What better time than the heart of summer to make healthy changes to your daily diet? This is first in a series of how to eat better so you can live better each and every day.
Don’t you love all the fresh food selections that naturally come with summer?
With the hot weather, cooking can be a real chore. How much cooler— and better for you– to eat fresh fruits and vegetables while they are in season. Eating the recommended 9 servings (about 4-1/2 cups) of fruits and vegetables a day goes down a lot easier when you remember their benefits of lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers, lowering the risk of eye and digestive problems, and mellowing the effect on blood sugar which in turns keeps your appetite in check.
With so many varieties to choose from during the summer months, it makes going to farmer’s markets a real treat. Better yet, picking fresh fruits and vegetables yourself, either from what you have grown or at a local farm or community garden, is both educational and satisfying.
When I go to the Seattle area to visit my daughter and her young family in the summertime, we always make a stop at Remlinger Farm to pick our own summer berries. Our first trip there two years ago, was to pick raspberries. This year, I arrived just in time for strawberry season. Can there be anything more sweet and delicious than fresh strawberries?
I think this activity is an especially meaningful outing with grandchildren. It is a great teaching moment to show them how food is grown, the work that goes in to getting it to your table and that it doesn’t just magically appear in a grocery store. The first time we went, my grandson was just a year old and pretty much just crawled around in the dirt. This year, he was right out there with us, spotting the berries and adding them to our stash. He was a great helper (although we ended up with a few more unripe berries with his help. Oh well).
We sure gained an appreciation for the cost of berries. Picking them from a field is hard and tedious work. We had to bend down and consciously pick them from the base of the stem. Otherwise, they would bruise and split.
We had so much fun picking the strawberries that it was hard to decide when to stop. We ended up with two whole flats — about twelve pounds worth!!! The cost was quite reasonable; just over $20.00 for fresh from the field, ripe, red strawberries.
What did we do with twelve pounds of strawberries? Obviously, you can’t eat them all right away (although we tried). After making strawberry waffles and strawberry shortcake, we cleaned and froze several pounds to be used later in smoothies, popsicles, and other dishes requiring fresh strawberries. With the remainder, we made freezer jam. So easy to make and great to have on hand for our own consumption and as gifts throughout the rest of the year. And the best part: no cooking required.
I tried a new brand of pectin to use for the jam. I found it with the help of a clerk at Whole Foods in Redmond. She gave me the box to try when I told her my grandson and I were doing it as a project together. The process for making freezer jam is really quite easy: mash the berries, add some sugar (there are low sugar suggestions on the recipe that comes with product), some lemon juice, and the pectin. Pour into jars and put the jars in the freezer. Wa-La.
So,Tip #1 of my month of healthy eating changes: Take Advantage of Summer’s Bounty of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
What is your favorite fresh fruit or vegetable of summer?