By John Ruibal, Your Prowers Medical Center Dietitian
A couple of signs that fall is coming include parents and kids getting excited about the coming school year, fall sports, and fresh produce that’s locally grown becomes abundant at the local Farmer’s Markets. Farmer’s Markets are a great way to add freshness, variety and nutrition to your eating plans and they are a great way to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Here are a few ways Farmer’s Markets can super charge your diet:
- The farm where the produce is grown is local, meaning it’s super fresh. The staff is knowledgeable and can answer the questions, “where was my food grown” and “what is next in the harvest”. You can use this information to plan your menus.
- You have the chance to get the whole family involved and teach kids how to clean and prepare food dishes with fresh produce. Kids are more likely to try new fruits and vegetable when they are part of the decision on what to choose.
- By supporting your local farmers, you are supporting the local economy. The money you spend is kept local.
- You can double your money if you use the government’s SNAP program (https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap). This is a great way to double the amount of produce that you can feed your family.
- Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits helps to cut down on unhealthy snacking. Vegetables like cucumbers, celery and carrots are considered free foods and can be eaten often and without guilt. Just remember to forego the salad dressing.
- Stock up and can or freeze produce to lock in freshness and nutrition to enjoy until next season.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Fruits and vegetables are a great way to stay hydrated and help you get needed electrolytes without the sugars of a sports drink.
- Arkansas Valley produce is prized all over the nation and you can get the best of the best right in your own back yard, when it is the freshest and has the highest nutrient content.
The Farmer’s Markets can play an excellent role in keeping your diet on track or getting you started on the path of better health and wellness. A good rule of thumb is to use the USDA’s MyPlate method to make your diet healthier (www.choosemyplate.gov). MyPlate took the place of the food guide pyramid; and for those a little older, the four food groups. The MyPlate method divides your plate into fourths. The goal is to have half of your plate full of vegetables and fruits, a quarter of your plate starch and a quarter of your plate a good protein source. Dietitians and nutritionists will tell you to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits and using your local Farmers Market is a great way to meet that goal and super charge your diet at the same time.