Food Waste Solutions

By: Nikki Nies

I realized I’ve picked the right career path when I acknowledged most of my hobbies and interests are further subbranches of food and/or nutrition.  This includes my #1 pet peeve: wasted food.  Within the last couple year’s that I have had the privilege to enter many facility’s kitchen’s I have been shocked, almost dismayed at the amount of food wasted.  One time, I was volunteering in a hospital cafe kitchen and they threw out the heels of the loaves of bread! Whenever I saw the heels tossed in the garbage, I had to hold back my natural instinct to dive into the garbage to save those heels! Couldn’t they make homemade croutons or something?!?

It’s not just food establishments either.  I recognize it’s one prerogative to eat as much or little as they want.  Yet, this past July 4th, I was throwing my garbage out and I saw laying on top of the trash can an untouched Big Gulp! I couldn’t believe my eyes! That is one of many stories that has shaped my sadness attached to wasted food. Picture-12

Astounding stats: Americans waste 10x as much food compared to someone in Southeast Asia; 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S., which is 20 lbs. of uneaten food for  each American per month!  This equivalent to throwing out more than $165 billion! Literally! All this waste contributes to 25% of the already overfilled landfills.

Just think what we could do with all this extra wasted food! It’s been calculated that instead of the garbage, this food could feed an additional 25 million Americans annually.  That would be a huge help, at a time when 1/6 of Americans are food insecure.

What can we do? Get creative and increase our efficiency. We can also look to our European neighbors and take note of the steps already initiated.  In the UK, an extensive campaign, Love Food Hate Waste, has been running for the past five years with food retailers and brands partaking in this resolution.

Why does the U.S. lag in more sustainable farming? Unfortunately, food represents a small portion of the average American budget.  Too many highlight the convenience of the waste, not recognizing the long term ramifications.

We can’t expect to change things over night, but with small changes, the solutions will come!

  • Whether you’re a family, business or whole city! A Food Waste Assessment must be done! It’ll give you a better idea of the amount, type and reasons for wasted food.  This will also help in creating prevention strategies!
  • Reduce the over purchasing of food by starting more “just in time” purchasing
  • Consider prep waste causes and potential modifications: improve knife skills; purchase pre-cut food if needed; reduce batch sizes (i.e. soups)
  • Think creatively how to use the food “again”: i.e. instead of tossing old bread, make croutons; whip up fried rice from excess rice; add leftover fruit to yogurt; save vegetable trimmings for soups, stocks and/or stews
  • To reduce spoilage, store food at proper temperatures and stock First In, First Out (FIFO)
  • Use smaller plates will help cut down on the amount of food initially served!  It’s be hardly noticeable!

There’s a reason the U.S. is called the land of prosperity.  Let’s be prosperous in health, education and character, not waste! Who’s with me?


How the US Loses 40% of Our Food: Problems & Solutions

3rd Most Time Consuming Activity

watching-tv_0By: Nikki Nies

**Disclaimer: While this is a generalization that every one watches an abundant amount of TV, I myself included, while you may not spend an excessive amount of time watching TV, it’s still good to understand the ramifications of excessive TV watching.**

Besides work–which is predominantly behind a computer screen more than ever, and sleep, TV viewing is the 3rd most time consuming activity in which Americans engage in on a regular basis.  With such a statistic, it’s no surprise that large amounts  of TV viewing may contribute to obesity via the promotion of sedentary behavior and exposure to food related commercials.

While TV is convenient, enjoyable and relatively inexpensive, many families watch more TV than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends.  AAP recommends no TV for those younger than 2 years old and no more than 2 hours for those 2 years and older.


Excessive TV watching can lead to:

  • Higher rates of attention problems in children
  • Children may become upset and/or aggressive by excessive violence seen on TV
  • TV watching may be unhealthily be used as a means to void social interaction with others
  • TV watching is a means of entertainment and leads to physical inactivity/physical development impairments
  • Increased food consumption–studies have found children consume 45% when sitting in front of the tube
  • Increased exposure to branded foods, drinks and restaurants and product placement of unhealthy products
  • Food marketing inherently influence food preferences and grocery shopping requests!

If you’re thinking to yourself, 2 hours of TV is an unrealistic request, small gradual changes can make a world of difference!  For example, making bedrooms Internet and TV free can cut the number of hours of screen in no time!

Check out this list of 174,203 things you can do besides watching TV:

After going through the above list, what new and/or old things are you going to try? After looking at the list, you can’t help, but NOT want to watch TV, right?


