As I go throughout the Commonwealth giving Lunch ‘n Learn seminars on nutrition, one piece of information I mention in my presentation always seems to draw a lot of gasps – the recommendation to eat between 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. While I admit that 13 servings seems a little high, aiming for a number in the middle of this recommendation is definitely do-able, especially if you include fruit with every meal and veggies with lunch and dinner. It might seem much easier to get the daily recommended servings of produce during this time of year, as summer is one of the best times to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, for several reasons:
1. There are so many varieties currently in season. When you buy produce in season, it’s going to have a higher nutrient content (and a lower price!) than if you were to buy it out of season. Fruits and veggies currently in season in our area include: beets, blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peas, radishes, squash, strawberries, and zucchini.
2. The summer heat can easily dehydrate us. Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, and can be a tastier treat than just drinking a glass of water to hydrate and cool down. Watermelons, which come into season in early August, are 92% water!
3. The summer heat makes it less tempting to turn on the stove or oven. Instead of going out for meals, consider serving a no-cook meal containing lots of fruits and vegetables. A cold salad with strips of zucchini and squash or a fruit salsa served with a grilled lean protein like chicken are easy ways to get in a serving of fruits and veggies without heating up the whole house in the process.
4. As the title of this post alludes to, summer is Farmers Market season! Cities and town all across Massachusetts are hosting weekly farmers markets – the Mass Farmers Markets website has a detailed listing of markets by city/town (click on the Find tab, then select Market), and with over 250 markets across the state, there is bound to be one near you. Farmers Markets spotlight the freshest in-season produce from the region and are a good opportunity to discover and try a fruit or veggie you may have never seen or tasted before. Who knows – you may just find a new favorite piece of produce to enjoy long after the summer is over!