Plate waste of adults in the United States measured in free-living conditions.

PLoS ONE. 2018;13(2):e0191813 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0191813


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML



Brian E Roe
John W Apolzan
Danyi Qi
H Raymond Allen
Corby K Martin


Peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

We analyze food-item level data collected from 50 adults from the United States using the Remote Food Photography Method® to provide the first estimates of plate waste gathered from adults across multiple consecutive meals and days in free-living conditions, and during laboratory-based meals with fixed food items and quantities. We find average plate waste in free-living conditions is 5.6 grams (7.7 kcals) per item and that 3.3% of all food selected is returned as plate waste, where the percent waste figure is substantially lower than previously published plate waste estimates gathered primarily from dine-out settings in the United States such as buffets and institutional settings with limited-choice meals (e.g., school cafeterias). Plate waste from the same participants during the laboratory-based meals is significantly higher with an average of 203.2 grams of solid plate waste per meal (531.3 kcals) or 39.1% of the food provided, which is similar to the plate waste percentages found reported in some school cafeteria settings. The amount of plate waste generated in free-living conditions is significantly positively associated with portion size selected for an item. In a multivariate analysis that controls for macronutrient profile, items selected from the vegetables, fats/oils/dressings, and grains categories are associated with significantly greater amounts of plate waste per item. We find no significant associations between free-living plate waste and gender, age, race or body mass index but find that women leave more plate waste in the lab meal where portion sizes are pre-determined by the researcher and similar for all respondents. We discuss possible implications of these findings for programs focused on reducing plate waste and food waste among consumers.