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food waste

Study Says Catering for Different Dietary Requirements Creates More Food Waste

New research from Sainsbury’s claims that families who cook multiple dishes for celiacs, vegans, vegetarians, or meat eaters end up wasting more food.

Daisy Meager

Photo via Flickr userStijn Nieuwendijk.

Everyone knows someone who changes their dietary requirements more than most of us change socks. If you've got mates round for dinner, it can be impossible to keep up with who's vegetarian, vegan, or veggan (you know, a vegan who eats eggs?), and how many dishes you'll need to cook to accommodate them all.

Everyone is entitled to their own food choices, of course. But according to new research from supermarket Sainsbury's, as more of us cook for a wider array of dietary requirements, Britain's food waste problem could be getting worse. (ICYMI, UK households already chuck 7.3 million tonnes of food a year.)

The supermarket found that on average, British parents make two different meals every day and a fifth of those surveyed will make three. As families cook to suit vegan, vegetarian, and celiac diets, as well as food intolerances, they end up with more leftovers. Nearly a third (27 percent) admit that these leftovers and special ingredients often end up in the bin.

The study estimates that 3.5 million families are chucking food in this way.

Of course, the scapegoat vegetarians and vegans aren't wholly to blame (as The Daily Telegraph would have you believe in a since removed article). Firstly, the survey included a range of dietary needs, from nut allergies to celiacs. Secondly, the findings highlight just one of the many ways our society throws out perfectly edible food—see also the food production industry, a lack of basic cooking skills, and just plain indifference.

To combat food waste and keep everyone's stomachs happy, Sainsbury's suggests meal planning and cooking veggie dishes that can be adapted to include meat.

When MUNCHIES reached out to The Vegan Society for their view on the notion that catering for different dietary needs causes food waste, they also had a top tip.

A spokesperson told us: "Having to cater for different dietary needs might cause food waste so it makes more sense for all of us to make vegan dishes that are suitable for everyone. Vegan food should be seen as a default choice because it can be enjoyed not just by vegans, but also vegetarians, the lactose intolerant, various religious groups, and of course meat-eaters."

Simple.