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5 Things You Can Do Today to Reduce Food Waste

A canvas grocery bag filled with bananas, oil and cucumbersFood waste is a growing concern now more than ever!

Research from the National Zero Waste Council found that 63% of the food that we throw away – mostly veggies and fruit – is avoidable and could have been eaten. The edible food that we toss into our compost or green bins adds up to $1,100 per year for the average household! Across Canada, all of this household food waste amounts to about 2.2 million tonnes of edible food that’s thrown out each year. To put that into perspective, picture this – EVERY DAY in Canada, we waste*:

  • 4 million potatoes
  • 2 million tomatoes
  • 2 million apples
  • 555 thousand bananas
  • 470 thousand heads of lettuce
  • 1 million cups of milk
  • 750 thousand loaves of bread AND
  • 450 thousand eggs


WHOA!! OK, let’s just take a moment to “digest” that info!

Aside from the financial costs of food waste, food that sits in landfills creates methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis. With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s a reminder that we can and must reduce food waste. Here are a few ideas to get started along with links to more tips and cookbooks.

Store your fruits, veggies and herbs to help them last longer

Did you know that wrapping banana stems slows down the ripening? Check out my national TV interview for these and other tips on how to store celery, lettuce, avocado and freeze your leftover herbs.

TV host Ann-Marie Mediwake talking to Sue in a virtual TV interview For more food storage tips, go to or

Plan your meals

Look for recipes that use the same ingredients enjoyed in different ways. Take a bunch of carrots for example – eat them raw with a dip; chop them for a soup or chili; grate them for a salad or muffins; cut them into matchsticks for roasting; or slice them for a stir-fry. What about yogurt? Make a yogurt parfait for breakfast or dessert; mix a big scoop of yogurt into your muffin or loaf batter; and add a swirl of yogurt into your carrot soup!

Use what you have on hand

Be creative. What foods and ingredients do you already have on hand? How can you turn those foods and ingredients into a yummy meal? In a recent study of over 1,000 Canadian families by Hellmann’s and BEworks (a consulting firm studying behaviour economics and insights), food waste was reduced by 33% when participants planned a “Use-up day” each week by making a meal with soon-to-expire ingredients.

Try recipes like Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Veggie Fritters or Tomato Risotto with Grilled Romaine lettuce – all from the Rock what You’ve Got free e-cookbook by the Guelph Family Health Study. Even IKEA has launched their The Scraps Book free downloadable cookbook with recipes using food scraps from featured chefs across North America.

Practice first in, first out (FIFO)

Anyone else have hidden cans of tuna at the back of their cupboard? When putting the groceries away in your fridge, freezer or pantry, use the FIFO rule. Rotate the canned goods, eggs, yogurt, juice and other items so that the ones with the closest best-before dates are moved to the front to be eaten first. I also label my leftovers with the date written on a piece of masking tape so I know which ones to eat first.

Know the difference between the “best-before date” and the “expiry date”

Only packaged foods with a shelf-life of 90 days or less must have a best-before date. Foods that will last longer than 90 days (such as canned food, rice, pasta, dried beans, nuts and frozen food) don’t need a best-before date, but many food companies choose to put one on anyway.

Best-before dates are based on the food’s freshness and quality, rather than the safety of the food. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, you can buy and eat an unopened food AFTER the best-before date has passed. However, keep in mind that after the best-before date, the food may lose some of its freshness, flavour and nutritional value, and /or its texture may change.

The expiry date is not the same as the best-before date. Only certain foods like meal replacements / drinks and infant formulas must have an expiry date. After the expiry date, the nutritional value of these foods will be different than what is listed on the label. Don’t eat these foods if they are past their expiry date.

What’s your “fridge clean-out” recipe? Take a photo and tag me on Instagram or Twitter @SueMahRD – I want to see your recipes!

Want more? Read my other blogs: 

Put the Freeze on Food Waste

10 Ways to Eat Better for the Planet

Put the FREEZE on Food Waste!

tomato, onion, lemon and banana icons to accompany bulleted text

🌎 Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

One way to protect the planet is to reduce food waste by freezing leftover ingredients. It helps you save money too.

