Simple Ways To Start Eating Seasonally
It’s that time of year again— winter is coming! Take advantage of the shifting of the seasons by eating seasonally. Eating local, seasonal produce is a great way of getting the nutrition you need while supporting the environment and the economy. Here are the basics and benefits of seasonal eating, plus a simple seasonal eating action plan.
Benefits, Tips, and a Get Started Guide For Eating Seasonally in Colorado
Before we dive into the benefits of eating seasonally and locally, here’s an important thing to keep in mind: whole foods, regardless of season, are always a great source of nutrients. Eating whole foods- whether they are storebought, canned, frozen, or plucked straight from your garden- are always beneficial for your health
Choosing whole foods is always a great option! With that said, there are some extra perks if you have the ability to choose local, seasonal produce options.
Local and Seasonal Food May Have Increased Nutrient Values
While the fruits and vegetables you get at the grocery store are still fantastic options for a healthy lifestyle, there is a small difference when it comes to ripeness and nutrients. As of 2020, ⅓ of all fruits and vegetables are thrown away by supermarkets after harvest . Because of the long journeys that fruits and vegetables have to take to reach your plate, the harvesting process means that they are picked before they reach full maturity. While this works to prevent food waste, it means that the minerals and vitamins in the produce at the store may have decreased through storage and transportation.
Produce that is in season is picked at peak ripeness and doesn’t have to travel as far to reach your plate. Ripeness is usually associated with taste, but there’s more to it than that: the nutrient values of food actually change depending on what stage of growth they are in! . Typically, fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest nutrient value when they are at their peak maturity. For example, tomatoes have the highest amount of lycopene and b-carotene when they are at their ripest stage of growth. Fruits and vegetables even smell different based on ripeness, which can affect our perception of taste. (Fun fact: a study was conducted where blackberries were smelled by an electronic nose at different stages of ripeness to prove this!)
Regardless of the source, whole foods are always a great option. When possible, opt for local and seasonal produce for optimum taste and nutritional value.
Fruits and vegetables are at their nutritional peak when they are allowed to fully ripen.
Whole Foods Can Promote Gut Health in Every Season
Your diet plays the biggest role in achieving gut microbiota diversity. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way of introducing diverse vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber into your diet. A healthy gut microbiota helps you digest food, aids in immune function, and helps fight off bad bacteria.
(Want to learn more about gut health or managing symptoms of gastrointestinal issues? I work with individuals in Loveland and Fort Collins to create customized nutritional plans. Schedule your free call today!)
You can help your gut by eating a wide variety of whole foods. It may seem like eating seasonally would be more limiting, but the opposite can be true. While supermarkets are always well stocked with tasty, nutritious options, they need to focus on crops that have a high yield, can travel well, and won’t perish quickly.
Luckily, many supermarkets are making efforts to source seasonal and local produce. Check out your grocery store and look to see if they have offerings from farms instate, or from surrounding states. A great bonus: in-season produce is often cheaper at the grocery store!
If you have the ability to access local farms and CSA’s, they don’t have to consider transportation, spoilage, and yield in the same way that supermarket suppliers do. This means that they are often more focused on taste and quality rather than yield and quantity.
When you eat seasonally, there are produce options that are only going to be locally available during certain times of the year. Learning new recipes and incorporating new foods can be a fun way to try to increase the variety in your diet.
A diverse diet is the best way to support your gut health
Seasonal and local produce can offer just as much variety as the supermarket
Additional Benefits of Eating Seasonally:
You are making an impact on the environment. Fruits and vegetables have to travel quite a distance to reach your plate. The fuel and packaging that it takes to get food to your area all have an environmental impact.
Your dollar is going right back into your community! Buying locally is a great way to help your local economy. If you’ve been looking for a way to put more money back into your town, your plate is a great place to start. Look for seasonal recipes that intrigue you and get what you can locally.
Local and seasonal produce can be more affordable. As mentioned before, the environmental costs of shipping produce can be quite high— and the actual price tag can be high, too! Buying produce out-of-season usually means that it has traveled farther to reach you, and those expenses are included in the cost of the produce. Want to save even more money? Consider growing your own staples!
How to Have a Seasonal Mindset
Ready to get seasonal? Here are some great ways to get started:
Keep it Simple with a Seasonal Recipe
A great way to get started is to start small! Choose one recipe that is centered around a seasonal fruit or vegetable that you love, and give yourself the challenge of sourcing as many things locally as you can. This is a great way to teach children about the seasons and healthy eating, or a fun date night activity.
Do you want a way to connect more with nature? Do you feel like time is flying by? Eating seasonally may have some mental benefits when it comes to living life more mindfully. Connecting with nature and observing the passing of time is fantastic for your mental health, so get out there and pick some apples!
Plan Ahead: Simple Tips to Get Started Eating Seasonally
Even if you aren’t growing your own produce, you can prepare to eat seasonally with what is available to you.
Stock up on foods that store well in root-cellar environments. According to the Farmers Almanac, a root cellar is any storage location that uses natural cooling and insulating properties. If you just looked around your condo anxiously, know that basements and garages can work well! All you need is a place that is cool, dry, and safe from critters. Carrots, potatoes, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips are great options for long-lasting storage.
Learn how to pickle and preserve! Pickling and preserving food can be a fun, inexpensive, and tasty way of preserving end-of-season produce. Jams, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled vegetables are great options. Fermented foods are also wonderful for your gut health. Bonus: pickled and preserved foods make great gifts!
Get your freeze on. Frozen produce is so undervalued and it’s a shame. They are typically picked and frozen at the peak of ripeness when their taste and nutritional value are at their highest. They are a great and inexpensive way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and you can also save end-of-season produce from spoiling.
Great Seasonal Choices for Fall in Colorado:
When it comes down to it, any produce that you choose to eat is a great choice. Whole foods give us an abundance of vitamins and minerals, keep our guts healthy and diverse, and may even prevent diseases. Finding seasonal and local swaps is just the (in-season) cherry on top!
Interested in learning more about seasonal eating, gut health, and nutrition? I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who works with individuals in Loveland and Fort Collins to create customized nutritional plans. Schedule your free call today!
FAO, IFAD. "The state of food and agriculture 2019. Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction." FAO, Rome (2019): 2-13.
Onozaka, Y., Gretchen, N., & McFadden, D.T. (2010). Local food consumers: How motivations and perceptions translate to buying behavior. Choices: the Magazine of Food, Farm and Resource Issues. 25 (1). Available at: http://www. choicesmagazine.org/magazine/article.php?article=109