DASH to Na Moderation


By: Nikki Nies

When reading nutrition fact labels, everyone knows to check calories, more recently people have become more aware of the fat content, but another aspect of the nutrition fact label that has not received as much exposure, but everyone should be more aware of the salt content.  A lot of times salt and sodium are synonymous.  I’m guilty of mixing the two up as well.  However, to clarify NaCl is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.  So when one is talking about the salt content, one referring to NaCl, which one can consume 5000 mg of NaCl since sodium is only 40% of NaCl. Make sense?

A lot of foods may be ideal meal options for many, if looking at the calories and fat, however there may be a hidden source of weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease.    What’s the recommended sodium content?  Healthy adults should aim for no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily.  With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.

So what is sodium exactly? Why do you need watch your intake? Image

Sodium is a trace mineral, made of sodium and chloride.  When sodium content is naturally provided in foods that is an easy way to consume one’s recommended trace needs of this mineral.  Salt is needed to hold water in the blood vessels, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, maintain pH and hydration and regulates water balance.  If too much water’s in the body, the amount of blood’s increased., which makes the heart work harder.   However, many Americans consume more than 75% of their sodium in the added form.

In cooking, sodium has a lot of functions—from giving flavor, used as a preservative to prevent food borne pathogens, bind ingredients, enhance color and is used as a stabilizer.

The American Heart Association has stated if Americans reduced their sodium content by1500 mg of sodium, the numberImage of high blood pressure cases would decrease by 26% and save  more than $26 billion in healthcare costs over just a year..

With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.  When grocery shopping or eating out, be conscious of these commonly used terms associated with sodium—they don’t mean the same thing.

Interpreting Sodium Terms:

Sodium-free Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very low sodium 35 mg or less per serving
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium
Reduced (or less) sodium Usual sodium level reduced by 25% per serving
Light (for sodium reduced products) If food’s “low calorie”, “low calorie” and sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving
Light sodium If sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving

How can you reduce your sodium intake?

  • Use low sodium or no salt added vegetables—such as Rienzi products
  • Be aware of deli meats high sodium content—limit consumption to 2-3 times a week
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over canned when possible
  • Avoid adding salt when eating
  • Choose foods high in potassium, which counteract the “feeling” of needs salt
    • Such as white beans, green leafy greens, baked potatoes
    • Add lemon juice to fresh fish and vegetables

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a great meal concept caters to multiple caloric needs, such as one who wants to eat a 1600 calorie daily, but also provides servings for someone who wants to eat 2000 kcal daily.  Thankfully, the DASH diet provides the same goal: to lower blood pressure.  Even if one does not have hypertension yet, the DASH diet has a lot of great food suggestions for those with pre-hypertension and/or wanting to eat healthy.

Using these tips, one can be preventive, proactive as well as keep their high blood pressure under control.  Check out the DASH diet’s website, it contains everything from recommended sodium intake, DASH diet ebooks, great, easy recipes and media.

Photo Credit: Renal Fellow and Cooking Light 



What Jamie’s Taught Us…

Original Image by Nick Bramhall via Flickr
Original Image by Nick Bramhall via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

You know how people say, “the British always say it cooler?”  I’m not going to lie, Jamie Oliver’s English accent was the first thing to catch my attention.  Although, Jamie Oliver’s British, he has been an advocate for healthy eating.  Why are chefs getting through to the children and adults, but dietitians are on the sidelines?  The nutrition world just isn’t loud enough.

We’ve made a lot of strides within the last decade–MyPlate and the new school lunch program, but we could certainly learn a lot more from our fellow cooks and louder advocators.

Mr. Oliver’s programs received rave reviews.  However, how many people OUTSIDE of the food world have seen it? Am I too critical?  Am I too persistent?  No, I just am saying what others are thinking.  I don’t mind Mr. Oliver being the “face” of change, but as dietetic students we need to expand our promotion and advertisement beyond the nutrition world.  Lecture style teaching isn’t as effective as seeing the real deal.  We need to have more hands on learning, with tours of dairy farms and showing how meals are REALLY prepared–from schools to foodservice alike.  The more exposure and information we have to what is being put into our mouths, the better we can plan our next move.

I suggest we get back to basics.  A lot of people don’t know sugar is a carbohydrate, or where eggs should be categorized on MyPlate.  Is it a protein? Part of dairy?  I challenge everyone to share their nutrition knowledge with someone they don’t know.  Just see what happens :D.