10 Healthy Foods You Should Rescue from the Garbage

Featured Article, Healthy Cooking Tips, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on June 25, 2013
Woman peeling food for dinner.

We spend so much money on food that it’s a shame to let even the tiniest bit go to waste. But that’s exactly what we’re doing, every day—without even knowing it. Here are 10 healthy foods you’re most likely dumping into the trash, and how to repurpose them to get the most for your money.

1. Beet greens. Beet greens are reportedly high in the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are important for healthy eyes. Instead of lopping them off into the compost pile, wash them well to remove grit, dry in a lettuce spinner, slice into ribbons and saute in olive oil and garlic or add to soups. If the greens are young and tender, you can add them fresh to lettuce or other salad greens. (These same ideas work for radish greens as well.)

2. Potato peels. Potato peels are high in fiber—and we all need more of that. For a high-fiber, low-fat alternative to potato chips, scrub your scrubs well before peeling. Using a paring knife (not a potato peeler), peel them so that the skins come off in a fairly uniform size (1 inch by 3 inches), toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at about 425 degrees until crisp–15 to 20 minutes. Serve as you would chips.

3. Bones. Raw bones or the bones from cooked meat–poultry, beef, pork or fish—can make a low-salt, high-flavor homemade stock. Freeze them until you have several pounds and then place in a stock pot with veggies, herbs and spices, cover with water, and simmer gently for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours, until the water is reduced by at least half. Strain and refrigerate, freeze or use immediately as the base of your soup. For fish stock, use fish bones and raw shrimp shells and cook for only 20-35 minutes.

4. Stale bread. Toss stale bread or breadcrusts into the freezer, then use a food processor to make low-sodium breadcrumbs. It also makes for a good soup-thickener. In fact, stale bread is the basis of Zuppa di Pan Cotto, a traditional Italian recipe: Add a beaten egg or two to hot chicken broth and ladle over stale bread crumbles in soup bowls; garnish with freshly grated Romano cheese. Or make Panzanella (Italian bread salad): On a baking sheet, toast bite-size pieces of stale bread tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic for 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Make a dressing by whisking together 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; combine this with the bread, 4 diced ripe tomatoes, one-half sliced red onion, fresh basil, green olives and 1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella.

5. Pumpkin or squash seeds. Pumpkin seeds are high in heart-healthy magnesium and fiber; other squash seeds have similar health benefits. To enjoy them, remove the stringy bits from the seeds, toss with olive oil and salt, spread them in one layer in a baking pan, and roast them at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they are golden brown and crispy. Eat straight away, or cool and store in an airtight container.

6. Veggie trimmings–parsley stems, celery leaves, fennel fronds, onion tops, carrot tops and peels. Simply throw them into a bag in the freezer. Use later to make vegetable stock.

7. Apple peels. Fine dice or do a quick run through a food processor and add to oatmeal cookies for a fiber boost.

8. Salmon skin. It’s a shame to waste all those great, heart-healthy omega-3 fats, so try this super-crispy, surprisingly tasty snack: Spray a cooking rack with oil and place salmon skin, skin side up, on the rack. (If you don’t have a rack, use aluminum foil.) Broil it about 4 inches away from the broiler for about 10 minutes. Skin should be crispy and golden, not burnt. Cool and eat right away, or store in an airtight container.

9. Unwaxed cheese rinds. These tasty bits give a punch of flavor to low-fat soups, stews and slow-cooked dishes. Simply stash in the freezer, then add to the dish as it simmers. If the rind doesn’t dissolve completely, make sure to remove before serving.

10. Crystallized honey. Has the last of your honey gone hard? Add some vinegar to the jar, shake, and use the vinegar to make a homemade vinaigrette by combining with olive oil and herbs.