As the seasons begin to change, we often think about the different fruits and vegetables available to us. For example, spring is known for kiwis, lettuce, asparagus, and other spring greens. Summer is known for fresh berries, zucchinis, tomatoes, and peppers. Fall is known for apples and pumpkins. Winter is known for oranges and carrots. Eating seasonally allows our bodies to be in harmony with our environment and reduce our carbon footprint. Seasonal produce is more cost effective and supportive of our local communities. Also, the nutritional content of seasonal produce is at its optimal value. Here is an Essential Guide to Eating Seasonally.

What does it mean to eat seasonally?

As defined by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) eating seasonally means food that is outdoor grown or produced during the natural growing/production period for the country or region where it is produced. Also, food that is produced and consumed in the same climatic zone without high-energy use for climate modification or storage.

Benefits of eating seasonally

  • Higher Nutritional Value. Seasonal produce is at optimal flavor and nutrient content. Foods are harvested at their peak providing all the vital minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, ideal flavors, and gorgeous colors.1
  • Fresh Produce. Less pesticides are used in locally grown fruits and vegetables when keeping the produce fresh until purchase. By visiting local farms, you can learn more about how your produce has been handled.2
  • Support your local community. When purchasing locally grown produce, it promotes employment and your local economy.
  • Reduce Carbon Footprint. Save your planet by reducing your carbon footprint when eating seasonally. The transit of food before arriving to your grocery store shelves accounts for 10% of the carbon footprint in food production. And think about how much more energy is spent when the food is shipped in by barges.
  • Cost Effective. Seasonal eating is more cost effective due to supply and demand. Produce that is in season is more abundant and it needs less travel, time, and added costs to grow in greenhouses.

How to eat seasonally

  • Shop at local farmers markets. Local farmers markets are a great way to learn about what is in season and is a place to support local businesses. Also, they serve as an informative way to learn more about how your produce is being grown and handled by being able to directly communicate with the farmers themselves. Many farmers even have wonderful recipe ideas on how to cook and use the produce. Use USDA’s Local Food directories to locate farmers markets.
  • Join a CSA program. Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs connect producers and consumers within the food system. They deliver seasonal food to you. You can customize what foods you want to receive and it’s supporting local community.3 Find a CSA near you.
  • Support restaurants that use locally sourced products: If eating out, choose restaurants that have access to a wide range of ingredients that are in season and sourced from local farms. Ask your local restaurant where their food comes from.
  • Get acquainted with your local growing seasons: The Seasonal Food Guide is a great online source to learn what produce is in season. They recently came out with an app which makes grocery shopping extra simple.
  • Seasonal Food Journal: With use of the food guide, you can plan your meals according to the season. Find the foods you most commonly eat and determine which season they grow in. Canning, freezing, and pickling are great storage methods for food you would like to indulge in for a later season.

One does not have to restrict themselves to only eating seasonally. Eating a variety of produce is ideal. But by choosing one seasonal item, it expands your palate and improves your nutrient intake. Take this Essential Guide to Eating Seasonally as a way to begin adding more in-season produce to your diet. Eat seasonally, save your money, and help to save the planet!

Check out the links below for ways to get started on your eating seasonally journey:

By Hailey Brandel, dietetic intern, IG: @enlightened_sweets_

References

  1. Five benefits of eating seasonal produce. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.mountnittany.org/articles/five-benefits-of-eating-seasonal-produce
  2. Stephenson, M. (2020, April 22). How to Shop & Eat Seasonally for Your Health // Four Wellness Co. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://fourwellness.co/blog/how-to-shop-and-eat-seasonally-for-your-health
  3. How Eating with Seasons Improves Your Health. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.ehe.health/blog/eating-with-the-seasons