There are so many reasons why I love the summertime: the green grass and warm sunshine, longer days and warmer evenings, more time to savor all the beauty of the outdoors.
But the best part by far is the amazing abundance of healthy, fresh, whole foods everywhere you look.
In celebration of the richness of the season, I’ve put together my top 10 reasons why there’s no better time to eat well.
1. Food is Fresh, Available and Affordable
It’s easy to eat fresh, locally grown food when fruits and vegetables are as abundant and available as they are during the summer months. And when food is more available, it’s more affordable, too, since choosing local produce cuts the cost of shipping food from some far-off place.
When food is in season, it’s better for you. Except for freezing, most food storage practices cause a loss in nutrition and quality. Think of all the preservatives and toxic chemicals used to keep packaged foods from going rancid on grocery store shelves.
Beware these processed and preserved foods that can’t die. Fresh food is alive, filled with all the nourishment and nutrients needed to keep you alive and thriving!
Eating locally is not only healthy for you, it’s great for your community, too. Participate in the grow-your-own movement by shopping at your local farmers’ market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture). See www.localharvest.org to find a CSA or farmers’ market near you.
For more adventurous ways to go local, try that interesting little farm stand you drive by during your daily commute (they usually offer great value for seasonal fruit and veggies) or try a pick-your-own farm.
2. You Can Get Back To Basics
Summer is all about unwinding, relaxing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Always keep basic staples in the pantry, so you’ll be ready for an easy, impromptu meal. They don’t need to cost much. To eat well, you don’t have to indulge in expensive specialty foods or the new, trendy exotic fruit du jour. Keep it simple.
Tip: Get back to basics by creating delectable meals out of everyday foods, such as beans and greens. Beans cost only 50 cents per serving, yet give you 7 grams of blood sugar-friendly fiber. Try this Black Bean Salad recipe.
3. You Can Savor the Flavor
Summer offers so many ways for you to add flavor to your food without resorting to salt and fat. Herbs, spices, and berries are all plentiful during the warmer months. Get creative, and experiment using herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, or fresh dill. In the summertime, these are so easy to grow right in your own window!
4. You Can Lighten Your Load
Produce is available in huge quantities and varieties during the summer months. This wide array of options makes it easy to enjoy a light, plant-based diet, which can keep your heart healthy, your waistline slender, and your blood sugar levels optimized.
Try incorporating meatless Mondays into your weekly meal plan or try eating at least one meal a day without animal protein. This can help you lighten the load on your digestive system, as well as on the earth, since raising animals for food has a greater impact on the environment than growing fruits and vegetables.
Tip: Choose non-GMO tempeh to replace ground beef in your next recipe.
5. There Are So Many Ways To Enjoy Your Leftovers
Remember all those leftover berries from the pick-your-own farm or all the fresh zucchini you found from the farmers’ market? Don’t waste them—re-use them!
6. Dine Under the Stars
Add flare to your normal weeknight routine by creating your own summery dinner table outside. No need to go to fancy restaurants to make your meal feel special; decorate your outdoor table with some candles, stones, or fresh flowers to enhance your dining experience! Invite friends over. Make it a potluck! Relaxing under the stars, enjoying a fine meal with friends, will soothe your nerves and help you digest your food, while truly appreciating the magic of summertime.
While it’s sometimes okay to choose the conventional versions of fruits and vegetables, whenever possible, it’s best to opt for organic. This limits your exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, drugs and other toxins that can be found in conventionally grown food.
When you buy from local farms, you can find fruits and vegetables that are just as nutritious as their organic counterparts, with one distinct advantage: to reach you, locally grown produce doesn’t have to travel the thousands of miles across which some organic foods are shipped. This extra time spent in the back of a truck can make them more costly, yet less nutritious.
8. Summer Food Preparation Is Quick and Simple
When it’s cold out, stews, soups, and slow-cooker meals are best. But these take time to prepare and cook. Summer is all about quick and easy meal prep. Your body craves raw or lightly cooked food, which means less time for you in the kitchen. This gives you more time to get outside and enjoy summer’s simple pleasures.
9. There is More Than Meets the Eye In Colorful Summer Foods
Summer fruits and vegetables grow in a variety of beautiful colors that make food more pleasing to the eye, and the more beauty on your plate, the more pleasure you receive from your meal. The more pleasure you feel, the less likely it is you’ll overeat. But the beauty of these colorful fruits and vegetables is far more than skin deep. These colors are nature’s way of advertising the phytonutrients, or special, healthy chemicals, they contain. The more color, the better!
And fun Summer recipes:
Who doesn’t love a good cookout during the warm summer months?
Elevate your burger by using grass-fed beef instead of hormone and antibiotic-traced meat. Not only will you be supporting the humane treatment of happy, healthy cows, but those omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids might just help keep your summer skin glowing a little longer!
Shrimp is quick, easy, affordable and probably one of the most versatile foods a culinarian can play with. Bring the fiesta-feeling of summer into your kitchen by jazzing up ordinary shrimp with the fresh ingredients of summer-cilantro, cucumber and tomato.
And while your at it, kick up your body’s innate drive to detoxify in the summer by adding as much heat (jalapeño) to your salsa as you like.
Not feeling incredibly hungry in the hot summer months? Don’t miss out on starting your day with a healthy, balanced, whole-foods based meal. Cool off with the creaminess of coconut and almond milk in this delightful berry and nutty shake that will keep you energized all morning long.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise