9 Benefits of Farmer’s Markets

One of the best parts of a farmer’s market  is that you get to support locally grown food and your community. By doing so you:

1.)  Shorten the distance between farm and table –  From your farmer’s hands to yours = very simple

There aren’t too many things that beat being able to go down to your local farmer, pick your own produce, and eat it the same day.  (At least, there aren’t too many for a Nutritionist!) First, it’s fresher. Second, it didn’t have to travel half way round the world for you to get it. And third,  you know where it came from.

2.) Decrease environmental pollution

By decreasing travel you decrease air pollution.

3.) Preserve nutrients 

The further a food travels the greater the length of time a food will remain on the shelf, and the more likely the nutrients in that food may be lost.

4.)  May decrease pesticide exposure

This is not always the case because even local farmer’s use some pesticides. The upside, is that fewer may be used and some may be more “natural” than the ones used by larger farms.  You still have to wash your produce though! This leads me to my next benefit.

5.) Get to Know your Farmers

Taking the time to learn about your local farmers means you get to learn what’s being offered in your community, what foods are commonly grown in which regions, and how those foods are being grown. There’s just more transparency.

6.) Support the Economy

By buying produce and other goods at a farmer’s market revenue tends to stay in the community thus boosting the economy. Not to mention that for larger farmer’s markets it opens up more job opportunities within the community.

7.) Save Farmland

The more people visit farmer’s markets the greater the demand, and the more likely it is that farmers will continue farming. It’s supply and demand. Very similar to how I might advise a mom that the more she breastfeeds the more milk she has for her baby.

8.) Receive Great Tips for Cooking foods

Don’t know how to use a food you find? No problem. Just ask the farmer. Unlike supermarket chains farmers’ markets have the advantage of one on one advice from your farmer.

9.) Promote Community Partnerships

Some farmers’ markets and farm shares partner with  nutrition programs to help bring fresh fruits and veggies to those on state run programs like WIC and SNAP.  Mass.gov has more information about which farmers’ markets accept WIC/SNAP.

 

The Four W’s of Farmer’s Markets

 

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Image is courtesy of Sira Anamwong at freedigitalphotos.net

It’s Farmer’s Market season at the WIC office! And this means that for the next few months we’ll all be really busy talking with clients about the benefits of farmer’s markets. We also give vouchers for fruits and vegetables for those on WIC and collaborate with Lynn’s local farmer’s market to help our community. It’s a win-win situation for every one involved. This year we’re even giving out seeds to encourage young children to grow their own garden.

What a great way to teach our children about food! So, what are the four W’s of a farmer’s market?

What is a Farmer’s Market?

According to the Farmer’s Market Coalition a farmer’s market is a group of local farmer’s or their representatives who gather in public to sell their produce “directly to consumers”.

It’s also a chance to get to meet your local farmers, talk to them about what they’re offering your community, and meet new people. And all this while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables for your family. Visiting farmer’s markets are also a great summer activity to do with your children.

Where are they located?

Farmer’s markets can be found in cities and towns all over Massachusetts and the United States. In fact the farmer’s market coalition provides three great resources to locate farmer’s markets in the US. The two that I found most helpful are as follows:

1.) The USDA’s Farmer’s Market Directory

2.) EatWellGuide.org

The USDA’s directory works by entering your zip code and adjusting the mileage you’d like to drive. EatWell allows you to enter your state and what you are searching for. Both give you information about every farmer’s market in the area, links to their websites, and other information.

Another helpful tool I recently found was an app for locating farmer’s markets. The Farmstand is an app that uses your location to find farmer’s market in your area. I was able to down load this app for free on iTunes.

What do they sell?

Farmer’s markets go by the season and the area in which you live. As a result what they sell varies from market to market. Most markets will sell fruits and vegetables, but will also sell milk, eggs, cheese, bread, meats/fish.  Some larger ones will even offer non-food items like flowers, herbs, & local crafts.

When  do they set up shop?

Local farmer’s can set up shop based on the season or all year long. I’ve known some farmer’s markets that are around in the winter months, but these are mostly located inside. The majority of farmer’s markets can be found in the spring, summer, and autumn.

The next blog will feature the 9  benefits of farmer’s markets followed by 5 ways farmer’s markets teach kids about food.

5 Tips for Transforming Kids Favorites into Healthier Alternatives

Working at WIC I talk with lots of parents whose kids often eat foods high in sugar, salt, and fat. Most of these foods are frozen, fast foods like hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries, or mac and cheese.  While these are okay on occasion it is not recommended to have on a regular basis. This is because foods high in sugar, salt, and fat can increase weight, make it harder for kids to keep up with classmates, and increase chronic disease like diabetes.

I enjoy talking with parents about ways to transform these fast food favorites into healthier alternatives that both children and parents can agree on. The struggle I, and many other Nutritionists, face though is how to guide parents into behavioral change that is long lasting.

