By Erin DeMito, R.D., L.D.N.
Summer may not officially start for another month, but for many of us Memorial Day marks the spiritual start of the season. People are hosting pool parties and picnics with all the traditional summer foods like hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream.
But it’s important to remember that summer also brings fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and sunny Sundays at local farmers’ markets. So today, I’m giving you five great reasons to skip the burger and eat healthier – and fresher – this summer.
1. Your Wallet Will Thank You
Summer is the season of fruits and vegetables! Available produce means lower seasonal prices on your favorite fresh foods including:
- Summer Squash
So during your weekly grocery-shopping trip, be sure to stock up on the fruits and vegetables your family loves.
When your grocery store is having a sale on a family favorite, stock up and freeze the extra until you’re ready to use it. This not only helps you save even more money, but it also prevents food waste.
2. Support Local Farmers
Buying local produce is a great way to support your community. Your purchases help local farmers continue to maintain their crops and support future growing. In addition, the local food you buy will likely taste better and is more nutritious because it has traveled less distance after being picked, meaning it retained more nutrients.
Farmers’ markets often contain so much more than fruits and vegetables! You can also find local honey, baked products and organic meats all from local farms. To find a market near you, visit www.localharvest.org.
3. Get Your Kids in the Kitchen
Healthy eating starts at home and by bringing your kids into the kitchen they’re more inclined to try new foods. Use this time to teach your kids about fresh foods and how to prepare them. You can even let them play “chef” and plan one meal per week including a new ingredient for the family to try.
RECIPE: Hawaiian Pizza
Introduce your kids to summer fruits with this sunny and sweet Hawaiian pizza.
4. Be Kind to the Environment
The future of our planet relies on all of us. Some foods have a greater impact on the environment, compared to others. Animal, fish and dairy products have the largest carbon footprint so choosing these foods less often is an easy and effective way to be support Mother Nature. However, this does not mean you have to become a vegetarian or vegan. Instead, simply choose one vegetarian meal per week to serve for dinner with a focus on including plant-based protein foods, such as beans, nuts or seeds.
RECIPE: Vegetarian Tacos
These vegetarian tacos are full of flavor. Top them with creamy chopped avocado instead of sour cream for some great taste and healthy fats.
5. Protect Your Heart
Choosing fresh, whole foods means you’re also choosing foods low in sodium, added sugars and preservatives. The heart healthy antioxidants found in colorful fruits and vegetables also promote heart health. In addition, these foods are low in calories making them great for your waistline!
RECIPE: Farm Fresh Frittata
Packed with fresh zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes, this frittata offers a high-protein dinner without high fat. A whole wheat English muffin rounds out the meal.