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Offered by Linda Young, Executive Director, Brighton Shares The Harvest

BSH_Logo_NoWebsiteMany people love fall for the cooler weather, beautiful colors, and pumpkin-spice everything. But if you’re a person who loves to eat fresh, local, summer produce, it can also mean the end of some fine dining. There are a lot of ways, and a lot of reasons, to continue to eat food from plants year-round.

Every edible plant, including grains, beans, and nuts, provides you with healthy fiber and nutrition, and different plants provide different nutrients. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to make sure you’re getting the variety of nutrients that your body needs is to “eat the rainbow”; eat plant-based foods of different colors: purple cabbages, orange carrots, red peppers, dark leafy greens, etc. Be sure to get a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and healthy nuts in your diet every week. And even when there’s snow on the ground, there are still plenty of colorful and healthy options available.

For fresh produce, look for locally grown produce with a long shelf life such as potatoes, onions, winter squash, cabbage, carrots, and dry beans. Consider fresh fruits and veggies from other parts of the country, or from other countries, for a wider variety of fresh food. We tend to eat heavier foods in the winter, including stews, soups, and roasted vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts), and fewer salads, but grocery stores still carry many of your favorite lettuces and other salad ingredients. Buy what your family will eat and enjoy, and try to mix it up.

Canned and frozen vegetables and fruits are more a matter of personal taste than nutrition. Frozen vegetables without sauce, canned fruit without added sugar, and canned beans without added anything are all very healthy and convenient choices. Canned tomatoes are very nutritious and can be added to lots of basic dishes.

There are ways to add more vegetables without totally shaking up your family’s favorites. If you don’t make soup from scratch, stretch your budget and use up leftovers by starting with some prepared vegetable soup, add a little extra water, and add cooked cut-up vegetables, beans, and some of those canned tomatoes. Get your kids to eat more vegetables by serving baby carrots and pepper strips as a side or before dinner. Even if you have to give them dressing for dipping, they’re still benefiting from the fiber and nutrients in the vegetables. If your family drinks orange juice, suggest they try whole oranges instead for more fiber. Grate some carrots into casseroles and spaghetti sauce. If you’re grilling meat, add some veggies to the grill as well.

While you’re shopping for healthy produce options for your family, please remember that our local food pantry clients and vulnerable senior citizens also need these healthy options during the winter months, and consider donating a bag of apples, potatoes, oranges, or beautifully colored sweet peppers. Please visit our website at (click: Donate Produce) for places that would love to receive some fresh healthy produce or healthy canned fruits and vegetables for their clients this winter.