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To Love Dairy Leftovers is to Reduce Food Waste

by Stephanie Cundith, MS, RD, LD | September 1, 2016 | Dairy Foods | 0 comments

Love Dairy Leftovers

The new school year is upon us, and my son, Topher, and I are on a mission to make it the best one yet. He’s a 6th grader, which means he’s now in middle school (sniff, sniff). And with middle school comes greater responsibility. While I will let his teachers define what this means in the classroom, I am going to work with him on what this means at home. In addition to having a longer chore list, he’s been named my wingman in helping to reduce food waste. Did you know the average person throws away an estimated 15 to 25 percent of all food purchased? This totals approximately 133 billion pounds, or 300 pounds per person! In addition to taking a financial toll – for a family of four, these numbers translate to almost $1500 worth of food essentially being thrown in the garbage – there are environmental and social implications. Much of the food waste in the U.S. winds up in landfills, which leads to greenhouse gas emissions and furthers climate change. Imagine the benefit this food could have if it were redirected to the 14 percent of Americans who struggle with food insecurity. These statistics are both staggering and compelling, and Topher and I will do our part to move the needle on food waste in a more positive direction.

As he and I adjust to a new back-to-school schedule, it’s a fitting time to adopt a new approach for making the most of the foods we buy and prepare. Of the total amount of food wasted, 19 percent (or 25.4 million pounds) are dairy products. Given milk, cheese and yogurt are mainstays in our meals and snacks, we’ll focus our attention here. By implementing kitchen tricks, we’ll cut back on the amount of food we throw out while maximizing our grocery store dollar. We’ll also maximize our nutrient intake while controlling our calorie intake, which further supports our cause since over-eating is another form of food waste. We’ll save time, too, since we won’t be making as many shopping trips. Bonus! Take a look at some strategies we created to shower dairy leftovers with the love they deserve:

Think twice before tossing

A recent study conducted by Midwest Dairy revealed many people don’t read and or understand the sell-by dates on dairy packages, which in turn leads to throwing away food prematurely. Here are some tips to help clear up the confusion: You can actually drink milk up to a week beyond the sell-by date listed on milk containers, and yogurt is good for up to 10 days past that date. Most cheeses can be eaten weeks or even months later. Use your senses to guide you; if something has an off flavor, odor or appearance, throw it out. To ensure the longest shelf life of your dairy products, check out these food storage tips and this cool infographic:

How to Store Dairy Products

Make every ounce of Greek yogurt count

Still have yogurt to use up? Use Greek yogurt as a base in guacamole or a stir-in for hummus. Not only does Greek yogurt add taste and texture to dishes, but it also boosts protein content since it can pack up to 15-20 grams per 8-ounce serving. Dips aren’t just for in-home enjoyment; Topher loves to pack them, paired with leftover cut up vegetables, in his lunch box. You could also use them (veggies, too) as the foundation for a tasty wrap.

Let no slice or shred of cheese go unnoticed

Make the most of the cheeses in your fridge. Layer it on sandwiches and sprinkle on baked potatoes, salads and pizzas. Topher is known to pack cold pizza for lunch and eat it for breakfast, too. Like Greek yogurt, cheese packs a protein punch. When paired with fruits and vegetables, it can increase consumption of these food groups. You can bet Topher’s pizzas will be topped with goodies like pineapple or peppers. Also, mix cheese into eggs for an easy morning meal. Make life even easier by preparing and freezing these cheesy, egg muffins in advance; then thaw and heat as needed. Note: Foods like pizza and eggs not only call for dairy additions, they are a great way to use up other leftovers in the fridge, such as herbs, vegetables, chicken and ham.

‘Milk’ milk for all its worth

Packed with nine essential nutrients and costing, on average, only 25 cents per glass, you can’t find a better beverage bargain. This is why we serve it with all meals and also use it as ingredient in recipes, such as smoothies and soups, including this sweet potato soup, which has fall written all over it. And if milk remains, and it’s nearing the week past its sell-by date, we look to milk and cereal as our go-to snack. This pairing is one of our favorites to enjoy any time of day.

What will you do to join our moo-vement to reduce food waste?

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Stephanie Cundith, MS, RD, LD
Manager, Corporate Communications at Midwest Dairy

As a registered dietitian and nutrition spokesperson for Midwest Dairy Council, I work on behalf of dairy farmers to communicate the benefits of dairy nutrition. In addition to Dairy Makes Sense, I am a blogger for The Dairy Report.

I write from the perspective of a working mom who recognizes the challenges families face when sorting out nutrition information and putting healthy foods on the table. Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt - all proven to play a critical role in overall health and development – take center stage in my family’s meal plan. As a runner who always is training for the next big race, I also write from the perspective of an athlete. I understand the important role nutrition plays in fueling an active lifestyle and believe that dairy helps me perform at my best.

My education background may be considered non-traditional in the field of dietetics. I have an undergraduate degree in journalism. After graduation I decided to go back to school to study nutrition and become a dietitian. I joined the Midwest Dairy staff eight years ago. Before that, I worked as a hospital dietitian and a weight management coach.

I'm originally from Pennsylvania, but Kansas has been my home now for more than ten years. Favorite pastimes include traveling east to visit family, cooking, and doing anything outside - especially distance running or chasing after my nine year-old son.

Let’s talk more about dairy nutrition, health and fitness! Follow me on Twitter @scundithRD.

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