Sustainable America Blog

Eating Out Without Wasting Food

As kids, we were taught to clean our plates, but at today’s restaurants, that can be a monumental and unhealthy task. The average restaurant meal has ballooned over the last 50 years.

Bigger portions mean we end up eating more, but a hidden consequence is that we waste more, too. Each time a server scrapes our leftovers into the trash, we waste money, and that food will likely go to a landfill where it will produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.

The good news is that there are easy, actionable steps we can take to dine out with less waste. If you’re a restaurant regular, check out the tips in our infographic below. For more tips on wasting less food, visit

Eating Out without Wasting Food Infographic

Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Natural Resources Defense Council, Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.

Quiz: How Much Food Do You Really Waste?
How to Reduce Food Waste Like a Chef
At Juliet, Zero-Waste Is Baked into the Menu

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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