by Laura Sprauer, Registered Dietitian
Martha Eliot Health Center – Jamaica Plain
Fruits and vegetables provide an excellent base on which to build a healthy diet. They provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and important disease fighting phytonutrients while being low in fat and calories. Focusing on eating seasonal fruits and vegetables can provide a good amount of variety in your family’s diet.
Buying produce in season can be cheaper, and it is also a good way to keep your family’s favorite recipes new and exciting. For instance, if your are going to roast vegetables try peppers, beans and cherry tomatoes in the summer but switch to sweet potatoes, carrots and turnips as the weather turns colder.
For more variety, add new vegetables to soups and stews. Make your favorite soup recipe new by adding a seasonal vegetable like asparagus in the spring or butternut squash in the fall. This allows your family to try something new while eating the dishes they already like. For more ideas on cooking old recipes in a new way, check out a cookbook at your local library.
One of the best places to buy local, seasonal produce is your local farmer’s market. Maybe you’ve been to the farmer’s market and seen produce you have never used before – that’s OK! One of the best ways to try new fruits and vegetables is to replace your old favorites with new ones. If your family really enjoys lettuce in their tacos, try making tacos with cabbage in the colder months or add a variety of fresh berries to your cereal bowl in the summer. Be sure to ask the vendors at the Farmer’s Market for ideas on how to use new produce. They will likely have some great ideas for you.
With many of us trying to stretch a dollar, try featuring produce in small amounts instead of making it the “main attraction.” You may go to the market and realize that those blueberries are more expensive than you planned. Instead of making blueberry muffins, add a few blueberries to some yogurt. This will stretch your produce and your cash. By adding seasonal produce to inexpensive yet healthful staples such as beans and whole wheat pastas, you can make meals stretch a little further without breaking the bank.
Another way to incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables into your family’s diet is to join a community garden. The gardens allow residents to rent plots for the summer and plant their favorite crops. Not only is this a great way to make sure your family is eating their fruits and vegetables, but it is also a good way to spend time together and be physically active. Visit Boston Natural Areas Network for a list of community gardens near you.
At first it might seem hard to buy and cook seasonal produce, but it doesn’t have to be. By focusing on produce that is in season, you are helping your budget, your health and the environment!
For a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables in Massachusetts, check out http://www.nrdc.org/health/foodmiles/fullyear.asp?state=22
Image courtesy of Byzantine Flowers.