Learning to eat healthy can be challenging. Learning to eat healthy while minimizing food waste can be especially challenging. Food waste is a significant issue in the US. A study funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and published in April 2018 found that Americans waste about a pound of food a day. At the same time, the Western diet referenced in the study is characterized by a “high intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugar, sodium, and animal products, and low intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”
Planning meals ahead of time can help prevent food waste and encourage healthier eating. Last minute meals often involve a trip to a fast food restaurant or ordering food delivery. Planning each week for healthy meals and then planning a trip to the grocery store, farmers market, or other fresh food sources can ensure that proper portions are served and that lots of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables are included on the menu.
Another great side effect of meal planning is financial savings! Budgeting for the week’s meals and snacks is much healthier for your wallet than spending excess money on last-minute choices. Reducing the amount of wasted food you have in your house will also definitely make a difference in your budget.
Kids can get involved in the weekly shopping trip and participate in healthy choices for the week’s menu. This will give them an added incentive to eat healthy and to not waste the food that is an important part of their family’s healthy eating plan. The USDA publishes children’s games related to healthy eating choices so they can be a part of the family shopping and planning. Kids can take along a Grocery Store Bingo card that helps them learn about new foods and healthy eating choices.
When the whole family focuses more on food selections for the week, they become more aware of how much and what kind of food is actually needed for a healthy diet. Impulse purchases often end up being wasted. Restaurant meals, whether fast food, delivery, or eat in, are frequently too much for each person to eat and are often “tossed” after they are no longer desirable.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a part of as many meals as possible throughout the day. The American Heart Association recommends five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit each day. A great way to get those veggies in is to include them in tasty dishes such as Savory Pepper Muffins. These muffins make a great breakfast treat for family members on the go and can be frozen until ready to eat, so there is no waste of muffins grown stale from sitting on the counter!
Involve the family in games to learn more about food waste and healthy eating. Make meal planning and weekly food shopping a group activity. The more they know and participate, the more they’ll be eagerly awaiting properly portioned meals filled with healthy fruits and veggies!