How Large Portion Sizes Could Affect More Than Just Your Waistline

black bear at a garbage dump

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“It’s better to put it to waste in the trash than to put it to waste in your body,” a friend of mine once said, referring to whether you should go ahead and finish that plateful of food, or toss it in the garbage.

As much as I despise throwing away perfectly good food, I kind of thought she had a point. After all, the weight gain, the cost to your health and happiness, the guilt and uncomfortableness of having over-eaten it doesn’t even compare to the guilt and cost of throwing away the portion of food that is “too much.” Right?

I’m not sure anymore. After reading this article about the environmental cost of food waste, I realize that food waste has a domino effect. If our portions are too big, we’re wasting food, water, and other resources that went into preparing that food in the first place. The grain and water that went into raising the chicken that gave its breasts to the caesar salad that I only ate half of and then tossed . . . well, that has a cost. The fact that I bought a portion larger than I could eat sends the message back to the farmers and ranchers to continue to produce as much as they are now, when the truth is that there is too much food. They could be saving water, animal feed, pesticides and fertilizer and our natural resources.

So it’s not necessarily better to put our excess food in the trash, but obviously there’s still a cost to putting it in our bodies. (And we’re not, as the article points out, genetically disposed to reject food when it’s in front of us) How, then, do we balance the scales? How do we make sure we eat smart so that there’s minimal waste both in our bodies and in the environment?

Here are some ideas:

  • We retrain our sense of what a “good” sized portion is.
  • We use smaller plates to serve ourselves at home and we split a dish when we go out.
  • We pull out the SnapWare and save the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
  • And we put our scraps in the compost pile rather than in the landfill.

One way or the other, too much food costs us our quality of life. But we’re not powerless to stop it. We can do our part.

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