Want a fun and effective way to make your meals healthier? Take your cues from the changing seasons.
Fruits and vegetables that are in season and freshly picked are at their nutritional peak. Research has shown, for instance, that apples lose antioxidants as they sit in cold storage (antioxidants are natural substances that can prevent or delay cell damage and may lower the risk of some diseases).
And fresh, seasonal food also tends to be tastier — just compare that mealy grocery store apple with one that’s crisp, juicy and bursting with fresh-from-the-orchard flavor.
Shopping at local farmers markets is a great way to see what’s in season in your area. Children get excited about trips to the market and might be more inclined to try vegetables if they helped select them.
Eating fruits and vegetables that are available seasonally can also help you break out of your meal rut, compelling you to switch gears whenever the harvests change. Focusing on seasonal foods also allows you to eat more whole, unprocessed foods instead of packaged foods that tend to be high in sugar, salt and fat. As a bonus, locally-grown foods are often abundant and easier on your wallet.
With the arrival of autumn, you can look forward to seasonal produce such as:
One word of caution, though: Halloween candy and Thanksgiving pumpkin pie might be “seasonal” treats, but they don’t count as healthy seasonal fare.
For help choosing fruits and vegetables when they’re at their seasonal best, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Seasonal Produce Guide. And visit UCLA Health online for healthy recipe ideas and tips for adding variety to your vegetables.