Some struggles parents and caretakers face are finding time to prepare healthy meals while working full time, kids who are picky eaters, and financial struggles that limit the foods that one can buy.

A few days ago I came across an article from the public health practice group affiliated with the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This article summarized a recent survey given to parents about whether or not they believed they were offering their children healthy foods. What saddened me about the article is that only “1 in 3 parents reported feeling like they’re teaching their kids healthy eating habits”.

For these reasons, I decided to share some tips that could help put healthier versions of kids favorites on the table without all the fuss.

1.) Swap out ingredients for healthier ones

For example, if a recipe for Mac & Cheese calls for enriched white pasta use whole wheat instead. Have someone with Celiac’s disease or a wheat sensitivity? Use a whole grain based pasta . Whole wheat & whole grain offer more fiber, nutrients, and iron than enriched or white pasta does.

2.) When you can, prepare ahead of time. 

When making home made chicken nuggets a base bread crumb recipe can be prepared a head of time with the families favorite spices and stored in the cabinet for later use.

3.) Choose lean meats.

Instead of preparing hamburgers with ground beef try ground turkey or canned salmon instead. White meats or fish have less saturated fats than red meats & are a healthier alternative.

4.) Bake instead of fry.

When my clients tell me they fry their plantains I suggest they bake/broil it instead. This tip can be used for a lot of foods that are usually fried such as chicken nuggets, french fries, and hamburgers.

5.) Substitute or Add Vegetables

The other day I came across a Mac & Cheese recipe that incorporated squash! Adding veggies or substituting alternative ones can add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to foods that are traditionally high in calories and low in nutrients. This can also work for picky eaters. Other ideas can be sweet potato fries, kale chips, or baked carrots/parsnip fries.

 

Put your Family’s Best Fork Forward

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Image courtesy of marin at freedigitalphotos.net 

It’s that time of year again. This March is the annual National Nutrition Month, which means that all month long nutrition professionals will be hitting up social media surrounding this month’s theme: Put Your Best Fork Forward! It’s an initiative built up around the main message of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that says, it’s  not a singular food that makes the difference but entire meal plans made up of a variety of different foods working together.

The theme Put Your Best Fork Forward reminds us that healthy eating and living is only small changes built up over time. You don’t have to do something drastic, go on that special diet, or lose 20 lbs for a better, more healthier you. Instead it’s all about building good habits that’ll last a life time! (That includes exercise just as much as it is what we eat.)

Healthy habits, just like anything else, begins in the home  with what you cook for your family and yourself everyday. Your children will learn from the habits you build, so starting mindful eating habits right in your own home is the best place to start!

And this is exactly where I started when thinking about what would be this month’s blog post. At first I didn’t know what to write about, then, while cooking with my boyfriend, it suddenly occurred to me that the simple dish of sauteed vegetables and cashews could be the base of any dish.

It’s always hard coming home from work after a long day and not having anything prepared. It’s even harder to come home with the daunting task of whipping something up to eat when it’s 6:30 pm at night! What I needed was a quick dish that could be accomplished in 30 minutes or less. For many of us that would include frozen meals, I know it has for me many times and I’m a Nutritionist! But, my boyfriend Michael had whipped up this quick vegetable dish that can easily be built upon within 30  minutes. The best part was that the meal was only vegetables, spices, cashews, and a little olive oil. Talk about a marriage of antioxidants and healthy fats working together in perfect harmony.

My boyfriend’s a genius!

That being said I was quick to propose to him the idea for this blog and if I could share his recipe with my readers. Success! The downside though is that the recipe would have to be prepared ahead of time on a weekend and then frozen in containers for the rest of week. Other than that you could defrost the vegetable mix, add your own spices, meats, fish, or just add brown rice or whole wheat noddles for a variety of meals in 30 minutes or less. Just make sure the rice is cooked ahead a time. Batch cooking is how you get home cooked meals when you work 5-6 days a week.

Here is the basis of the recipe:

3 Sweet Peppers diced (Try for yellow, red, & orange)

1/2 c. of diced onion

1 c. of celery chopped

1 1/2 c. of chopped or matchstick carrots

2 c. of unsalted cashews

2 tablespoons of olive oil or another oil of your choice

Your choice of spices

Directions:

1.) Wash the fresh produce in a colander. Afterwards place on a towel to dry.

2.) On a cutting board dice all the vegetables except the matchstick carrots. Place aside.

3.) Place a wok of skillet on the stove. Turn it up to medium heat and add all the vegetables w/ 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add cashews last. 

4.) Put a cover on top of the vegetables and let cook until vegetables are tender. 

Now that you cooked dinner you have more time to gather round the table with your family. Happy National Nutrition Month!

 

Cooking with Kids on Valentine’s Day

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Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich at Freedigitalphotos.com

Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, it’s still February and you don’t have to wait for the 14th to celebrate the meaning behind the special day all through the year.

