For Nita Sharda, meal planning is the key to keeping edible food out of the garbage. The registered dietitian and mother of two has partnered with Love Food Hate Waste Canada, a national waste-reduction campaign, to share her expertise on feeding young ones.

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For Nita Sharda, meal planning is the key to keeping edible food out of the garbage. The registered dietitian and mother of two has partnered with Love Food Hate Waste Canada, a national waste-reduction campaign, to share her expertise on feeding young ones.

"When parents start introducing solid foods to their children or are feeding their children, there is a high volume of waste because you’ve got these very precarious eaters," she says. "If I have this food in my home, how can I make the best use out of it?"

Sharda works in long-term care and is the co-founder of Carrots and Cake, a private nutrition consulting firm, and Happy Healthy Eaters, an educational platform about feeding infants. Her interest in food and nutrition started at Abbi’s Payfair, her parent’s Sargent Avenue grocery store, where she spent many hours stocking shelves and bagging groceries for customers. Her interest in infant and toddler nutrition started when she became a mother.

Supplied</p><p>Registered dietitian Nita Sharda (with her son Jaidev) knows how picky little eaters can lead to food waste.</p>

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Registered dietitian Nita Sharda (with her son Jaidev) knows how picky little eaters can lead to food waste.

"I’m a dietitian, but I also happen to be a mom," Sharda says. "I can wear both of those hats and try to figure out, OK, these are the recommendations, but how do we balance this with real-life little humans with big personalities and big emotions?"

Her kids, Jaidev, 4, and Luksh, 2, helped her recognize the value of well-suited meals over well-plated ones.

Yummy Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Supplied</p><p>Nita Sharda’s recipe for zucchini chocolate chip muffins are one way to use up extra produce that might go to waste.</p>

Supplied

Nita Sharda’s recipe for zucchini chocolate chip muffins are one way to use up extra produce that might go to waste.

by Nita Sharda

Makes: 9 large muffins, 12 regular muffins, 24 mini-muffins (adjust timing)
Prep time: 15 min
Total time: 45 min

90 g/250 ml (1 cup) quick oats
90 g/180 ml (3/4 cup) whole wheat flour
30 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) hemp hearts
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon
65 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) sugar
150 g/250 ml (1 cup) shredded zucchini, strained to remove excess water content
60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
1 egg
180 ml (3/4 cup) milk or plant beverage
50 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) chocolate chips

by Nita Sharda

Makes: 9 large muffins, 12 regular muffins, 24 mini-muffins (adjust timing)
Prep time: 15 min
Total time: 45 min

90 g/250 ml (1 cup) quick oats
90 g/180 ml (3/4 cup) whole wheat flour
30 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) hemp hearts
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon
65 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) sugar
150 g/250 ml (1 cup) shredded zucchini, strained to remove excess water content
60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
1 egg
180 ml (3/4 cup) milk or plant beverage
50 g/80 ml (1/3 cup) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).

Grease a muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, hemp hearts, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, blend or whisk together shredded zucchini, canola oil, egg, milk and chocolate chips. Create a well in the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the well and gently fold together until it is well incorporated, but do not over-stir!

Spoon batter into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes for large muffins, 20 minutes for regular-sized muffins and 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or feel free to freeze.

Tip: shred the zucchini the night before to make the prep process go by faster.

"I could put together the most beautiful Pinterest-worthy dinner that I may appreciate, but for children there is this real sense of neophobia, and that’s the fear of new things," she says. "I need to understand their perspective and why they may be afraid to try new foods so that I can set them up more successfully."

Offering safe food items — things kids are already comfortable with — alongside new ones can make mealtime run more smoothly and reduce wasted food. Planning ahead has also been a winning strategy in Sharda’s home. She’ll start mapping out the next week of meals on Thursdays, when grocery stores release their new flyers, with the goal of shopping Friday and meal prepping slowly throughout the weekend.

"(We are) trying to, a week in advance, really set a vision for what we want to eat and only purchasing the foods we plan to cook with," she says. "I find that doing that legwork a few days in advance can be so helpful; when I’m talking with families who are saving all this for a weekend, they really dread their weekends."

Sharda also takes grocery requests from her eldest, a tactic that gets him more involved and excited about meals.

According to Love Food Hate Waste, 63 per cent of food thrown away by Canadians could have been eaten; for the average household, this translates to 140 kilograms of food waste per year at a cost of roughly $1,100. A 2020 survey conducted by the campaign found that changes to eating and shopping habits amid the pandemic are leading to less food waste. Even though they were buying more groceries, 24 per cent of respondents were wasting less food than usual by cooking more at home; while 94 per cent were motivated to reduce their household food waste.

Supplied</p><p>Winnipeg mom and registered dietitian Nita Sharda has teamed up with Love Food Hate Waste to share her expertise on feeding infants and toddlers.</p>

Supplied

Winnipeg mom and registered dietitian Nita Sharda has teamed up with Love Food Hate Waste to share her expertise on feeding infants and toddlers.

Strategic grocery shopping goes hand-in-hand with creative cooking and storage, says Sharda.

"A lot of produce can be frozen," she says. "With zucchini, if I notice it’s going towards its last leg, I’m more than happy to shred it for future baked goods or even adding it into something like a smoothie is really wonderful."

Protein, such as rotisserie chicken, can be used in soups, quesadillas or pot pies, while the bones can be saved for stock. Old bread, which is an oft-tossed food item, can be turned into French toast, bread pudding, croutons and bread crumbs.

"I think sometimes it just requires that pause," Sharda says. "That allows us to bridge a gap between the food being wasted and the potential, what we can do with it."

Visit lovefoodhatewaste.ca for more tips on reducing household food waste

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.