Clean plates much more common when we eat at home

February 14, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When people eat at home, there's typically not much left on their plates - and that means there's likely less going to landfills, according to new research from The Ohio State University.

The same people who on average left just 3 percent of their food on their plates when choosing their own meals left almost 40 percent behind when given a standard boxed-lunch type of meal. Plate waste at home was 3.5 percent higher when diners went for seconds (or thirds).

What we leave behind on our plates is the primary focus of efforts to reduce food waste, and this study shows that it's potentially more important to concentrate on other conservation measures at home, including using up food before it spoils, said Brian Roe, the study's lead author and a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State.

Prior research typically has focused on "plate waste" in settings such as school cafeterias and buffets and has found much greater waste -- from about 7 percent at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet to 18 percent waste of French fries at an all-you-can-eat university dining hall.

The new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first of its kind to follow adult eaters through their normal day-to-day eating patterns, said Roe, who leads the Ohio State Food Waste Collaborative.

"This study allows us to go into the daily eating habits of adults and suggests that when people are choosing their own food, there's not a lot left on their plate," he said.

"When you're making your own plate, you're taking no broccoli or a little broccoli depending on what you like, unlike in a school cafeteria where the broccoli is there whether you want it or not."

The researchers tracked food waste through pictures the 50 study participants took on smartphones before and after meals. The study ran for about a week and included all meals eaten at home or away from home.

To compare plate waste in a controlled environment versus a home dining environment, the researchers had participants dine twice in a lab setting - on lunches that included a lunchmeat sandwich, cookies, pretzels, a fruit cup and a beverage of the diner's choice.

Much of what was left after the meals was beverages - soft drinks, in particular - and grain-based foods, such as hamburger buns.

As much as 25 to 40 percent of food is wasted overall in the United States, and better understanding when, why and how is a key step in reducing that waste, Roe said.

Based on this study, it's probably more important to focus on meal planning and using up foods (and leftovers) before they spoil than on what is left on the plate at home, Roe said.

"Better meal planning is a good place to start," Roe said. "Coming up with a recipe for the leftovers that your family and your kids will actually eat is the next step."

Corby Martin of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, the study's co-lead author, said that the negative effects of being provided with too much food or serving yourself too much are becoming more apparent.

"When this happens, people are much more likely to have a lot of plate waste after their meal," he said.

Though it was not used in this study, Roe and his colleagues are currently putting the final touches on a phone app designed to track food waste. They will begin testing the "Food Image" app in a pilot project this spring.
-end-
The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported this study.

CONTACT: Brian Roe, 614-688-5777; Roe.30@osu.edu

Written by Misti Crane, 614-292-5220; Crane.11@osu.edu and Kelli Trinoskey, 614-688-1323; Trinoskey.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Broccoli Articles from Brightsurf:

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts a cut above for blood vessel health
New research from Edith Cowan University has shown some of our least favourite vegetables could be the most beneficial when it comes to preventing advanced blood vessel disease.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Offering children a variety of vegetables increases acceptance
Although food preferences are largely learned, dislike is the main reason parents stop offering or serving their children foods like vegetables.

With bitter foods, what you eat determines what you like to eat
Introducing plant-based foods to a diet is a common-sense approach to healthy eating, but many people don't like the taste of vegetables, bitter greens, in particular.

Garlic on broccoli: A smelly approach to repel a major pest
New University of Vermont study offers a novel framework to test strategies for managing invasive pests.

Natural compound found in broccoli reawakens the function of potent tumor suppressor
Long associated with decreased risk of cancer, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables -- the family of plants that also includes cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and kale -- contain a molecule that inactivates a gene known to play a role in a variety of common human cancers.

Broccoli sprout compound may restore brain chemistry imbalance linked to schizophrenia
In a series of recently published studies using animals and people, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have further characterized a set of chemical imbalances in the brains of people with schizophrenia related to the chemical glutamate.

Are buyers willing to forgo quality in locally grown produce?
Phillip Coles, professor of practice in management at Lehigh University, is among researchers who found that East Coast buyers aren't willing to forgo quality when it comes to local broccoli varieties.

With these special bacteria, a broccoli a day can keep the cancer doctor away
NUS Medicine researchers have engineered bacteria that specifically targets colorectal cancer cells and converts a substance in some vegetables into an anticancer agent.

Like it or not: Broccoli may be good for the gut
For the broccoli haters of the world, researchers may have more bad news: the vegetable may also help promote a healthy gut.

Read More: Broccoli News and Broccoli Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.