Here are some ingredients that I’ve been freezing a lot these days.

🍅 Tomato paste – Most recipes call for about 1 T of tomato paste. Freeze in ice cube trays or in 1 T portions. Ready for a tomato sauce or stew. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

👍 Onions & Green onions – How many times have your green onions wilted in the fridge? Slice them or chop / dice onions and freeze them. Perfect for an omelet, casserole and fried rice. Lasts 10-12 months in the freezer.

🍋 Lemon juice and Lemon zest – Why toss out flavour? Freeze these and add to salad dressings, pasta or baked items. Lasts 12 months in the freezer.

🌿 Herbs – Cut them and freeze in ice cube trays water, stock or even oil. Simply toss into soups or defrost for a salad dressing when needed. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍌 Bananas – I love making banana bread, so any leftover bananas go straight into the freezer. You can freeze them whole with the peels on (the peels will turn black). Or you can peel the banana first and freeze slices. Thaw and add to baked goods or use frozen in a smoothie. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍓 Berries – Freeze them in a single layer first and then place them in a container or bag. (If you freeze them all at once, they may clump together.) Perfect for smoothies or baking! Lasts 12 months in the freezer.

🍞 Bread – I slice it first and then freeze about 6-8 slices in a freezer bag. Same thing with bagels. This makes is so much easier to use or toast. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍎 You can freeze so many other foods too! What’s your favourite item to freeze?

Happy Earth Day 2020!


[Freezer storage times – sourced from]



Healthy and Sustainable Eating: Leading the Shift – Event Highlights

Sue Mah with Dr. Fiona Yeudall and Dr. Cecilia Rocha

Sue Mah with Nutrition Connection Forum speakers Dr. Fiona Yeudall and Dr. Cecilia Rocha. Image source: Lucia Weiler

Hosted by Nutrition Connections, this year’s annual forum explored the shifts that will be required in eating habits and food choices in order to benefit the health of current and future generations as well as the health of the planet. Here’s our summary of a few of the presentations.

What is Sustainable Eating? – Dr. Cecilia Rocha

Dr. Rocha is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, a Professor in the School of Nutrition and a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University.

Sustainable diets, defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations are: those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.

Rocha reminded us of the 17 sustainable goals proposed by the United Nations, in particular, goal #12 which focuses on responsible consumption and production. Consumers have the potential to be agents of change through their healthy and ethical choices of what to eat. Through responsible consumption, ordinary people can effect change by carefully selecting the products they buy. However, price, convenience and brand familiarity are often the most important decision for most consumers, rather than fairness, sustainability and health.

In a world in which food is mostly a commodity, bought and sold through markets, how do we make the transition from unsustainable and unhealthy food systems to sustainable diets? Can consumers, through their choices of what food to buy, lead the way to that transformation? Rocha further posed this thought-provoking question: Is it realistic or reasonable to put this heroic task on the shoulders of consumers?

Rocha acknowledged that alternative food markets such as Community-Supported Agriculture (CDA), famers’ markets and fair-trade may offer consumers a more sustainable, healthy and ethical model of food production and consumption. Her opinion is that these alternative markets are still viewed as niche and alone, aren’t the answer. Rocha suggested that public policy is needed in at least three areas to facilitate responsible consumption:
– taxes and regulation (e.g. on sugar-sweetened beverages, use of chemicals, ultra-processed foods, and advertising)
– subsidies (e.g. for ecologically-friendly processes and alternative markets)
– information, education and nudging (e.g. food-based dietary guidelines).


How Do Our Eating Habits Compare to Canada’s Food Guide? – Dr. Rachel Prowse

Dr. Prowse, Applied Public Health Science Specialist at Public Health Ontario, compared the recommended proportions of food (by weight) in the new Canada’s Food Guide versus Ontario adults’ intakes from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey – Nutrition Public Use Microdata File. Research results are expected to be published next year, however preliminary findings show that we’re not eating according to the recommended proportions of the food guide. Dr. Prowse suggests that non whole grains and “Other foods” (such as cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream and confectionary) may be displacing nutritious foods on our plates. A consumer shift towards eating a more plant-based diet may help to drive the production of sustainable food options.


