Summer is finally upon us. It seems like we have been waiting an eternity for those warm sunny days to return. For many of us it was at the beginning of the year when we decided to start eating much healthier and start a physical routine to get us in shape for our favorite season. Well now that it is finally here, there is no need to stop your healthy eating regime.
Yes, summer is a season of many celebrations. We have graduation parties, weddings, birthdays, picnics, barbecues and of course vacations. The warm weather brings us together with family and friends. We often celebrate with food and usually lots of it. We are more apt to sitting outside a favorite restaurant and enjoy a good meal. More often than not, summer can cause us to actually eat more than we may during other times of the year. All of your hard work and conscious efforts may be pushed to the side.
Well I am here to tell you that summer can actually offer you some of the healthiest choices of foods we have offered to us more so than any other season. The summer season brings us food at its very best. The food guide pyramid has existed for many years and encouraged us to eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day. Today there is a push to eat even more than that. The campaign “More Matters” encourages up to 9 servings per day. This can be challenging in the winter months when many fruits and vegetables are not in season, but during the summer months so many of them are at their prime.
If you are like many, you may be reading this and saying that you are not consuming anywhere near the recommendation, but do not get discouraged because it is never too late. Even the smallest changes and healthful additions to your daily eating practices can go a long way.
Fruits and vegetables bring so many benefits to our bodies. They are full of antioxidants. They fight harmful free radicals in our body which can be linked to heart disease, autoimmune disease and cancer. Too many free radicals in our body can lead to cell damage and ultimately disease. By eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables your body will be exposed to a multitude of antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. The fiber found in fruits and vegetables will help fill you up. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories so for those trying to watch their weight and to decrease their caloric intake fruits and vegetables will add volume to your plate.
You may know that New Jersey has many farms located throughout the garden state. Many of our supermarkets distribute and sell Jersey grown fruits and vegetables. For information on community farmers market locations and roadside markets in your area visit http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov. Information includes various lists of fruits and vegetables and when they are in peak season. This website will also give you a listing of various restaurants throughout New Jersey that use Jersey grown fruits and vegetables when in season at their establishments. Various restaurants are supporting our garden state farmers and supporting our fishermen as well. If you do not see your favorite restaurant on the list you can always ask if they serve Jersey Fresh and/or Jersey Seafood.
I recently found myself doing just that when visiting a local restaurant in my area. A hidden gem called Osteria Giotto located on Midland Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey has a motto of using only the freshest and finest ingredients when preparing their dishes. Many of the dishes are prepared using whole grains and heart healthy extra virgin olive oil. Whether you are enjoying a homemade dish of pasta topped with a rich tomato sauce made from Jersey fresh tomatoes or the fish of the day, you will not be disappointed. Often the fish is broiled topped with a beautiful salad of diced corn, tomato, and cucumber with various grilled vegetables made from Jersey fresh vegetables in season. There are colorful salads made of spinach and mixed greens to multiple side dishes of broccoli rabe and escarole. Top that all off with any one of their mouthwatering desserts which many incorporate Jersey fresh fruits. It is a dining experience that will leave a smile on your face because even if you indulge and overeat as many of us do, you know that your complete meal was prepared with many healthy, vitamin packed, antioxidant fighting foods that are simply the best.
So whether you are dining locally in New Jersey or traveling throughout New Jersey this summer try to incorporate as many nutrient packed fruits and vegetables that you can at each meal. If you are staying home and entertaining you can grill all of your favorite vegetables right on the barbecue which often brings out their most wonderful flavors.
Have fun, relax and enjoy the wonderful tastes of summer and at your very next meal look at your plate and see if you have incorporated any of the colorful Jersey Fresh foods that our state has to offer. Continue to nurture your body all season long.
Monica Di Lizia, RD, Registered Dietitian, New Jersey