By Susan Krahn, MS, RDN, CD, CLC, Public Health Nutritionist, Eau Claire City-County Health Department
Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast, packing a brown bag lunch, or enjoying a family supper, the foods you choose can make a real difference. “Go Further with Food” is the theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme highlights how our food choices impact not only our own health and well-being, but also the community.
Conversations about food often revolve around weight, health, or the environment. But people rarely talk about the foods we toss out. It is estimated that Americans throw away up to 90 billion pounds of food each year–either at home or when eating out. This amount doesn’t include food that goes to waste at the grocery store.
While many families struggle to get enough food to feed their families, the amount of safe food wasted in the United States is on the rise. While not all food that is thrown away could be saved and eaten, there are ways we can prevent food from being thrown away, especially at home.
- Plans meals around the foods you already have on hand. Check the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for foods that need to be used up. Buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products that can be eaten within a few days. Buy more frozen fruits and veggies that are ready to use quickly and keep longer.
- Get creative with leftovers. Plan to use leftover meats and vegetables in soups, salads, or sandwiches later in the week. Use them as a topping on cooked grains like rice or pasta.
- Learn about date labels. Many dates on food packaging refer to the food’s quality, not food safety. Easily find out if it is time to toss foods by using the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “Is My Food Safe” app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.foodsafety&hl=en) or accessing the USDA’s FoodKeeper App at www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/index.html.
Registered dietitian nutritionists with the WIC program can give you more practical tips on how your family can “Go Further with Food.” The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is a nutrition program that provides wholesome foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and community support for low- and moderate-income women and children up to the age of five years.
WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to use it. Good nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of life has long-term positive impacts on health. WIC teaches you about the benefits of breastfeeding and guides you through the process. WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to shop for it, how to prepare it, and ways to help your child enjoy eating it. If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local WIC office or visit http://bit.ly/EauClaireCoWIC .
Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses nationwide attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. For more reliable nutrition information, visit www.eatright.org/nnm.