Maintaining the environment while also improving diet quality is an important and challenging global issue. Previous research has examined the relationship between diet and environmental sustainability, but food waste has not yet been considered as a factor.
To investigate the impact of diet quality on food waste and environmental sustainability, Conrad and colleagues collected data on food intake and diet quality from the Healthy Eating Index-2015 as well as data on food waste.
Using a biophysical simulation model they were able to estimate the amount of cropland used to produce wasted food. Data from various US Government sources also allowed the researchers to estimate the amount of agricultural amendments such as irrigation water, pesticides and fertilisers used to produce uneaten food.
Higher quality diets with more fruits and vegetables were associated with more food waste, but used less cropland than lower quality diets, while simultaneously wasting more water and pesticide resources.
These findings indicate that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste are needed. The authors suggest that educating consumers on how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables is one practical method to help reduce food waste.