By Monika Frauzem dietetic technician, registered
March is not only the kick-off of spring;it’s also National Nutrition Month! Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
With a greater variety of fruits and vegetables hitting the markets this time of year, it is easier to meet the recommendation of filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. The USDA MyPlate program is a model for healthy eating. For those of us withambitious goals to pursue, focusing on small changes is more realistic. There is no magic recipe; food variety and moderation are key ingredients to healthy eating.
Here are a few easy ways to spring clean your family’s eating habits:
Mindful eating: Focusing on mindful eating helps control portion sizes and lets you enjoy the different flavors of your food. Fruits and vegetables are the most flavorful when bought in season.
Shop outside: Farmers’ markets are ideal places to shop for seasonal produce.Sustainability and encouraging market development in underserved areas are just two reasons to support your local farmers’ market. Programs such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) offer access to more fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families and provide vouchers that are accepted at many farmers’ markets.
Shopping at the local farmers’ market is not only fun, it also supports local businesses. It is a great place to by organic produce, locally baked goods, local cheeses, and oils. Three out of four farmers who sell at farmers’ markets use farming practices that meet or exceed organic standards.
Get your kids involved: Some vendors at farmers’ markets come equipped with recipe cards and are happy to share recipe ideas and give advice on cooking and storing various kinds of produce. They let you know when the season is at its peak and when it is winding down. This is a great way to get your kids involved with learning about where food comes from and to see fruits and vegetables that may be unfamiliar. Samples are often available so you can taste what you are about to purchase—another good way to get your children to try something new!
Meal plan: Allow yourself to be surprised by the selection at the market as well as inform yourself on the seasons for produce grown in your area. If you know what you will find at the market it is easier to make meal plans and a grocery list in advance. This helps you avoid overbuying, and reduces food waste. Check out these healthy meal prep tips for busy parents.
Celebrate National Nutrition Month and the launch of spring by taking time to explore your local farmers’ market with your family and enjoy the goods it has to offer. You might find a new favorite food!
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program