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Ruth Clark: Eat local


Sunday, July 03, 2016 7:50PM

If you resolved in 2016 to eat a healthier diet, it’s never too late to get started. Summer is the perfect time of year to work on those changes.

Farmers markets, vegetable stands and CSAs abound and have started to produce some great local food.

In the Monadnock region, you can find a farmer’s market that is open just about every day of the week.

Food that is grown locally can be picked at the peak of perfection which makes it more flavorful. And food purchased in season is more economical.

If you are looking to change your diet, increasing the quantity of your intake of fruits and vegetable will give you the biggest bang for your buck the most quickly.

Nutritional studies indicate that vitamins A, C and K, potassium, magnesium and fiber are nutrients that are under consumed in the US. Fruits and vegetables are major contributors of these nutrients.

Many fruits and vegetables are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases. So when you hear the phrase “Food is medicine”, this is what experts are talking about.

Also, fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories which can replace high calorie foods that contribute to weight gain. If you have been feeling your waist band more than ever these days, adding more produce to your diet is a great place to start.

Current recommendations say that fruit and vegetables are foods that should be eaten most often. For most Americans this means more than doubling the amounts consumed to about 2 cups of fruit and 2 and a half cups of vegetables every day.

This is not as hard as you may think. A simple and wise guideline is to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies! Here are some easy to implement ideas:

Breakfast

Add two handfuls of berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal.

Add chopped vegetables, such as tomato, mushrooms, onion, spinach, or peppers, to your scrambled eggs or omelet.

Make your own fresh-fruit smoothie with some skim milk or yogurt and ice. Add some berries and vegetables to the mix, such as cucumber, kale, spinach, cilantro, or tomato, for a mild flavor and extra nutrients. You won’t taste the veggies because the fruit flavor will dominate.

Lunch

Top your sandwiches with lots of fresh vegetables, such as romaine lettuce or spinach, tomato, onions, avocado, sprouts, mushrooms, or fresh red pepper. These add freshness and a nice crunch. Not to mention flavor!

Choose a soup loaded with vegetables, such as minestrone, chicken with vegetables, or carrot ginger.

Bring along a handful of baby carrots, celery spears, or a piece of fruit to munch on with your lunch.

Consider adding fruit to your green salads, such as apples, grapes, pears, or oranges, for a sweet and tangy kick.

Dinner

Double the chopped vegetables, such as carrots, mushrooms, or peppers, in your casserole recipes.

Buy a bag of spinach and throw a handful on top of any of your dinners as a colorful garnish. The heat of the food will wilt the spinach, so it blends into your food and becomes a healthy addition with little extra effort.

Roast vegetables taste delicious because the process brings out the natural sweetness of the food. Slice some vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, carrots, parsnips, onions, and sweet potatoes, rub them with a little olive oil and spices (I love smoked paprika, cumin and turmeric), and place them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400º F for 20-40 minutes, depending on thickness, while you cook the rest of your meal.

Strive to eat at least one salad per day.

Snacks

Choose carrots, endive, peppers or fennel to serve with hummus

Grab a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit

Try cherry tomatoes and avocado chunks with a drizzle of olive oil

Add fresh berries, apple or pear slices to plain yogurt

Have a hard cooked egg with greens and a drizzle of olive oil

Smooth almond butter on a celery stick, cucumber or carrot stick

Stuff a couple of dates with peanut butter

Cut up cucumber spears and serve with a yogurt dip

Try smoked trout on an English cucumber with a dollop of Greek yogurt

Dessert

Dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate.

Roast pears with honey and a sprinkling of ginger.

Grill peaches or nectarines, spice with cinnamon and serve with mascarpone cheese.

By integrating fruits and vegetables into meals, you will find that you become satisfied with smaller amounts of food and stay fuller longer. This is because of the fiber, water, and high-nutrient content of the fruits and vegetables. Just make one of these dietary changes by adding a vegetable to your noon time meal. Start today and take it from there.

Ruth Clark is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon and has offices in Peterborough and Amherst. After losing both her parents to heart disease at a very young age, nutrition became her purpose in life and she is passionate about helping mid-life individuals prevent illness and disease.