Healthy eating plans should not waste food. Most of us are guilty of discarding many edible parts of our fruits and vegetables.
Americans waste $165 billion worth of edible food every year, about 40% of the total amount produced. If we reduced food loses by as little as 15%, we would be able to feed more than 25 million Americans who now go hungry. Families discard about 25% of the food they buy. Fruits and vegetables account for the largest losses.
Healthy Eating Plans are Jumping on the Food Conservation Bandwagon
The good news is that a war on waste has started to burgeon. Many healthy eating plans now include an awareness of not wasting food. “Ugly produce” is seeing the light of day in major grocery chains, and even in Walmart. The media has also gotten behind this trend. In April, lifestyle network FYI partnered with the National Chef of Sur La Table, Joel Gamoran, to create Scraps, a new culinary series produced by Katie Couric. The series follows the chef as he travels the country in his iconic 1963 VW bus, creating meals out of remnants like banana peels, shrimp shells, chicken bones, and carrot stems.
Other eco-conscious chefs are also jumping on the food conservation bandwagon. New York Chef Dan Barber temporarily transformed his upscale Greenwich Village restaurant, Blue Hill, into a pop-up called WastEd, with offerings such as “dumpster dive vegetable salad,” made with bruised bok choy and fennel peelings. In another twist on repurposing edibles, Chef Ronnie Oldman of the Balzac Wine Bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, makes use of the restaurant’s leftovers by offering a weekly “family meal,” for the price of a beverage.
Healthy Eating Plans Use Peels and Stems
While we feel guilty when we throw out edibles, most of us have no idea how to put them to good use. Read on to discover how healthy eating plans prevent food waste.
1. Citrus Peels: Lemons, Limes and Oranges
Citrus peels can be used in a wide variety of ways. You can candy the rinds, dry them and add them to tea, or infuse them in vodka or vinegar. The tart rinds add a flavor spark to soups, salads and baked goods. If you struggle to drink your 8 glasses of water a day, add the peels to your water and you’ll find it more palatable. Rinds are also useful for keeping your garbage disposal smelling fresh.
2. Apple Peels
Apple peels can repurposed into apple jelly, salad garnishes, or used as flavor enhancers in tea. Try roasting the peels with cinnamon and you’ll have yummy apple chips, which will satisfy your snacking cravings. Apple peels are also good stain removers for aluminum pots and pans.
3. Watermelon Rinds
Watermelon, including its roastable seeds, is full of healthy antioxidants and good for your brain. Think of the rind as consisting of two parts: the white part next to the red flesh that we eat and the green hard exterior. The white part has a cucumber-like texture, and works well in chutneys and curries or added to a gazpacho for a refreshing summer soup. The green outer part of the rind can be candied like a citrus peel, pickled, made into watermelon preserves, or even used in a stir-fry.
4. Beet Tops
The formerly humble beet is gaining in popularity. Many restaurants offer a beet salad starter. Health conscious chefs sneak them into chocolate desserts like brownies to add moisture while cutting back on the oil or butter. There’s no reason to discard the beet greens. They steam nicely, like swiss chard, which they resemble in taste. Enjoy them as a side dish, add them to vegetable stock, or use them in a pasta dish.
5. Carrot Tops
Instead of discarding the carrot tops, chop them up and add them to rice dishes and salads. They also make a great stand-in for parsley in sauces and salsas.
6. Green Onion Tops and Bottoms
Most recipes make use of only one part of the scallion, but, this mild-tasting onion can be used from top to bottom. The white bulbs have a stronger flavor and are best cooked into stews and sauces. Try making scallion pancakes for a new Sunday brunch treat. Use the top feathery part to perk up a salad or add flavor to everything from crab cakes to cornbread. They also make a pretty garnish on a bowl of soup or pasta dish.
Summer means corn-on-the-cob, which results in a pile of discarded cobs. Stop wasting them. Chef Steven Satterfield, author of “Root to Leaf,” a cookbook that demonstrates the art of using vegetables from stem to stern, has created a simple recipe for Sweet Corncob Broth. Combine corncobs with unskinned onions and shallots, celery ribs with the leaves attached, and mushroom and herb stems, in a large pot of water and simmer for an hour. When it’s cooked, strain it and refrigerate or freeze for later use. This vegetarian broth can be used as a soup base, in a sauté, or to make a healthy version of polenta.
8. Broccoli Stems and Leaves
Most of us cast off the broccoli stems in favor of the florets. Hold onto them. Slice them into thin rounds, roast them in the oven, and add them to pastas and salads. Another way to use them is to pare off the thick outer layer with a chef’s knife, cut them into thin sticks, and add them to slaws, salads and stir-fries. While you’re at it, save the inner leaves as a salad green or roast them into broccoli chips. This recipe for “Pasta with Broccoli Leaves,” from prolific healthy cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman, demonstrates how to use them in a healthy pasta.
9. Fennel Stems and Fronds
I love the licorice flavor of grilled sliced fennel bulbs. But I can’t say I’ve ever used the stems or the feathery fronds. The fronds can be used in the same way you’d use any herb. The stems are tough but soften up nicely when cooked. Add them to braises, stir-fries and pasta dishes. Since the taste of fennel pairs well with fish, next time you grill, poach, or steam your favorite seafood, add the stalks and fronds alongside. They will infuse the dish with a delightful aroma.
10. Potato Peels
Potato peels are a known garbage disposal clogger. They can turn into a paste and gum up the works. So, put them to good use. Potato peels can be baked or fried and eaten as chips or crumbled for use as croutons. Another option is to freeze the peels and use them to make potato peel broth or soup. Potato water is a great way to dilute gravy. Potato skins also have non-culinary uses. The acids in the peels help remove tarnish and rust from silverware and pots. The peels can also venture outside the kitchen. Some people swear by them to shrink eye bags or use them for a facial. Potato peel juice has even been promoted as a way to make hair grow faster.
Click here to read a slightly different version of this article about a healthy eating plan that does not waste food, which was first published in LifetimeDaily.com