Healthy Eating

When Smart Eats Stupid

The busier we get, the more wasteful we can become, without even realizing it. Make sure your choices and your values align. It’s easier than you might think.

First, don’t be offended by the title. I am not calling anyone or any eating style stupid. This is actually about food waste, or as I like to call it (along with the EPA), wasted food.

Second, we are all smart and ignorant (notice I didn’t say stupid) when it comes to food.

Third, a good portion of us are lucky to have access to a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply, yet we waste tons of nutritious food daily.

food waste pie chart
From USDA’s “The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States”. p 19

Yes. We’ve all done that. Eaten for fun/entertainment/reasons beyond nutrition.

It’s time to get to the bottom of this.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. No arguing about what the perfect way to eat is (#spoileralert, THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO EAT!!!)

#DYK (Did You Know for those of you not into the social media setup) that food waste is really wasted food? The EPA makes a great point about this. IMO (In my Opinion), we’ve gotten a teensy bit lazy in how we talk, and pssst – we hear ourselves. You may have considered this in all the self talk information we hear about (you know, your body hears how you talk about yourself – all of that “mind over matter” goodness). Please consider it when it comes to food, nutrition, and agriculture.

Food waste = garbage/trash (not delicious)

Wasted food = an opportunity to better use our money, time, natural resources, and food supply

See what I mean?

“Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society and an untapped opportunity. In 2015 alone, more than 39 million tons of food waste was generated, with only 5.3 percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that in 2010, 31 percent or 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of food produced was not available for human consumption at the retail and consumer levels (i.e., one-third of the food available was not eaten).1

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated in 2011 that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted.2Taking simple steps in your everyday life can make a difference in addressing this issue. Reducing wasted food is a triple win; it’s good for the economy, for communities, and for the environment.”

-taken DIRECTLY FROM’s Why is Sustainable Management of Food Important?

We are wasting some of the most nutritious food farmers grow and raise for us. food waste landfill greenhouse gasesAll this talk about reducing sugar, increasing fruits and vegetables, eating balanced meals? What we know about current science on all the nifty reasons we need a variety of foods? Boom.

We aren’t throwing away “party foods”. We’re throwing away all the food groups, even the ones we are talking about in social media all the time. Yikes.

“Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.”

This is according to the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

landfill food and other wasted materials
MSW (municipal solid waste or “trash”)

Here’s the problem and where things get stupid. When we throw away food, we throw away

-our money


-natural resources that were used to grow and raise that food

-electricity and cooking gas that was used to store and prepare that food


-earth’s health (yes, I am being dramatic but sincere-check out what we are doing at home that is bad for the earth – so many easy fixes if we just know what to do!)

Change is challenging. We are in our comfort zones, and life is busy. The busier we are, the more shortcuts we take, which can contribute to the waste and lack of self care many people experience.

Slow your roll. Look at how you spend your time and think about ways to make changes so tiny (but important) that you feel no pain, so to speak, in the tweak.

Here are some thought starters:

-unplug cords after charging (they draw some electricity when still plugged in)

-use the right size pot for your burner to avoid wasting energy you aren’t even noticing

-turn off the water when brushing teeth

-do not sit in your car with the engine running

-plan your meals and portion out leftovers to freeze and eat later

-make a shopping list – download apps from favorite stores and use the list feature

-get great at food storage – check out this handy tool

-reusable over disposable – get a cute water bottle or cup with lid

-consider what types of foods you are choosing on a daily basis and make sure what you are fueling with matches your values and nutritional needs #human

What other easy things can you do to help #honortheharvest and save the food?

Check out this video of the journey of a strawberry from the farm to the refrigerator to you:


By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

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