BY: DUSTIN BATTY
It is a well-known fact that people have a tendency to waste food. A recent study covered in a Science Daily article found that around fifty percent of all harvested crops—nearly “2.1 billion tonnes” of food—are lost due to waste and inefficient production processes. That same study found that almost twenty percent of all food that is made commercially available is wasted. Around nine of that twenty percent is food that has been thrown out. Most people are well aware that throwing out food is problematic. The remainder is lost in a way that some might find surprising: It comes from overeating.
In this study, a distinction is made between “waste” and “overeating,” equating waste only with food that is not eaten. It is more honest to acknowledge that overeating is a form of food waste, and thinking about overeating in this way might make us reconsider our eating patterns. Though the food is being eaten, the person who is overeating is not benefiting from the extra nutrients and calories that are being consumed. The best-case scenario is that the excess passes through the body uselessly. Alternatively, overeating can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The idea that overeating is a form of food waste may be difficult to understand for people who were raised being told to “Eat all the food on your plate, so it doesn’t go to waste!” This is such a common sentiment that it is generally taken for granted, despite its logical flaw. Eating more food than your body requires, especially if this is a regular practice, doesn’t put that food to any good purpose. It is just as wasteful as throwing it away, and potentially more harmful.
According to Dr. Tim Benton, the average person in Europe and North America eats between twenty and thirty percent more calories than they require. The Science Daily article suggests that a large percentage of the food that is wasted is meat and dairy. It encourages people to “eat fewer animal products, reduce waste and not exceed nutritional needs.” I have already argued that we should acknowledge that “exceeding nutritional needs” a form of waste, so that makes this even simpler. Eat less animal products because they are the least efficient type of food, and don’t waste food because it can be put to better use elsewhere.
The easiest way to not overeat and also not throw away a bunch of food is to plan your meals better. Make smaller portions, have well-balanced meals. A Medical Daily article points out some other methods: Save any excess food for later, either by eating it for lunch the next day, or, if it’s a smaller portion, adding it to a stir fry. Another technique is to freeze freshly bought food so you are not forced to eat it right away.
If we of the land of plenty stop eating more than we need, we will come a long way toward solving world hunger. All it takes is a bit of planning and some self-discipline.