With so many diet crazes out there, it’s hard to know what foods are best to eat. Often eating healthy foods feels more like a chore than a tasty experience. What if you could not only love the taste of what you eat, but feel good about it too? Here are five ways to truly savor healthy meals.
1. Farm Fresh is Best
Let’s be honest, locally grown food just tastes better. This is due in part to the shorter travel time from farm to table. The taste difference between a store-bought tomato and a farm grown tomato is astounding. No wonder so many kids hate eating vegetables, they have no flavor! When we can taste the tartness of a fresh lemon or the natural sweetness of a strawberry, our taste buds can never go back. And your kiddos will demand fresh eats too. Picky eaters, no matter their size, will have a new taste sensation they can’t resist. Suddenly, a humble carrot becomes a go-to snack.
How we grow our food matters, too. It matters to the next generation of eaters (us!) and to the soil ecosystem. Growing food with minimal or no chemical fertilizers and using organic or regenerative practices, puts nutrients back into the soil, ensuring the microbes continue to build up the soil and transfer rich nutrients into our vegetables.
Not all vegetables are nutritionally equal. Food grown in season results in a more nutritionally dense vegetable because it was allowed to grow through the season and then picked when ready to eat instead of when ready to ship long distances. Most produce travels 1500 miles before it reaches the grocery store. This produce can be picked and waiting upwards of 10 days before it is available on the store shelves. Since produce loses 30 percent of nutrients three days after harvest, it is losing a lot of goodness before reaching your table.
Did you know that in order for produce to get to you on time it is either picked early or has post-harvest treatments applied to it? These treatments can include chemicals called ripening agents. There are also heat processes and coatings that are being applied to help slow the maturation process of the fruits or vegetables.
Additionally, many modern large agriculture vegetable varieties offer fewer nutrients than varieties did decades ago. Research comparing nutrient content in garden crops using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data from 1950 to 1999 found significant drops in several nutrients. Researchers attributed the decline to new cultivated varieties. High-yielding, fast-growing plants may not process nutrients at the same fast rate, so they have fewer nutrients compared to lower yield, slower-growing varieties.
Other reasons why fresh is best is that locally grown produce benefits the surrounding environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms and ranches provide ecosystems with fertile soil conservation, protection of water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
2. Support Your Local Growers and Ranchers—
The Key to a Thriving Community
Purchasing farm fresh foods and supporting restaurants who are serious about buying local keeps your dollars in our community, supporting local families. When local farmers and ranchers can be paid fairly, they are less likely to sell their farmland for development. Local food also preserves genetic diversity. A wide variety of types of vegetables can be grown, rather than just those made to withstand the long process once picked.
Making a habit of going to your local Farmers Market is also a great way to taste new or unknown vegetables, cheeses, and meats. Many markets offer samples to get your taste buds salivating and to inspire ever more interesting meals. When you purchase directly from a farmer to feed your family, you know exactly where your food is coming from, what’s in it, and how it’s produced. What’s even better is that you get to shake the hand of the person who grew, picked or packed your food, and they will tell you which field it came from, how much more there is to pick, if they had enough water and how they cleaned it before it reached your hands.
It’s true that supporting local growers can be more expensive, and keeping to a budget is important for well-being. One way to address this is to plan your meals so you use up what you buy and don’t toss money (in the form of moldy veggies) into the compost. Also consider the healthcare cost savings down the road when calculating the cost benefits of eating seasonally and locally.
Another trick is to supplement your local veggie consumption with a delivery service like Misfits Market. Misfits Market offers just that—organic veggies that look a little off-shape or off-color, so they are rejected by grocery stores around the country. Not only are these veggies great fun, but they’re cheaper and just as nutritious.
3. Organize Your Pantry and Fridge
for Easy Healthy Snack Grabs
Keep your glass spaghetti sauce jars! Wash and remove the labels and fill them with carrots (and water) for a fresh and easy after school or work snack in your fridge. These jars are also great for making a “GORP bar” in your pantry. The clear glass will show off tasty apricots, peanuts, almonds, raisons, mango, and chunks of chocolate to up the “go-to” factor of this healthy snack. Lastly, keep fresh fruit at “grab” level on the counter or in your pantry.
4. When Eating Out,
Pick Farm-to-Table Restaurants
Eating out is once again possible and fun, however, it can often increase your intake of richer and unhealthy foods. Choose restaurants, sandwich shops, or delis that source their ingredients from local farmers and ranchers. Look for restaurants that offer a fast-casual soup, salad, and sandwich vibe. This type of restaurant makes it easy for you to love what you eat. Many focus not only on affordable fresh foods made with locally grown ingredients, but menu items made from scratch, such as breads, chips, and sauces.
5. Make Cooking a Fun Family Time
Kids love to munch on snacks. Make snacking on veggies part of how they help you make home cooked meals. Kids become the tasters, starting with raw veggies, moving to cooked veggies, and to just before serving. It’s ok if they don’t eat as much at the dinner table, they ate along the way and gained an appreciation for the different flavors in the meal. Plus, now they want to eat the veggies on their plate that they ensured “tasted just right.” Studies show that giving kids more veggies on their plate consistently helped them fall in love with this good food that’s also good for them too.
Sage is a fast casual, farm-to-table restaurant located in Durango, Colorado. Stop by for fresh eats made with local ingredients, such as soups, salads, sandwiches, grain bowls and more. Sage also offers the last seasonal “farm stand” for 100+ miles complete with “good to go” meals, local produce, artisan goods, and made from scratch focaccia bread, tortilla chips, and desserts. Dine in or get it to-go and enjoy your next Colorado adventure on a tummy full of good food that’s good for you, your family, and our community.