Have you ever stopped to think about how your diet makes an impact on the earth? The food we choose (or don’t choose) to eat is one of the most influential decisions we can make for our planet, yet we squander it every day. In fact, the food we waste boasts a negative environmental impact that can significantly change the course of our planet if we don’t do our part to stop it.
Over the last 40 years, food waste has drastically increased by 50% , and more than 40% of the food produced for human consumption in the U.S. will never be eaten. While these are sobering statistics, what does it actually mean for our environment? The food we mindlessly throw away fills up landfills, and produces methane gas (a high global warming potential) as it decomposes, which is why we need to take this issue seriously. So, what can we do to help? Get started with these great tips and recipes from some of our RD friends.
-Triad to Wellness
1. Don’t throw out that can of beans. Chrissy Carroll, RDN, loves to save the liquid from beans and refrigerate or freeze it for later use. This liquid, called aquafaba, works wonderfully as an egg replacer in many vegan baked goods, and can also be used to make dressings and faux-mayo when blended with oil and seasonings. She loves using the liquid from white beans or chickpeas to make the aioli that tops her sweet potato and corn fritters (seen below)!
2. Shop your kitchen first. It can be easy to just run to the store for a recipe ingredient, but maybe you already have it in your refrigerator. Judy Barbe, RDN, uses this tip to ask herself what she has rather than what she wants. Her Fromage Fort recipe is ideal because it’s such a great way to re-purpose all the odds and ends of cheeses.
3. Waste not, want not. Erica Julson, RDN, takes this message to heart and loves using the “scraps” of food that people usually throw away. She especially enjoys re-purposing carrot tops! They make a delicious pesto when blended with pepitas, parmesan, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. Get inspired with her Carrot Top and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta recipe, as seen below.
4. Don’t be scared to re-purpose those vegetables. While this tip can be intimidating, it can lead to some amazing kitchen creatiions! Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, RDN, always recommends to save leftover vegetable scraps and throw them in a quick bread or soup! It adds incredible texture and nutrition! Check out Katie’s Spiced Zucchini Banana Bread for inspiration on how to use leftover vegetable scraps.
5. Bones are good. Everyone loves a hearty soup, so save those bones to make the best broth ever! Kaleigh McMordie, RDN, likes to keep all of her veggie scraps, bones, and cheese rinds for broth. She also makes sure to take inventory of her fridge for what needs to be used when planning her meals–if she can’t use something before it goes bad, she freezes it! Try out her Slow Cooker Bone Broth for some soup inspiration.
6. Clean out your refrigerator regularly. If there is one tip that Sharon Palmer, RDN, can give you on food waste, it’s to plan one night a week to clean out your frig. Use up the leftovers, and create a fun, smorgasbord type meal. You can also use up those odds and ends to make a wonderful soup on that night. Try out Borscht with Beets and Beet Greens from her book, Plant-Powered for Life.
7. Turn leftovers into brand new meals! Julie Harrington, RDN, usually plans 2-3 meals for the week and by the end of the week there are odds and ends of leftovers from previous meals. She loves to get creative to create a brand new dish just from leftovers and whatever else is in her kitchen. This Butternut Squash & Kale Pizza was solely made from leftovers.
8. Think outside of the box with broccoli stems. Broccoli stems can be tricky to re-purpose, as most people tend to discard them, but Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN, and Tracee Yablon-Brenner, RDN, CHHC, from Triad to Wellness love adding these leftover pieces to their Creamy Broccoli and Avocado Soup. Using broccoli stems in place of florets gives a mild broccoli flavor, but they are also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, selenium, and fiber.