K-State’s Mary Meck Higgins, associate professor of human nutrition, said that during seasonal months local farms and farmers markets offer many kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables that are only available during the summer until late fall. These fruits and vegetables are typically brightly colored, which she said is evidence that these foods have high nutritional value.
“While packed with healthful dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, fresh fruits and vegetables also are low in calories and have no added fats or sugars,” she said.
Higgins said that some of her favorite nutritious fruits and vegetables during the early summer months include asparagus, salad greens, edible pea pods and strawberries. During later months, she said she enjoys locally grown apricots, cherries, raspberries, fresh culinary herbs, green beans and summer squash.
According to a survey she conducted amongst Kansans in 20 counties, Higgins found that the 11 most-favored produce items that people purchase at farmers markets include apples, berries, corn, cucumbers, green beans, peaches, potatoes, salad greens, summer melons, summer squash and tomatoes.
Although some people have their favorite produce items, Higgins said that one common misconception is that if a food is healthy for you it does not taste good. She said that there are many naturally occurring flavors and textures that are both healthy and tasty. Many of these tasty flavors can be found in nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, she said.
Another myth that Higgins discredits is that the only way to diet is to cut back on the amount of food you eat.
“Instead of eating less food, people should focus on eating fewer calories,” she said. “By substituting their typical food choices with more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, more cooked dry beans and peas, more fat-free dairy products and moderate portions of lean protein foods, people can have a large volume of food that looks appetizing and is very satisfying.”
Instead of subscribing to other false notions about dieting, Higgins advises people to take advantage of the availability of seasonal fruit and vegetables, and take the following tips into consideration this summer:
* Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids with few of them being sweetened or alcohol-containing beverages.
* Balance diet with exercise. Experts suggest a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
* Avoid, or at least limit, eating high-fat and processed foods. These foods contain added fat, sugar or salt.
* Start the day off right with breakfast. Include at least one whole grain food and one fruit in your morning meal.
* Include a vegetable and fruit element in your afternoon and evening meals. Higgins suggests a fresh salad or a hot or cold serving of vegetable soup as a complement to an entree and eating fruit as a dessert.