By Dawna Bennett, MS, RD, CDN
March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and embraced by community organizations throughout the nation.
The theme this year is “Go Further with Food” and encourages people to develop sound eating and physical activity habits, learn how to manage food resources at home and find ways to cut back on food waste while saving both nutrients and money. The foods you choose can make a real difference in your life!
You can make a difference in your home and in the community by:
• Planning ahead. Prepare meals in advance to enjoy throughout the week or when you are on the go. Balanced meals that can easily be reheated throughout the week are a great way to eat healthy, save time and reduce food waste.
• Shopping with purpose. Always make a grocery list, comparing what you have at home with what you need. Buy only the amount that can be used or frozen within a few days based on your meal plan and include a variety of healthful options from all food groups.
• Maximizing leftovers. Cut out leftover meats and veggies. Transform leftover meals into soups, salads or sandwiches. Use them as a topping for salads or cooked grains. Or, wrap them in a tortilla or stuff them in a pita for a delicious sandwich.
• Freezing extras. Freeze extra food, such as fruits or meats to extend shelf life using heavy freezer paper, plastic wrap, freezer bags or foil.
• Reducing waste. Before going to the grocery store, check your refrigerator. Try to eat what you already have before buying more.
• Reducing waste even more. Make it a habit to date frozen foods and use the oldest food first.
• Donating what you can’t use. Donate unspoiled, healthy food to those in need. This is the goal of many food recovery organizations, like the Food Bank of WNY, who can take unused food and redistribute it to the community’s food insecure citizens.
• Inviting healthy habits. Wash fruits and vegetables right away and leave them out on your counter so you remember to eat them before they perish. Foods in sight invite you to eat healthy first.
• Recycling. Make sure you separate items for recycling and compost food scraps instead of sending them to a landfill.
Not sure how long food should be kept for? Download the USDA’s FoodKeeper App to determine how long an item may be kept in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Knowing this information helps you identify what needs to be used soon and plan your meals efficiently and safely.
Help the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reach their goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. It requires some thought and planning but it’s an excellent choice for you, your family and the community. Together, we can all “Go Further with Food.”