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Take Advantage of Seasonal Produce

Allyson Mitidieri, JCC Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

The transition from spring to summer is my favorite time of year. Fresh color and new warmth tends to raise our spirits. So many great things happen at this time of year in South Jersey, from spending time on our back porches in the warm sun to hitting a local food and drink festival or farmers market in our free time.

This time of year also brings fresh produce. For foodie-minded people who love to cook and consume vegetables regularly, this is fantastic news!

Maybe you are one of those people that goes to the farmers market to buy bags full of produce only to let them sit on your counter and spoil because you are not sure what to do with them. Maybe you know that you could use more fruits and vegetables in your diet, but you just don’t like to eat them. For those of you that fall into these categories, the benefits of fresh seasonal produce do not have to be lost on you.

Adding produce to your favorite foods might be your answer. Sometimes, it really helps to be able to “hide” vegetables if you are not an everyday produce eater. Here are some ways that you can incorporate the season’s best fruits and vegetables into your diet throughout the summer:

Grilled Cheese

Do you like broccoli cheese or creamy tomato soups? If you like the flavor of these soups, try a new take on your next grilled cheese sandwich: add a thick slice of Jersey tomato or a 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli to your next grilled cheese. Both veggies have a harvest season starting in early July. Adding tomato will contribute some Vitamin A and C and a little extra fiber. Add a half cup of broccoli and you have almost a day’s worth of Vitamin C, more than a day’s worth of Vitamin K, and a good chunk of your daily Vitamin A and Folate needs (not to mention 2.5 grams of fiber). Really like veggies? Try both broccoli and tomato on one sandwich! There are many other vegetables that could work here as well, like wilted spinach or other greens.

Frittatas, Omelets and Egg Muffins

Adding a vegetable to breakfast is easy when you are an egg lover. Choose any vegetable that you love and include it in your next egg breakfast. Some of the easiest vegetables to incorporate with eggs are greens which have harvest seasons throughout the summer. Asparagus, eggplant, onions and bell peppers are great options as well. Don’t have enough time to make eggs each morning? Make a frittata, quiche, or batch of egg muffins that you can grab and go in the morning at the start of the week. Here is a great make egg muffin recipe: Healthy Breakfast Egg Muffin.

Smoothies

In June, strawberries are in season and in July, it’s blueberries and peaches. No matter what local fruits are available this summer, you are surely going to be able to make a tasty smoothie! Freeze fresh blueberries, cherries, raspberries or chopped strawberries and peaches for cool, refreshing and thick smoothies. Add another nutritional boost (and some fiber) by throwing in a little spinach. Make sure you choose a smoothie base that is not high in sugar like juices; plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Fresh and local fruit offer enough sweet flavor to allow you to avoid adding sweeteners as well.

Pasta Salad

Making a pasta salad for your next barbecue? Hold back on the meats or cheeses and go heavy on the chopped vegetables. Tomato, basil, chopped greens, cucumber, and basically any other vegetable that you like can add a nutritious boost to a pasta salad. Use a little bit less pasta than you normally would to increase the fiber and nutrient content per serving. Dress it up with an olive oil-based dressing, and you have a flavorful summer salad that is also nutritious!

Greens for Wraps

Love bringing a wrap for lunch? Swap out your typical flour wrap for lettuce. Lettuce, in season in both the summer and the fall, is a lower calorie and more nutritious option than a flour wrap.

Burgers

Add chopped up veggies to your burger patties. Onions, peppers, and mushrooms are good additions, but you can even add pureed carrots. You might be surprised how tasty a burger with them can be! In the fall, try butternut squash. Whatever vegetables you choose to add to the mix, the added fiber and nutrients will make that burger so much more worth it! (Include recipe)

There are so many other ways to incorporate vegetables into your favorite meals. If getting your daily dose of produce is difficult for you, try some of the ideas I’ve suggested or contact me at amitidieri@jfedsnj.org to jumpstart your healthy lifestyle and get more ideas!  I can even offer you a personalized nutrition plan. Take advantage of the season- it will go by fast!

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