Spring Into a New Season

Posted by: Tiffany Ritter
Date: April 27, 2016

Now that winter is behind us, it’s time to enjoy all that spring offers. For a dietitian that means reintroducing fresh foods into our diets. Spring provides us with an assortment of fruits and vegetables to choose from and celebrate. When you eat in-season, you get the most flavor, the best nutritional value, and affordable food.
Here are a few spring favorites:

Swiss chard
The vibrant colors displayed in chard identify its variety of phytonutrients. These phytonutrients provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Due to its acid content, boil this vegetable and discard the water after cooking.

More benefits: Chard is a good source of fiber, magnesium, and is rich in Vitamin A, K, and C. One of the primary flavonoids found in the leaves of chard may offer special benefits for blood sugar regulation.

Strawberries
A cup of these red, sweet, juicy fruits only have 50 calories. You can thank the strawberry’s anthocyanin antioxidants for giving them their bright red color. These are fragile and delicate fruits and should be consumed within two days for maximum nutritional benefits.

More benefits: Rich in vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium, strawberries support growth and body tissue repair. They also help maintain a healthy immune system.

Apricots
Relatives to peaches, these beautiful small orange-colored fruits are very low in calories and full of carotenoids. These nutrients are believed to help protect eyesight from aging-related damage.

More benefits: Apricots contain potent anti-inflammatory nutrients that help to inhibit the process of inflammation. They are also a good source of fiber supporting digestive health.

Asparagus
This vegetable provides a unique combination of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Asparagus also ranks high for antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc, manganese, and selenium.

More benefits: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients help reduce common chronic health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Seasonal foods can vary for everyone, considering we all live in different places around the world. It’s a good idea to find out what foods are in season and when in your area.

THREE WAYS TO EAT MORE SEASONALLY
Here are three ways to incorporate seasonal, local foods into your cuisine.

1. Visit your local farmer’s market

A farmer’s market is a place where local farmers sell their foods directly to consumers. It’s a fun way to get to know farmers in your area. Be sure to ask questions about the foods you are buying and where they are grown or raised. This helps ensure the foods you eat is exceptionally fresh and healthy.

To find a farmer’s market near you visit Farmers Market National Directory

2. Get involved in Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. It’s a concept intended to encourage relationships between growers and consumers. It is also meant to help consumers become more knowledgeable about the way their food is grown.

Getting involved in a CSA is another great way to find local seasonal foods. Some CSAs will even deliver the food right to your door. If you want to make eating healthy a priority but are too busy to shop for it, this is a great way to save time and incorporate fresh local produce into your menu.

Need help finding a CSA near you? Search through a national farm database such as Local Harvest or the USDA Community Supported Agriculture Directory

3. Try growing a garden

What better way to get fresh local food then to grow it yourself? Gardening can save you money and trips to the store. Eating what you have grown yourself can be very rewarding. Here are a few steps to get you started:

a. Select a location

• Calculate how much space you have. Decide whether you want to grow from the ground, in raised beds, or containers. A garden doesn’t have to be fancy; you can even grow your plants in clay pots, barrels, or hanging baskets.

• A good gardening space has a conveniently located water source and receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.

b. Decide what you want to plant

• Know what grows best in the conditions you are working with.

• Start with something easy to grow like tomatoes, sugar snap peas, or basil. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow and may be a good place to start.

c. Prepare your soil

• If you are planting directly in the ground, get your soil tested. This tells you what soil amendments and nutrients are needed. You can either buy your own test kit or send a sample to your local Cooperative Extension service for testing.

• If you are going to purchase soil, choose a soil that matches the plants you are growing. Make sure to mix it with compost and add a garden fertilizer as needed.

d. Start planting

• Mark your plants with labels so you can remember what you planted.

• Watch as your plants begin to grow and enjoy.

You don’t have to grow a huge extravagant garden to start. It can be as simple as some window boxes or a potted plant. When it comes to gardening, you learn as you go through trial and correction. Don’t give up; just get started.

For more information about gardening visit Let’s Move Gardening Guide.

To enjoy the full nourishment of food, simply eat seasonally. Shopping at your local farmer’s market, getting involved in a CSA, or growing your own garden are three great ways to get seasonal foods on the menu.

Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body… so feed it well!
You may also be interested in our article “How to Eat Healthy on the Go.”

To learn of the seasonal foods available in your state, check out the Seasonal Food Guide.
Disclaimer: The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.