Reducing Food Waste – Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

Food waste is an ongoing problem in the foodservice industry, one that will never be completely eradicated, but with simple technics from the. The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus you can do your part to reduce waste and health the environment.

Principle 8:
Reduce portions, emphasizing calorie quality over quantity, as a key step in reducing food waste from both front of house and in the kitchen.

Moderating portion size is one of the biggest steps foodservice operators can take towards reversing obesity trends and reducing food waste. Consider menu concepts that change the value proposition for customers from an overemphasis on quantity to a focus on flavor, nutrient quality, seasonal ingredients, and dining experience. Calorie quality is also important. Dishes should feature slowly metabolized whole grains, plant proteins including nuts, legumes, mushrooms and healthy oils that promote lasting satiety and create great flavours1. A couple studies have shown that mushrooms, when substituted for meat, can improve nutrition, enhance weight loss and promote satiety.2,3, They are also available year-round.

Principle 20:
Serve less red meat, less often. Chefs and menu developers should rethink how meat is used by featuring it in smaller, supporting roles to healthier plant-based choices, and experimenting with meat as a condiment 4. Utilizing mushrooms to boost umami and simulate a meat like texture is a good option.

According to Mintel Menu Insights, vegetables as a centre of the plate ingredient grew 2% from Q3 2013-16.4

Other studies suggest that plate waste is a significant contributor to loss in food service, primarily due to too large of portions and undesired accompaniments. This can be avoided by simplifying your menu offering with fresh, seasonal produce and focusing on the quality of the dish, as well as using meat as a condiment or “flipping” the center of the plate. The goal of many restaurants is to not overwhelm patrons and minimize waste by only stocking ingredients vital in crafting core dishes.6

Red and white meat, although it contains protein, is filling and cumbersome. “Flipping” the center of the plate to a condiment can allow for maintenance of portion sizes, while reducing food waste because “heavier” items have been reduced. This could potentially allow guests to consume their whole meal feeling satisfied, but not guilty. The protein available in plants foods can satisfy such needs. Preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy-density foods (meaning few calories given the volume of food), specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground meat, can be an effective method for reducing daily fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after the meal.7

Who is Making the Flip:

  • Chicken Fennel Rosemary Sauté, French Lentils, with Sautéed Vegetables at UCLA
  • Petite Tenders of Beef with Portobello Mushroom & Onion at Libby & Sewall U of Colorado
  • Bacon & Pea Risotto at University of Colorado
  • Vegetable Shrimp Wonton and Indian Sweet Potatoes & Lentils at Asian Shi Pin, University of Colorado
  • Chorizo Breakfast Sandwich with Mushroom Gravy at Iowa University

Solutions to Reduce Waste
Front of House:
1. Creating message on in-house communications explaining the value that guests receive from the quality of the food you serve and shift focus away from quantity.

2. Building an environment that both subconsciously (smaller plates, tray-less, pre-portioned dishes) and directly (balanced plate, education, signage) guides guests. Use smaller plates and dishes. A Danish survey shows that if the plate size is reduced by just 9%, the food waste can be reduced by over 25%.8.

3. Spend a night monitoring everything servers scrape into trash cans. If one dish is repeatedly coming back half-finished, consider adjusting the size of that portion.

In the Kitchen:
1. Garlic and onion peels, corncobs and mushroom stems, can be used for stock. Carrot tops can enhance pesto and herbal sauces. Overripe berries become jams and jellies. fried carrot peels as a garnish.9



What is Menus of Change
The Menus of Change is a collaborative that brings together those in the foodservice industry to reimagine food. The initiative aims to create a world-class network of collaboration among America’s most talented chefs, nutrition and environmental scientists, farm and fisheries experts, foodservice executives, and policy makers. In collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus was developed to provide unique guidance for the foodservice industry and bring together findings from nutritional and environmental science perspectives on optimal food choices, trends in consumer preferences, and impacts of projected demographic shifts.


1. Menus of Change, The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus
2. Cheskin LJ, Davis LM, Lipsky LM, Mitola AH, Lycan T, Mitchell V, Mickle B, Adkins E. Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef. Appetite. 2008:51;50-57.
3. Myrdal Miller, A., Mills, K., Wong, T., Drescher, G., Lee, S.M., Sirimuangmoon, C., Schaefer, S., Langstaff, S., Minor, B. and Guinard, J.-X. (2014), Flavor-Enhancing Properties of Mushrooms in Meat-Based Dishes in Which Sodium Has Been Reduced and Meat Has Been Partially Substituted with Mushrooms. Journal of Food Science, 79: S1795–S1804.
4. Menus of Change, The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus
5 & 6. Mintel Foodservice Trends 2017
7.Cheskin LJ, Davis LM, Lipsky LM, Mitola AH, Lycan T, Mitchell V, Mickle B, Adkins E. Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef. Appetite. 2008:51;50-57.
8. Nudging: How do people behave, September 28, 2013.
9. Chefs get creative about restaurant food waste, Environmental News, August 10, 2016