Keeping your diet full of fruits and vegetables is a key ingredient to maintaining a healthy eating plan. Your goal should be to incorporate an abundance of fruits and vegetables in your everyday meals. But how? For many people (especially kids) the thought of eating 5-6 servings of fruit and vegetables every day is not desirable. Here’s a trick. An easy way to achieve this is to mix things up and fill half of your plate with a variety of produce at every meal. When you buy local, seasonal produce you’re making this possible and getting a great variety and the best quality ingredients for your family’s meals.
Reasons to Buy Local, Seasonal Produce
Fresh is Best!
Opt to buy local, seasonal produce is a great choice. Buying local means you’re getting the freshest available. Fresh, local produce is typically full of fiber, low in calories, and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Buying frozen or canned can be options too, but fresh is always a good decision. And you might see a better response from the whole family when you serve up fresh, flavorful, and colorful veggies rather than their out-of-season counterparts.
When you get fruits and vegetables that are harvested at the peak of ripeness, you end up with a more flavorful plate and denser nutrients. When produce is picked prematurely and trucked or shipped great distances, their flavor is lackluster. Also, you’re missing out on nutrients that can rapidly decline when food is in storage.
In-Season Aligns With Your Body’s Natural Needs
By eating in-season food, you’re putting your body and eating habits in alignment with the bounty that nature produces. In the winter, citrus fruits are readily available and are packed with vitamin C helping boost the immune system. Winter vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, and spinach, are known as “comfort foods” and are perfect for stews, soups, and casseroles. Spring is a time when you can find many detoxifying foods like asparagus, beets, and celery. During Summer produce like peaches, plums, and cherries often carry extra beta-carotene arrive to protect us against sun damage; they’re also cooling for the hot summer weather. Mother nature definitely knows what she’s doing!
Where To Shop for Local, Seasonal Produce
Instead of the supermarket, head out to the local farmer’s market. Get the whole family involved in planning and picking out the family’s groceries for the week. Buy in bulk too! If you find a great deal on a particular item that your family enjoys, buy in bulk so you can wash, dry, and freeze them for meals in the weeks to come.
When you shift your attention to foods that are in season, you’re promoting a diet that is diverse and keeps your plate interesting from season to season. You’re also better able to eat the foods that your body needs to maintain optimal functioning. Another added benefit is you’re reducing the family’s grocery expenses when you buy local, in-season produce as they typically cost less than out-of-season produce that has to be shipped and stored.
Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits
The key is to maintain healthy eating habits throughout every season. If kids seem to have an aversion to veggies, get them involved in choosing the menu and jazz things up by keeping a variety of fruits and vegetables on hand. This will keep things interesting! Even if they have a “favorite” food they may eventually get bored of it, so offer a variety at each meal and make mealtime fun.
Here are some more tricks to sneak more veggies and fruit into the family’s diet:
- Buy large quantities. Buy in bulk at farmer’s market and freeze appropriate portions for future meals.
- Think local when selecting produce. You’ll find that not only are they fresher, but the cost is lower too.
- Get colorful. Color is a great indicator of the amount of variety in your diet. If everything looks the same, you probably aren’t getting the range of nutrients your body needs.
- Let everyone participate. Normally when we have a choice about something, we’re more likely to be satisfied and follow through. So let the kids pick out their veggies and mix-and-match items to make their plate a rainbow.
It may seem like sticking to a healthy diet for the whole family can be difficult or time-consuming, but once you make a conscious effort you’ll have everyone on board in no time. Follow these tips to have healthy, nutritious, local and seasonal meals your whole family will enjoy.
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Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Advocate, Health Educator, and a Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. She helps parents to build healthier habits and routines to better balance home and work life. Her website, WholeFamilyLiving.com, provides motivation and simple strategies for handling everyday challenges like managing stress, being active, eating healthier, losing weight, and more. Alicia is a beach lover and gardening geek in her spare time.