A Deep Dive into Food Waste – Dr. Kate Parizeau

As an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph, Dr. Parizeau researches the social context of waste and its management. Parizeau shared some staggering statistics:
– Canada generates 12.6 million tonnes of organic waste per year
– Canada wastes $49.5 billion of food annually – enough to feed every person living in Canada for almost 5 months.

In collaboration with the Guelph Family Health Study, Parizeau looked at food waste both at the household level. Household food waste was defined as either “avoidable” (food that could have been eaten such as whole fruits and vegetables, spoiled food, uneaten leftovers, food past it’s best before date as well as bought but forgotten food) versus “unavoidable” (such as egg shells, banana peels and meat bones).

The study found that about ¾ of the household food waste was avoidable. Most of the avoidable food waste (over 65%) came from fruits and vegetables, 24% from bread and cereals, 6% from meat and fish, and 2% from milk, cheese and eggs. Overall, this amounts to an average of $936 per year, over 175,000 calories thrown out and 1,196 kg of C02 emissions created.


Image source: Kate Parizeau


Food literacy skills can result in reduced food waste. Behaviours such as meal planning, shopping with a list, food preparation, storing food safely and cooking at home are encouraged. A new cookbook Rock What You’ve Got – Recipes for Preventing Food Waste is now available for free download. This cookbook was created by the Guelph Food Waste Research Group in partnership with The Helderleigh Foundation, George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt).




8 Food & Nutrition Trends to Watch in 2018

Trends 2018

I’ve been keeping up with trends reports from around the world! Here’s what food and nutrition experts are predicting for 2018.

1. Fermented Foods. In a recent survey of 2,500 dietitians fermented foods are predicted to be one of the top trends for 2018. A source of the good, probiotic bacteria, fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso and natto. (Today’s Dietitian)

2. New and Improved Canada’s Food Guide.
It’s been a decade since the last national food guide. With the much anticipated launch of the new Food Guide this year, we can expect to see messaging around not just what to eat, but also how to eat. (Dietitians Sue Mah & Lucia Weiler)

3. Hello Leftovers, Goodbye Food Waste. Canadians will continue to think about how their food choices can reduce food waste. Consumer strategies include a revival in the use of leftovers, right-size portioning and GIY (Grow It Yourself). (Loblaw Food Council)

4. Mindful Choices. Today’s consumers are thoughtful, mindful and conscious about making responsible food choices. They want to understand what is in their food and how it was produced in order to make informed decisions for their health, sustainability and ethical issues. (Innova Market Insights)

5. Rising Food Prices. The price of vegetables and the price of food purchased at restaurants will each rise 4-6% this year. Climate patterns are driving vegetable prices up. The average family of four in Canada will pay $348 more this year on food to a total of $11,948, and 59% of that budget will be spent on dining out. (Canada’s Food Price Report 2018)

6. Micro-markets for Food. As consumers are learning more about food, they are looking for more specialized, individualized choices that align with their personal values whether it be nutritional profile (fat, sugar, sodium, calories), location of production or antibiotic use. This is driving the development of micro-markets for specialized products. (Food Focus 2018)

7. Technofoodology. By the year 2020, there will be 24 billion internet-connected devices installed globally – that’s about 3 devices for every human on earth! This IoT (Internet of Things) revolution is changing the way we purchase, receive and interact with our food. There will be continued expansion of resources including Alexa, Google Home, “click and collect” online grocery shopping, as well as delivery of restaurant meals and meal kits. (Business Insider, Supermarket Guru)

8. Food Blockchain Revolution. Thanks to the Bitcoin, blockchain technology is taking off as a novel way for the agri-food business to record and disclose transactions in an open virtual space across the entire supply chain. From farmer to processor to packer to distributor to packaged goods maker to retailer to food service operator to exporter, blockchain technology brings a new level of transparency and information sharing. For example, in the event of a food safety recall, specific products can be traced easily and quickly. (Ketchum Food Forecast)

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