As we scrape uneaten food into the trash can after dinner every night or throw away moldy bread that we just didn’t get around to eating, many of us don’t see that wasted food as wasted money. But in fact, that’s just what it is.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that the amount of uneaten food in American homes and restaurants in 2008 was about $390 in wasted food per each U.S. consumer. This is more than the average American spends on food each month.
Not only is wasted food hard on our wallets, but it’s hard on the environment. Each type of food or food ingredient requires soil, nutrients, water and/or energy to grow, process and/or transport. It’s also filling up our landfills. In 2010, about 33 million tons of food waste was sent to landfills. Food waste is the largest type of municipal solid waste put into landfills, outpacing paper, plastic, aluminum cans and glass.
Fortunately, you can reduce food waste by reducing, reusing and recycling. Here are some tips:
Plan your meals for the week. Shop your pantry for the ingredients you need before going to the grocery store.
Buy only what you need. Purchasing items in bulk can reduce packaging, but make sure you can store and use the items before they expire.
Think portion size. Consider sharing an entrée at a restaurant or ordering off the kids menu to get a smaller portion size.
If you have food that you know is going to expire before you can eat it, consider asking your local food pantry if the item is something they can use.
Eat leftovers at least one night a week.
Compost food scraps. Many foods can be safely composted, including fruits, vegetables, nut shells, eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds. But some foods including dairy products, fats, oils, grease, meats and fish bones should not be placed in your bin as they can attract rodents and produce odors as they decompose.
The USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge in an effort to reduce food waste and help families in need. For more information about the challenge and ways to reduce food waste, view their website, www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/.
Pass the potassium please!
Two out of three American adults have hypertension or prehypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in America. Fortunately, most cases of high blood pressure can be improved or prevented through diet changes.
Most of our diets are too high in sodium and too low in potassium. Too much sodium in your diet increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. The average American consumes nearly 50 percent more sodium than they need each day. A diet that is high in potassium can lower your risk of developing hypertension, especially for those who are sensitive to sodium. High potassium foods help prevent or lower high blood pressure as they cause the kidneys to get rid of excess sodium in the body.
You can find potassium in a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. Good sources of potassium include, but are not limited to, small baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, bananas, dried apricots, poultry, fish, milk and soy products.
Besides reducing high blood pressure risks, potassium has several other benefits including maintaining your body’s water balance, helping build muscles, maintaining normal growth as we age, and helping your body digest carbohydrates, which helps control your blood sugar levels.
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