Whether it's stopping by the local farmers market to stock up on seasonal goods, leaning all the way into #soupseason, braising more meats, taking the kids out for apple picking, or simply including more winter squash in your meals, odds are you've noticed a shift in your eating habits as we head into late Fall and... dare I say it... Winter. (it's coming).
Before the Industrial Revolution, a quick trip to the grocery store to grab whatever our little hearts desire was out of the question. These days, we find ourselves eating whatever we want, whenever we want. Tomatoes in December? Acorn squash in July, cranberries in... August?? Whatever you want, Big Agriculture has got you covered. While this can be a beautiful gift, there is always a downside when we're faced with too much of a good thing. We've gotten fairly out of touch with the notion of eating with the seasons, and the impacts this can have on our health, or families health, and the health of the planet.
Obviously we all lead busy lives, and the grocery store exists for good reason. The expectation is not to boycott the grocery store and locally procure all of your ingredients, or grow/farm them yourselves (unless that's your jam, then power to you!). There are always steps we can take, however, to edge a bit closer to working with our bodies and tapping into ancestral wisdom in a way that still works within our current framework.
First of all, why does it even matter, right? You hear all the time "support local", a clear win for your local economy, businesses and their owners and families, and encouraging product diversity. But why does it really matter if your apple was grown here or across the world, or if you're eating cucumbers in January?
In general, it's best to eat fruits and vegetables when they're ripe. Another way to think of peak ripeness is that they've maxed out on nutritional value; if you're buying fresh produce from the grocery store, oftentimes farmers have had to harvest their crops well before ripeness and used chemicals and pesticides to keep them appearing fresh for longer transit times. Once the fruit or veg has been harvested, its essentially depleting nutrients the longer it's out there on its own. If you've ever eaten fruit fresh off the plant, you know you can taste the difference. It stands to reason that nutrient density and flavor--when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables--are positively correlated (sorry, this does NOT hold true to highly processed foods like potato chips and Twinkies. Though, these corporations were smart to get our taste buds and dopamine receptors fired up over unnatural flavor combos).
Local means more nutrient density due to harvesting and transit times, but local can also equate to more nutrient density due to proper care of the soil and land used for growing. The use of regenerative farming practices have been found to enhance the nutritional profiles of both crops and livestock. Supporting local farmers, especially those adopting regenerative farm practices is a great way to ensure your food is at it's best.
If you are buying your food from the grocery store, you'll still benefit from purchasing seasonal produce. Typically when you're buying in season, price points are lower as the offering is naturally abundant and we find ourselves in a surplus. Usually you'll be able to tell what's in season at the grocery store, but if you're a planner and like to know before you go, you can always check out ahead of time online (of course, it helps to know where your produce is coming from!). The Ohio Farm Bureau is a great resource to use as a quick reference for Ohio, and check out The Seasonal Food Guide to find out about other states.
Eating seasonally can also be a great way to get out of a dreaded food rut--sometimes when we're focused on eating better, creativity and imagination go out the window. We find ourselves coming back to the same dry chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli, and make little room for pleasure and excitement on our plate. This doesn't have to be a trade-off; healthy eating can and should be delicious eating, too! If you find that you are hungrier this time of year, maybe your appetite has revved up with the colder weather, longer nights, or you find yourself craving more starchy, meaty foods... you don't have to fight against this. Eating seasonally allows you to work with this natural instinct. More carbs and protein = more gains. Select whole foods, prepared mindfully, and be aware of balancing each macronutrient, and you'll be properly fueled to get to work at the gym. If you know for a fact you become more sedentary when it cools off, then you may have to adjust your total caloric intake, but this need not look or feel like you're starving.
It's Harvest Season, baby! Next time you're at the grocery store, don't pass up that butternut squash. Try this recipe for a quick and easy Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup the whole family will love. You can add your favorite pasta or protein, and simply swap out for vegetable broth to make this vegan.
- 1 Butternut squash, diced
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, small diced
- 3 cloves garlic, small diced
- 1 apple, diced (if concerned about texture, feel free to peel the squash, potato and apple)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cups chicken bone broth
- 1/2 can coconut milk
- your favorite spice blend for this type of thing (I like sage, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, allspice, salt and pepper to taste)
- Sauté butternut squash, sweet potato, garlic, onion and apple in coconut oil over medium high heat for 5 minutes.
- Add in bone broth and set to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes.
- Pour into blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until desired level of smoothness.
- Add coconut milk and blend to combine.
- Top with your favorites; pepitas, fresh herbs, yogurt drizzle, more spice.
No Instant Pot, No Problem. Toss everything in the slow cooker on low before you leave for work, simply blend it up when you get home.
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