Go Further with Food

Happy National Nutrition Month! March is National Nutrition Month and every year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decides on a theme – this year it is “Go Further with Food” and they are focusing on reducing food waste.

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Now, some people think that I take my eco-friendliness a little too far (it takes me over a month to fill up 1 garbage bag), but over the past few years I have been trying to create as little waste as possible.

Did you know that food makes up more of our landfills than any other product (even more than plastic), and American’s throw out about one third of all food produced an purchased. Think about that…What is 33% of your last grocery bill? Now imagine throwing that chunk of change in the trash!!

So, in honor of this year’s National Nutrition Month theme, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips for reducing food waste:

  1. Plan– I know I have said this before, but planning before grocery shopping makes the world of a difference. You can figure out exactly what you have and what you need so you don’t end up with any extra (which means no food waste and no extra $$ spent).
  2. Freeze– Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to reducing food waste. Bread nearing its expiration date? Freeze it! Strawberries getting a little mushy? Freeze them! Leftovers from dinner that you don’t want right away? Freeze them! Get my drift? Even fresh herbs can be frozen in ice cube trays to be used for cooking later.
  3. Use all parts of a food – Keep you skins on potatoes and cucumbers and don’t even think about cutting off the broccoli stems. There is no reason to throw these veggie parts into the landfill. Not only are they edible, they also add tons of nutritious value.

I challenge you to reduce the amount of waste you create in the kitchen. These tips can help you reduce your food waste, but reducing waste from other sources is good too. Use rags instead of paper towel, stop buying paper plates/plastic silverware and use real dishes, and switch from plastic bags to reusable containers. Every little bit helps keep our planet greener, cleaner, and healthier.

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Salads: Healthy or Not?

Salads. They are the probably the number one food people think of when they want to lose weight or go on a diet. There is a perception that salads are super healthy, and they can be, but you have to be careful.

For example, check out these two items on the McDonald’s menu. The salad has more calories and more fat than the burger!

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How could this be? Salad dressing plays a big part. Creamy salad dressings are often packed with loads of fat your salad’s calorie count to skyrocket. Watch out though, low fat salad dressings can be filled with salt and sugar to make up for the missing flavor. Your best bet is to choose a salad dressing that is oil based, not cream. The first three ingredients on the label should be oil, water, and some kind of vinegar. But, even if you pick the healthiest dressing, it doesn’t entitle you to use half the bottle. Always ask for dressing on the side and drizzle it on (don’t drown your lettuce). Better yet, dip your fork into the dressing and then get a fork-full of salad so you aren’t using any more than you need. Making your own salad dressings is also a great way to make sure there isn’t any extra preservatives or additives.

With all that being said, a high calorie salad isn’t always bad. Yes, if all those calories are coming from creamy dressing and fried chicken then there is a problem, but high calories sometimes means high nutrients.

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I started thinking about this last weekend when I was in Toronto while I was eating one of many huge (and delicious) salads. It had kale, quinoa, poached eggs, curried cauliflower, chickpeas, sweet potato, cashews, nori, and avocado. Obviously I don’t know the exact nutritional value of it, but I’m guessing it was around 700 calories. You could easily eat 700 calories worth of cookies or ice cream, but you would be missing out on so many nutrients. That salad was packed with so much good fuel for the body — ie. Vitamin K in kale, vitamin A in sweet potato, healthy fats in avocado, iron and protein in quinoa, and the list goes on.

The moral of the story is that it is not always about the sheer number calories. Two salads, both with 700 calories, could have very different health effects. The one with fried chicken and creamy dressing are NOT going to help you lose weight and WILL contribute to heart disease. The one with lots of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats will keep you full longer and give your body nutrients that it needs.

The next time you eat a salad, or any food, don’t just think about the calories; think about what is in it and how those ingredients will or won’t be good for your body.

Meal Planning

Happy Sunday! When I’m not living with a host family in Denmark, Sunday is usually my meal planning and grocery shopping day to get ready for the upcoming week. Being busy with class and homework makes it difficult to just “run to the store and grab something”, especially when the good grocery store is a 20-minute drive from my apartment. That is where the meal plan comes in. Every Sunday I sit down and figure out what I am going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each week. This makes it super easy to put together a grocery list of everything I need, and it prevents me from coming home at the end of a long day and having a box of crackers and a spoonful of peanut butter for dinner. Here are some reasons why I make a meal plan (and you should too!):

  1. Less food waste. If you have a plan for what you are going to eat and only buy those things, much less ends up in the dumpster. Similarly, you won’t buy things you don’t need. We have all gone to the store and thrown items in the cart “just in case” we need them. But, if you already have a plan for what you are going to make for the week, there is no guessing what you “might” need.
  2. Saves you trips to the store. When you go to make your favorite pasta dish for dinner Wednesday, you will already have all the ingredients because you thought about it before hand. No more last minute stops at the store because you don’t have the ingredients you need.
  3. Eat healthier. Instead of grabbing for the cookie jar because there is nothing else in the house, you will have all the healthy snacks you bought based on your meal plan. You are also more likely to stick to a healthy diet when you have it written down.
  4. Creating a grocery list is easier. Most people already know that you aren’t supposed to go to the grocery store without a list. With a meal plan, it makes it easy to know exactly what you need and how much so there is no more aimless wondering through the grocery store grabbing each item that looks good.

Here is a template for a meal plan that I found on Google and there are tons more to choose from (or make your own!).

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To my surprise, my host family asked me to help them create a meal plan for dinner this week. I guess meal planning is popular in Denmark, too!

Happy planning!