buy in bulk and divide food into portions
Buying pre-portioned packages of yoghurt, nuts and popcorn is very convenient for school lunchboxes or to control your portions. However, you’re essentially paying premium dollar for extra packaging you don’t really need. Instead, try buying a large tub of yoghurt and portioning out into a re-usable container and add in any fruit or extras on top, same with nuts and other multi-pack snacks. You”ll save your back pocket and some landfill too!
(7) Use re-usable containers
Re-usable containers should be a staple in every household. Investing in some good-quality microwave proof and leak proof containers for those leftovers, plus they make your pantry look super organised. Simply wash and use again, reducing the amount of plastic containers and cutlery that ends up in landfill can seriously add up over a year!
(8) Re-purpose peanut butter or jam jars
Instead of paying for a cute mason jar, why not just re-use an empty peanut butter or jam jar for your mason jar salads, overnight oats or chia puddings. You could build up your collection to give your pantry an organisation makeover, the different size and shape jars would certainly add a bit of character.
(9) Ditch the cling wrap
Think of all those sandwiches you’ve wrapped in cling wrap or a disposable lunch bag, and if you have a few kids at school that certainly adds up both environmentally and on your grocery bill.
Cling wrap isn’t too kind to our ocean life friends, so ditch the use once and throw away stuff for a reusable food coverings that keeps food fresh without all the extra sticky plastic stuff. Re-usable food covers that are food-safe can add some colour to your fridge and pantry.
(10) Plan your meals and shop accordingly
Planning your meals out for the week and a shopping list accordingly, can help you avoid food wastage. OzHarvest is a great Australian food rescue service that saves over 100 tonnes of food EACH WEEK! Prevent food waste before you make it, at the supermarket. And whilst you’re there, ditch the plastic bags for the re-usable ones.
A special extra tip for any dietitians or dietitian to be’s out there…
Keep in mind whether your patient/client really needs a paritcular extra item (e.g. oral nutrition supplement), if they can reach their energy and protein goals through high energy and high protein mid-meals and perhaps find out reasons why consumption of those are poor. Alternatively, using something like MEDPASS to increase compliance and reduce waste of pricey highly packaged supplements can help reduce waste in your practice too!
1. Wolfson, J. and Bleich, S. (2014). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?. Public Health Nutrition, 18(08), pp.1397-1406.
2. Beauchemin, K., Henry Janzen, H., Little, S., McAllister, T. and McGinn, S. (2010). Life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from beef production in western Canada: A case study. Agricultural Systems, 103(6), pp.371-379.