Rosemary Weaver, MPH, RDN, LDN, NCH Wellness Center Dietitian
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, which dovetails with the traditional opening of local farmers markets. This year markets are reopening with new safeguards in place to protect the health of shoppers and vendors.
These safeguards include booths that are distanced further apart, hand sanitizing stations and the encouragement of shoppers to mind their social distancing―at least six feet apart from others. Everyone will wear masks, vendors will wear gloves and produce will be pre-portioned (bagged) by vendors.
With the “temporary new normal” rules, is perusing produce at your local farmers market worth it? Absolutely! June brings a colorful harvest of apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, Swiss chard, watermelon and zucchini. If you can’t grow it yourself, farmers markets are often the next best thing to freshness. Produce at farmers markets is often picked ripe and sold within a day. That translates into fresher, more nutritious food because the vitamins and other nutrients haven’t had time to break down. It’s also a way to support local businesses: the USDA says that more than 85 percent of vendors at farmers markets come from within 50 miles of their location.
Growing your own produce or shopping at a farmers market also encourages you to get out in the fresh air and to eat more produce, which is a health bonus. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems and provide fiber to balance out blood sugar, which can keep your appetite in check. Aim for seven or more total servings of fruit and vegetables per day: a “serving” is about ½ cup cooked or 1 cup/raw.
Here are some ideas for using your fresh farmers market finds:
- Stuff your sandwich with fruits and veggies. Try sliced or shredded veggies like beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers, radishes, mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini and/or sliced fruits like apple, avocado, pear or cherries.
- Cut up washed fruits and veggies and keep in the fridge in stay-fresh containers for a quick and easy snack. Some require no chopping at all like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or sugar snap peas.
- Jazz up yogurt, oatmeal and cereal with berries, peaches, nectarines or other sliced fruit.
- Freeze washed and pureed fruit in an ice tray or popsicle mold for 100 percent fruit popsicles.
- Drop washed and chopped fresh spinach, baby kale, peppers, tomatoes or mushrooms into scrambled eggs and omelets.
- Enjoy fruit for dessert most days and limit traditional sugar-sweetened desserts to special occasions. Fruit on the grill is delicious: pineapple, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, bananas and even grilled watermelon!
- Let kids select a new fruit or vegetable at the farmers market each week, and together look up recipes for preparing.
- Challenge your family to eat as many different produce “colors of the rainbow” as you can each day. Aim for three or more different colors of fruits and veggies at a meal!
- Encourage hydration by adding washed and chopped fresh fruits and/or herbs, (for example, mint) in a pitcher of cold water. Refrigerate a few hours then strain for refreshing fruit-infused water.
For more ideas on adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, check out the American Heart Association’s Fruit and Vegetable Guide.
Here’s a delicious recipe to incorporate some fresh sweet cherries, celery and parsley. This fruit/veg/grain dish is made with farro, an ancient grain that has a satisfying, chewy texture and earthy flavor. Farro is rich in fiber and a source of protein.
Farro Salad with Cherries, Celery and Parsley
Makes 6 servings
1 cup uncooked faro (semi-pearled)
2 ¾ cups water
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups finely chopped celery
Tip: When chopping the celery, keep the leaves and toss them into the salad too. They add an extra dose of fresh flavor.
1 cup chopped parsley leaves
1 ¼ cups halved and pitted fresh cherries
In medium pot, add farro, water and vinegar. Bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low so liquid simmers and cover with lid. Cook until liquid has evaporated, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove lid and let farro cool, at least 10 to 15 minutes.
In medium bowl, add oil, salt, pepper, celery and parsley. Stir in cooled farro to combine. Add in cherries or grapes, stirring to combine. Serve.
Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 220, Carbs: 35 g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 6g, Sat. Fat: 0.5 g, Sodium: 230 mg, Fiber: 6 g