How to: Add more seasonal local produce into your meals this summer

Summer is one of my favorite times of year due to the delicious (and nutritious!) seasonal local produce.

I always recommend that my clients eat plentiful amounts of vegetables – I’m talking several cups a day – not only to be healthy, but also to help aid in weight loss. To get the most bang for your buck when produce shopping, local is your best option in terms of price, environmental impact, and nutrition. Plus, you’ll support local farmers, and your community and economy.

A great way to experience new seasonal produce from local farms is to take part in Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). As a dietitian, I get excited when my clients participate in CSAs because they are usually exposed to different foods that they are not used to buying. And since CSAs provide a bulk of fresh produce, this generally encourages participants to find ways to consume their share before it goes bad. Not surprisingly, this leads to experimentation with new recipes and an increase in weekly vegetable intake – music to my ears!

Below I’ve listed some nutritious fruits and veggies that you should be enjoying around the Philadelphia area this time of year and some recipes to help you consume them.

FRUIT

Berries are your best bet to buy local during the summer months. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries grow exceptionally well in N.J., as do cherries. July is when you will start to see more variety with fruit including apricots, peaches, and plums.

Melons and watermelon have a short season and tend to come in much later in the summer. You’ll also have to wait until August to enjoy tasty grapes and nectarines, as well as pears, apples, and raspberries.

Jazz up your breakfast by adding whatever fruit is in season that week. I like to add peaches, berries and cherries to my morning oat bran.

VEGETABLES

Summer is the best time for Pa. and N.J. vegetable harvesting. You’ll start to see more locally grown asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuces, onions, snap peas, peppers, squash, spinach, Swiss chard, corn, and tomatoes.

Obviously, you can eat some of those veggies raw in salads, but there are many other interesting ways you can increase your vegetable intake without eating salads all day long.

If I’m grilling proteins like fish or turkey, I grill the other components of my meal as well to cut down on cook time. To make my meals more complete, I add a complex carbohydrate, such as grilled sweet potatoes, and I always add a non-starchy vegetable like asparagus, peppers, onions, or zucchini. When grilling non-starchy veggies, wrap them in tin foil with a little oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper.

Below, I’ve included some recipe ideas to help you add some of the produce that is currently in season, or soon to be, for meals and snacks.


CREAMY BERRY SHAKE
Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Siggi’s Filmjolk, any flavor (I like this brand because they add less sugar than other flavored cultured dairy drinks)
  • 1 cup fresh berries
  • ½ cup ice

Directions: Blend together until even texture is acquired and enjoy this frothy, yet healthy, treat!


SUMMER BERRY SALAD
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mixed lettuces and greens (lettuce, kale, spinach)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ½ medium onion, diced (tip: cook in microwave or on sauté pan to sweeten, then cool)
  • ¼ c raw walnuts
  • ½ medium avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro, cooked (or any cooked whole grain)
  • ¼ c Bolthouse Farms Organic Raspberry Vinaigrette (or any low-sugar, low-fat, simple dressing)

Directions:

  1. Cook farro according to package directions and cool.
  2. Mix greens, berries, onion, walnuts, and avocado in salad bowl.
  3. Add farro and toss with dressing.

* Serve with chicken, shrimp, or fish to make into a more of a substantial meal. 


GRILLED TURKEY CHOPS AND VEGGIES

Turkey chops are a great meat to throw on the grill on a warm summer’s night as they are much leaner and healthier than any red meat and are a nice hearty cut of poultry that grills evenly.

Ingredients:

Turkey:

  • 1 pack of turkey chops
  • 2 tbsp. avocado or olive oil
  • ¼ c lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, crushed

Veggies:

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends chopped off
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into ½” pieces lengthwise
  • 1 head broccoli, sliced into florets
  • 1 eggplant, sliced into ½” pieces
  • 2-3 Bell peppers, sliced and seeds removed
  • 1 tbsp. avocado or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Put turkey chops in large Ziploc bag with oil, lemon juice, rosemary and garlic. Marinade in refrigerator for ~ 4 hours.
  2. About 20 minutes prior to grilling, put all veggies in a large plastic bag or bowl and toss with oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. After veggies are well coated with marinade, place a batch of the veggies on a grill pan.
  3. When grill is heated, place grill pan on medium heat and grill first round of veggies for about 10 minutes, turning regularly so that veggies char evenly. Veggies are done once they are soft and some are partially charred. You will need to do several batches of this, depending on size of your grill pan.
  4. When last batch of veggies go on the grill, place each marinated turkey chop directly on medium hot grill and cook on each side for about 5 minutes, or until turkey is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Flip with long tongs.
  5. Once all veggies are cooked and turkey is done, serve immediately. Turkey can be eaten alone or with sauces such as ketchup, barbeque sauce, or tzatziki sauce (also great on vegetables!).

 

Kelly Strogen, MS, RD, LDN is the owner and Registered Dietitian for Wayne Nutrition LLC in Wayne, PA where she is focused on educating and counseling clients to enable them to reach their optimal health potential. Visit her personal blog at Kelly’s Pantry.