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What to Eat This Summer

Enjoy the Season's Freshest Foods
  -- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
No one wants to spend hours planning menus, making countless trips to the grocery store and slaving in the kitchen, only to endure dull and tasteless food. If you want to eat healthy, home-cooked meals without all the fuss, try a seasonal pantry makeover. To do it, stock up on locally-grown foods, and simply create meals based on what's in season in your region. Eating locally is delicious, nutritious, interesting and, believe it or not, easy. Local food tastes better because it really is fresh (not shipped-from-across-the-country-yet-still-bearing-a-label-that-says-fresh).

It's healthier for you because you get the higher nutrient levels from just-picked produce. It's healthier for the environment because local food uses less fossil fuel for transport. Seasonal food is also interesting, as each season brings a new crop of foods that you haven't had for an entire year. Before you've had a chance to tire of its bounty, the season changes to bring new, flavorful foods. And shopping for seasonal foods is easy—a fun trip to your local farmer's market will yield the majority of the ingredients you need.

In the US, we enjoy practically unlimited access to any food any time of the year. Although it's nice to have watermelon in February and asparagus in August, many people don't even know that foods have a season, let alone what foods are in season at any given time of year. A quick scan of the offerings at the farmer's market will clear this up in a few seconds, but you may want to start brainstorming recipes beforehand. Availability will vary from region to region, but here's a list of foods that make summer their season, along with tips on how to incorporate the new-to-you ingredients into your meals. <pagebreak>

Summer Vegetables
Summer Fruits
Fruit is always easy. It is ready to eat, and tastes great. But if you're looking for some new ways to incorporate fruit into your menu besides the "grab and bite" technique, try fruit smoothies, fruit cobblers and fruit-topped pancakes and French toast. Summer Seasonings
If you've done a little cooking, you probably know that the seasonings can make the meal. Here are some seasonal seasonings for your summer suppers. If your pantry isn't stocked with the season's tastiest and most nutritious staples, then get yourself to your local farmer's market and add flavor to your meals with the best summer seasonings. To find a farmer's market near you, visit www.localharvest.org, and enjoy the bounty of summer!