Mother Earth is hurting, badly. I’m prompted to write this blog as fires rage through Australia. A land dry and desperate. Our skies here in NZ – 2000 km away – are sepia toned.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage small changes toward a more sustainable lifestyle. We cannot undo the damage already done but we can lessen our impact on our Earthly home.
According to Love Food Hate Waste, “New Zealanders throw away 157,389 tonnes of food a year. That is equivalent to 271 jumbo jets of food that has to go somewhere to rot, instead of being eaten.”
Why is food waste an issue? Read more here.
Here’s the thing: when your baby is learning to eat solids, they won’t always eat everything you’ve prepared. When your toddler starts testing boundaries and becoming wary of green stuff, they’re not going to eat everything you’ve prepared. And guess what?! We actually want our children to listen to their hunger and satiety cues and sometimes that means they’re not going to eat everything you’ve prepared!
Food waste is inevitable with young kids but we can do our best to reduce it.
Have a regular meal routine
Most children do best when they eat every 2-3 hours or with a Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner (sometimes evening snack) routine.
If your child is a grazer, you might notice they never eat well at main meal times because they’re simply not hungry enough to eat. Two issues:
- They don’t eat what you’ve served and the main meal is wasted;
- You run the risk of half-eaten fruit, packets of chips, yoghurts etc. which all goes to waste!
There should be periods of time when your child is not eating. Their digestive system needs a chance to rest and digest, and they need time to build that appetite before their next meal.
- What’s the purpose of a snack?
A snack is designed to get you from one main meal to the next. So morning tea is designed to get you from breakfast to lunch. It’s not supposed to fill you up…the next main meal is coming!
Most of us overestimate the amount our children need to eat (especially for snacks). Half a banana, a small mandarin, some veggie sticks, a few crackers with cheese or a small yoghurt is usually plenty for a toddler. Remember, it’s just to tide them over until the next main meal.
- Get to know portion sizes
When your baby first starts solids, they may only eat 1/2-2 tsp at a time. It can actually be easier – and less wasteful – to prepare food as you go, rather than batch cooking and freezing a whole lot. Babies develop eating skills quite quickly and you might find yourself left with a huge amount of pureed veg combinations that end up going to waste.
When serving a new food to your toddler, just put 1 tablespoon on their plate. It might seem like a very small amount but they can always ask for more. One tablespoon – instead of a huge serve – is also less daunting for picky eaters and we’re more likely to save leftovers if they haven’t already been dished up.
What to do with leftovers/wasted food?
A compost is an easy way to get rid of scraps without chucking it in the bin. Earlier in the blog I linked to why this is an issue.
Read this article for tips on how to get started.
Or pop into your local Mitre 10 or Bunnings and ask someone to help you. Even with a small section you can set up a compost system or worm farm. And it’s a great teaching point for kids.
2. Uneaten fruit and veg
Pop in the fridge for later.
Freeze for adding into smoothies, or grate veg into muffins.
3. Packaged food, meat and mixed meals
Try bulking out meals with veges or adding a side dish to a meal i.e. serving salad or greens with lasagne. Veering toward a more plant-based diet can be more sustainable.
Again, serve smaller amounts and keep mealtimes relaxed and pressure-free – this should hopefully encourage your children to eat what is served.
If you have an animal you might be able to feed certain leftovers to them BUT unfortunately, a lot of food will simply be wasted. You (as the parent) can either choose to eat it but this isn’t helpful either if you’re not hungry. It’ll go to waste in your body if not in the bin!
For non-compostable items, make sure you bin appropriately and recycle packaging when possible.
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic
At the risk of ruffling feathers – although I’m certainly not judging – we need to get serious about single-use plastic, this includes baby food pouches.
I know they’re convenient and of course I’ve used them myself, more so when my toddler was a baby. Now I don’t ever buy food pouches but I do still buy the yoghurt pouches infrequently.
- Store-bought baby food from a jar
- Homemade food served in a container or Kai carrier (or similar)
A word on baby food pouches nutrition:
Generally, baby food pouches don’t offer enough nutrients as a complete meal (like adequate amounts of fat and protein) and are usually fruit-based, even the savoury flavours (fruit is not “bad” but we don’t need apple sauce or banana in our lamb and pea puree!)
Ultra high heat processing also means that water soluble vitamins (found in fruits and veges) are destroyed. Manufacturers might add these back in via food fortification, or not.
A few final strategies:
- Grow your own food! Even just growing your own spinach will reduce your impact…don’t tell me we’re the only family who has bought a bag of spinach only to throw most of it away.
- Take a packed lunchbox or snacks from home when you go out. Less chance of buying packaged foods on the run.
- Grab a child-sized KeepCup (and one for yourself!) for all those fluffy dates.