Garden to Table Nutrition: How to Grow the Food Your Body Loves
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Are you interested in growing foods that taste great, are chock full of nutrients, and work well in recipes? Here are the basics of garden-to-table nutrition in Colorado.
What Is Garden-to-Table Nutrition?
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I love growing and eating food straight from my garden! I love to spend time in nature and connecting with the food I eat. Although Colorado gets a lot of snow during unusual times (anyone who has experienced a snowy day in May can relate), we typically still have 5 months to work in lower elevation areas. I love growing my food, as well as helping my clients learn the types of nourishing food they can grow in their backyard. There is a lot to love about backyard gardening!
You have likely heard of farm-to-table or even harvest-to-table, but have you heard of garden-to-table? Garden-to-table, or garden-to-plate, is the process of planting, harvesting, storage, processing, preparation, and eating delicious foods-- all in your garden! Regardless of your yard size, you can enjoy all the benefits of garden-to-table nutrition.
Benefits of Garden-to-Table Gardening
You Might Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Myplate.gov recommends a daily allowance of at least 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of fruit per day, and 2-4 cups of vegetables per day, with variances based on your age and sex. Unfortunately, the FDA reports that only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables. A great way to try to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet? Grow your own! An interesting tidbit from a study conducted by Texas A&M University: the amount of time in the garden didn’t affect the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten. The researchers found that even if a person had limited time or abilities when it came to gardening, they still ate more fruits and vegetables than the non-gardening group.
Garden Grown Fruit and Vegetables Are Chock Full of Nutrients
Fruits and vegetables contain many beneficial nutrients including, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. Growing your own food is an enjoyable way to get these health benefits. “Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate,” says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “When you grow your food, you savor it more because of the effort it took to get to the table.” This information, combined with the studies that compared the overall consumption of produce by gardeners and non-gardeners, makes a promising case for growing your food!
Gardening Is Fun and Fulfilling
Move over, hot yoga: gardening has proven therapeutic properties. Studies have shown that gardening can improve physical, psychological, and social health. Gardening in the sun may also boost your mood by increasing your vitamin D levels. Being in direct contact with nature, getting some gentle physical activity, and eating foods that are chock full of nutrients are all proven to be mood-boosters. And, growing your food is fun. There really is something fulfilling about watching a plant you start from seed grow and thrive.
Even if what you plant doesn’t grow the way you planned, you can learn important things about nature and the growth cycle for next time. The American Community Gardening Association helps people connect to community gardens in their area so they can reap these benefits. “You will be amazed by how much fun gardening can be, and the pride you take in sharing healthy food nurtured by your efforts,” says Acacia Matheson, the ACGA’s assistant director of communications.
You’re Helping the Environment
According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the shipment of food is a major cause for concern due to the fossil fuels used for transportation. By growing some of your own food, you can reduce your carbon footprint. Not able to grow your own? No problem! You can still help lighten the environmental load by checking out your local farm stands, looking for the “local” section of your supermarket, or joining a CSA.
Children Dig It (Pun Intended)
If you want to get your kids off their smartphones and into nature, gardening is a great place to start. You can set a great example when you model healthy eating, care for the environment, and sustainability practices for your kids. And, gardening is great for helping children develop tactile, regulation, and emotional skills. Holding tools, waiting for seeds to grow, charting the height of plants; there are hundreds of learning opportunities in the garden, and kids delight in seeing their hard work pay off.
Five Easy Fruits and Vegetables to Grow in Colorado
Here are some healthy, hearty, and delicious fruits and vegetables you can grow to begin your garden-to-table journey.
Kale tastes great in salads, smoothies, and as an oven-baked chip. It's versatile, hardy, and has a high nutrient density. Kale is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and calcium. It grows best in cool weather, so it does great when planted in early spring or late summer.
Radishes are another cool-season crop and will bolt in our summer heat. They are hardy little bulbs that even have winter strains that can be picked well after the first fall frosts. They are easy to grow and require little maintenance. Radishes are also a great food to consider for fermentation! (Related: Is Your Gut Missing Out? The Basics of Prebiotics, Probiotics, Synbiotics, and Postbiotics.)
When you think of fruits, a cucumber might not be the first thing that comes to your mind! While berries can grow in Colorado, they are sometimes temperamental and are a favorite of foragers like birds and squirrels. Wait until the weather warms up before planting; cucumbers will do well in Colorado when the soil is around 60 degrees. Cucumbers are about 95% water, which makes them a great, hydrating snack for hot summer days.
Similar to cucumbers, zucchini do best when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees. Beyond that, these squash are very low maintenance and easy to grow. Versatile and tasty, zucchinis can be made into a savory salad or blended into a sweet fruit smoothie. Zucchinis contain vitamin A and C along with minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
Lettuce is a powerful vegetable! While nutrient densities will vary between types, lettuce is a good source of vitamin A and contains folate, calcium, and phosphorus, Lettuce is another cool-season crop that grows best in early spring and late summer for a fall crop.
Want More Information?
Interested in learning more about growing seasons, techniques, and the nutrition behind garden-to-table nutrition? I love gardening and enjoy using my knowledge to help individuals and families grow delicious food and create meals straight from their garden. Schedule your free consultation today!
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