How many times have you gone to the grocery store and picked out produce without much of a second thought? In today’s day and age, we’ve gotten used to virtually every food item being available to us at all times. In the dead of winter in the United States’ northeast region, you can find avocados, bananas, pineapples, and more – all warm weather produce that you’d typically find only during the summer or regions of the country. As food has become more accessible at all times, we’ve missed out on the benefits that come along with eating both seasonally and regionally to reap the benefits of produce at its freshest.
What is seasonal eating?
Seasonal eating is exactly what it sounds like – aligning your dietary and shopping habits with what is currently in season locally and freshly harvested. Across the country, different regions have different growing seasons, which allows us to ship otherwise out-of-season produce around to other areas. With the existence of greenhouses as well as international imports, we’ve gotten used to the idea of having certain produce items available all-year-round, even if they aren’t in peak form.
What are the benefits of eating seasonally?
Transitioning to eating a more seasonal diet is an adjustment, but there are several benefits to making the switch. First and foremost, fresh foods tend to be cheaper than they are in season, which can help avoid heightened costs for the highly coveted out-of-season goods. Plus, if you’re shopping directly from a farmer’s market, your money can go directly to supporting your community. But saving some money isn’t the only pro to adopting a more seasonal approach to our diet.
When we look at our produce from a seasonal approach, we’re provided a rotation of options that keep things interesting and provide us with a wide array of different foods, textures, and flavors rather than staying in our own comfort zones. Studies have also shown that fresher produce is healthier to consume. When fruits and vegetables naturally ripen and are consumed soon after the harvest, they contain a higher level of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, fresh produce tends to have a better flavor over items that traveled a long way and sat on a shelf at a store.
Seasonal eating isn’t just good for us, either — it’s better for the planet too. For out-of-season produce, it will need to be transported from other regions, both domestically and internationally, via truck, boat, and planes. Gas and oil are needed for these transport periods, which not only contributes to the climate crisis but also drives the price of goods up, too.
How to eat seasonally
Eating seasonally can be easier said than done, but it does require conscious shopping and meal planning. First and foremost, if you have the means and green thumb to grow your own produce, this is a great way to align your diet with the season in your region and enjoy some home-picked produce from your own garden. If growing your own produce isn’t an option, never fear because a farmer’s market is a great alternative. By stopping by your local market, you can explore the offerings from vendors who have gone ahead and harvested their own seasonal crops to sell. They might even be able to tell you the best way to use your ingredients if they’re new to your pallet.
While it’s not always accessible for everyone to grow their own produce or find themselves at a farmer’s market, you can also arm yourself with the knowledge of seasonal produce. Do your research and see what’s in season now and what’s not to reap all of the health benefits of finding food for the now. For any producer that you can’t finish before it spoils, freeze it while it’s still in its prime to use in smoothies, soups, bread, or whatever your heart – and stomach – desire throughout the coming months.