Buying fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season will improve your nutrition and stretch your food budget. Produce that is in season will be available in larger quantities and, therefore, cost less than out-of-season fruits and vegetables. You also gain the greatest nutrient value because the food is fresh.
Eating in-season produce also gives you the opportunity to add some variety to your diet by trying foods that might not be available at other times of the year. Look for new recipes that include in-season fruits and vegetables.
A person who eats more generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet is more likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables that we eat. For example, they recommend that a 50-year-old man who exercises 30 to 60 minutes a day should consume two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day.
To give you some options, one cup equals:
• For breakfast — one small apple or a large banana or half of a grapefruit
• For lunch — a salad made of a cup of lettuce and a half-cup of other vegetables or one large orange or one medium pear
• For dinner — a half of a large sweet potato and a half-cup of green beans or one large potato or one large ear of corn
Farmers’ markets offer one of the best sources of in-season, locally grown produce. They also give you an opportunity to speak with the farmer directly about the fruits and vegetables that you plan to buy. To find farmers’ markets, visit www.localharvest.org/. This website provides information on farmers’ markets in Sparks, Reno and Truckee, for example.
Once you stock up on in-season produce, follow these tips for keeping your food fresh until you are ready to eat it. First, be sure to rinse it carefully, to remove dirt and pesticides. For food that you store on the counter, keep it out of direct sunlight in a perforated bag or open container.
Store refrigerated food in perforated bags. Keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers to prevent spoilage.
Keep these foods away from other fruits and vegetables: apples, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes. These and some other foods produce ethylene, an odorless, tasteless gas that, in large quantities, can speed up ripening and cause food to spoil. Place these foods in separate bags or drawers.
If you have a busy life that leaves little time for preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, consider these options. Aim for a mix of foods that you can pack and eat easily and can store in a drawer, in the car or in a refrigerator or cooler near your desk. A banana, apple, orange or even a mango will help you feel full and will satisfy your sweet craving, too. If those are not available or in season, take raisins or canned fruit packed in water or its own juice.
With a little planning and smart shopping, you can improve your diet and your overall health.
Dr. Joel Swetish is a doctor of osteopathic medicine with the Northern Nevada Medical Group. Located at Vista Medical Terrace at 2345 E. Prater Way, Dr. Swetish is accepting new patients, and same-day appointments and walk-ins are welcome. The Northern Nevada Medical Group accepts most of the area’s health plans including Medicare. To schedule an appointment, call 352-5300.