Growing up in a Catholic Christian home I read, and was told, countless stories about the saints. One of them was St. Valentine. There are many legends about him, but the focal point of all those legends is the kind of self-sacrificial love that St. Valentine showed while he was alive. His life can easily be summarized from scripture with the passage, “No greatest love has man but this,  that he lay down his life for his brother”.

As a Catholic Christian Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in many different ways: sharing a meal, doing something nice for a loved one, or going out of your way to do something kind for a stranger.

Today I will share with you a sweet recipe that my mom makes around the holidays. I personally think it’s great for Valentine’s Day! It’s also a fun activity to do with your kids.

Food is a way of saying “I love you”!

It’s also a way to bond with family. Your kids will just love making these, just as much as eating them.

Fruity Cheesecake Mini’s*

Makes a dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients: 

1 c. of graham crackers (crushed)

4 tablespoons of butter

2 (8 oz.) cream cheese packages

1/4 c. 2 tablespoons of sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

21 oz. can of  Hannaford’s fruit pie filling (Cherry, Blueberry)

Instructions:

1.) Take a zip lock bag and place a few graham crackers in the bag. Seal it, and crush the crackers within the bag until they are crumbs. Place aside.

2.) In a small mixing bowl, measure out 1 c. of graham crackers and mix with butter until it has a damp consistency to it.

3.) Take out a cupcake tin and line it with cupcake liners. Put the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the cupcake liners in an even layer.

4.) In a separate mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice.

5.) Fill the cupcake liners 2/3rd’s full.

6.) Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Put your choice of pie filling on top (blueberry, strawberry, or cherry)

Note: For the more daring chef you can add fresh fruits to the top of your cheesecakes by slicing strawberries on top, or blueberries. 

As a reminder, you can get your younger kids involved by mixing/combining/stirring ingredients. Older ones can layer the ingredients in the cupcake tins. Everyone can help spoon fruity pie filling on top.

 

*Original Recipe came from Cooks.com

Tactics to Talk Food Waste with Kids

How do you start a conversation with our children about food waste and its importance? Well, this was exactly my question and part of the reason why I wanted to write this blog post.

The other reason was simply for the purpose of my blog: to encourage cooking with kids and to teach them about food!

I began my search by brainstorming some ideas with my boyfriend. This is what we came up with:

Take the chance at family meal times to bring up food waste. One simple way to do this is by creating topic cards. Place them in a jar where you can take them out during meals and have one of your children take a card (or slip of paper) and read the prompt. Remember: keep question complexity to the grade level of your child. Check out this link to a previous blog for more ideas on family meals.

If you grow a garden in the backyard and your kids love helping you, take advantage of that moment to teach about ways to stop food waste such as composting. Show your kids that scraps of food that would normally be thrown away can be re-purposed.

Kids in the kitchen offers another opportunity to approach food waste, composting, or even re-purposing of leftovers. Have your kids come up with creative ways to transform leftovers or show them that the stems, leaves, and roots of some veggies/fruit can be eaten as well.

As an example here is one idea to try next time you cook.

Sauteed Radish or Beet Greens

1 pound of radish or beet greens

1 tablespoon of peanut or canola oil

1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder or 1/2 garlic clove

Pepper and salt to taste

Directions

1.) Rinse the greens first. Set aside.

2.) In a skillet combine garlic , pepper, peanut or canola oil, and radish/beet greens.

3.) Set on low to medium heat.

4.) Cook until leaves a slightly wilted, but still have a bright color. Serve.

For more ideas go to: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/teaching-kids-waste-less-food

17 Ways to Decrease Food Waste this Holiday Season

This holiday season find ways to decrease food waste. Why you ask? Cause it’s healthy for your waist line as well as the environment. (For more information on food waste check out my past posts.)

It’s also the perfect time to begin new habits. So, while others are making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more let’s start a new tradition of promising to waste less this coming year.

Get your kids and the whole family involved. To help get your family started here are 17 ways to waste less!

1.) Buy only what you need

2.) Cook what your family can actually eat (Know who’s coming). 

3.) Re-purpose leftovers (Think outside of the box!)

4.) Take a detailed shopping list when shopping (This includes quantity). 

5.) Practice portion control (Don’t overeat)

6.) Freeze what you can’t eat 

7.) Donate what you can to those who are hungry 

8.) Think Composting. 

9.) Know who’s bringing what and how much

10.) Keep food safety in mind when storing leftovers. 

11.) Smaller plates & utensils decreases overeating 

12.) Scope out the pantry so you know what you have

13.) Use what you already have first

14.) Find recipes that utilize ingredients that you use often. 

15.) If you can’t find a suitable recipe, change it to fit your taste. 

16.) Distribute leftovers to guests

17.) Use the fruits/vegetables that no one wants to buy. (a.k.a the bruised and oddly shaped ones)

Here’s to hoping you and yours have a wonderful and safe holiday season this year!