With summer coming to an end and school schedules resuming, I find myself falling back into more structured meal planning. Like many families, our summertime dinners are often simply grilled meats and vegetables paired with salads, fresh fruit and whole grain breads. But as the weather turns cooler, our dinner time choices also begin to change. What doesn’t change is one of our “Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner” goals: getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in our diets. Fortunately, the farmer’s market continues well into autumn and is the perfect place to shop for seasonal produce and baked goods to inspire your family dinners.
One of the reasons we love farmer’s markets so much is this: Foods in season taste better and are less expensive. How do you know what’s in season? Check out this handy resource to find out (but here’s a hint: what’s in season will be what’s available at the farmer’s market).
Some popular late summer and fall produce picks:
Fresh produce and whole grain breads are a tasty way to get many important nutrients including fiber. Fiber is one of the four “nutrients of concern” because low intakes are associated with health concerns. Although the recommended daily intake of fiber is 25-34 grams, most Americans only consume 15 grams a day. And even though I’m a dietitian, I still find it challenging to meet my fiber needs and helping my children meet theirs, too. One of the ways we meet this challenge head on is by trying to include fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and snack, and making sure that at least half of our grain choices are whole grains.
While all fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients, some have more fiber than others. Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that are a good source of fiber (at least 2.5 grams) or high in fiber (5 grams or more). When it comes to baked goods at the farmer’s market, you probably won’t have a “nutrition facts panel” to review, so be sure to look for ingredients such as whole oats, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain corn, whole-grain brown rice, and whole rye.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my “Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner” initiative is spending just a few minutes a week planning ahead saves me so much time (and money and stress) later on. So, I really encourage you to do some meal planning before you go to the farmer’s market to help guide your purchases, choose higher fiber foods, and cut down on food waste.
Here are my top tips to get you started:
- Involve your kids in the planning and shopping. Try one new item each time you visit the farmer’s market. Buy what you need based on the meals you plan to prepare at home.
- Remember, fresh baked goods, fruits and vegetables don’t last forever, so only purchase what you can use in the week ahead, or share the extras with a friend or neighbor.
- While fresh produce is great, you can also include frozen, canned, and dried produce in your meal plan, too. You’ll still get important nutrients, like fiber, with less food waste. Stocking your kitchen with frozen, canned, and dried produce also means you will have these on hand for times to add to your meals and snacks. This can be a great opportunity to make sure they are available when your family is making choices about what they will eat and drink.
For more tips on making the most of your trip to the farmer’s market, check out my video.
The many health benefits of fiber are well known including digestive and heart health, weight management, blood glucose control and boosting immunity. Make it a point to visit your farmer’s market this fall and stock up on delicious, nutrient-rich, seasonal produce and whole grains, and enjoy the tasty health benefits.
Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist with more than 20 years’ experience helping people enjoy their food with health in mind. Melissa is a certified diabetes educator, a former supermarket dietitian, and also a former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). She was named Outstanding Dietitian of the Year in Illinois by AND and Outstanding Diabetes Educator of the Year in Chicago by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a paid contributor to the Calorie Control Council. Melissa is the CEO of Sound Bites, Inc. based in Chicago, Illinois, and you can connect with her on Twitter (@MelissaJoyRD), Pinterest,Facebook, and check out her blog at SoundBitesRD.com.