Diabetes Diet: Taking Healthy Advantage Of Our Local Farmers’ Market

An excellent way to increase our consumption of fresh, whole foods is taking advantage of the fare offered at our local farmers’ markets.

Though enjoying just-harvested produce is the primary reason people shop regularly at farmers’ markets, there are other compelling perks as well.

For instance, being outside, surrounded by bins and baskets of fruits and veggies grown in regional soil helps us feel connected to the earth, and our purchases support the local economy. A trip to the farmers’ market is also an interesting activity that the entire family might enjoy. In many areas they’ve become a hub of community involvement, with local food vendors and musicians adding to the fair-like atmosphere.

Market Tips

To make the excursion a pleasant, practical, and economical one, here are a few tips for novice, or infrequent farmers’ market shoppers:

  • Seasonal Flow. In grocery stores we often find out-of-season produce available most of the year, such as peaches in January. Shopping at farmers’ markets we find produce that’s in-season only, but this limitation is good for our health.
  • Seasonal food is harvested at the peak of freshness and has higher nutritional value than out of season produce. By eating each season’s foods we provide our body with a rainbow of colorful and diverse fare containing the array of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants required for good health.
  • Be Sure To Ask. At farmers' markets we may come across a food that is unfamiliar, but can feel comfortable asking the farmer what it is, how to store, and prepare it. We will expand our food horizons, have fun experimenting with a new edible, and build relationships with our local farmers.
  • Most growers are passionate about their work, and more than happy to share their knowledge with interested customers. It can be a great learning experience for parents and kids.
  • Price Check. At farmers’ markets each vendor sets their own price, so - though it requires legwork - shopping around can save money. By going to the market regularly, we eventually become familiar with who has the best prices for what.
  • Single shoppers may find that farmers bundle some produce, such as green beans, in family sized quantities. However, many vendors are willing to sell a half-quantity when asked. Or, single shoppers might go with a friend, share the produce expense, and divide the spoils.
  • Timing Counts. To select from the best produce variety and quality it’s a good idea to arrive at the market early, preferably just after it opens. To bag the juiciest bargains, arrive just prior to closing time when the farmers are hoping to sell what remains of the day’s produce—they might even toss in a few freebies.
  • Economize. It’s easy to get carried away at a farmers’ market and buy more produce than we can immediately use. It helps to have our week’s meals planned before heading off to shop.
  • We can also economize by buying fruits and veggies in bulk during their peak season, and store them for later use. Freezing is the easiest option, and it works for many items—just do an Internet search on “how to freeze fruits and veggies” to get helpful tips. People with a little more kitchen-ambition can also dry, or can their bulk produce purchases.

One way to keep our blood sugar in check is filling half our dinner plates with nutrient and fiber rich low-glycemic veggies, and that’s easy to do when we shop regularly at our local farmers’ market. It’s a healthy habit worth cultivating.

Sources: Jen Stiff/Chopra; Eat Local Grown
Photo credit: North Charleston

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