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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I’m trying to break the habit of automatically cleaning my plate, but I don’t like to waste food. Is there a healthy compromise?

A: The bottom line is to put less food on your plate. You may be feeding fewer people at home or need fewer calories than in the past, but still preparing the same amount for meals. Save money and prevent food waste by buying and preparing less. When eating out you can order smaller portions, skip extra courses, or even order an appetizer and a salad or soup instead of a traditional main dish. If you start with smaller portions there won’t be as much food left behind.

Another strategy is to develop the habit of using your extra food for future meals. Many foods can be frozen, providing an easy option for when you don’t have time or energy to cook. Bringing lunch from home using leftovers can be a key time-saving strategy, packing things up “to go” immediately as you put away food following a meal. This works if you eat lunch at home too. You also can use food you don’t eat at one meal in a different form in another meal in the next few days. For example, you can add leftover vegetables, fruit, poultry, meat and seafood to soups, casseroles, salads or sandwiches.

If you consider your question from another angle, eating more than what your body needs is actually wasting food because excess calories contribute to weight gain. The good news is that you can avoid food waste working from either end – by preparing less or by using extra food for other meals – and eat food portions that support your good health.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 06/01/2015

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