Westchester Dietician Talks Fresh Summer Fruits and Veggies

Posted on: May 17, 2013

Get Ready… June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

by Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN, Northern Westchester Hospital

farmers market 2Do you hear that? The sound of summer is almost upon us! The birds are chirping, the whisper of warm breeze filling the air – and the crunching of fresh fruits and vegetables!  June marks the beginning of this glorious season, and along with it a time to celebrate National Fruit and Vegetable Month!!  While fruits and vegetables should be eaten all year long, spend some time this month to focus on incorporating local produce into your favorite dishes.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, you should consume between 2 and 2 ½ cups of fresh fruits and vegetables each day depending on your gender and activity level.  Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, aiding in digestive health and satiety. They also have an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals that help prevent chronic disease.

When purchasing at your local supermarket or farmer’s market, be sure to look for fruits and vegetables in season.  Buying produce in season allows for better nutrient and flavor quality (plus it’s easier on your wallet!).  Also, be sure to get a healthy variety by thinking of the colors of the rainbow; the more variety the more beneficial the nutrients.

What about organic?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic as crops that aren’t grown or processed using conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients.  Organically produced whole foods must meet specific standards to bear the USDA green and white organic label.  Now, you might be asking yourself, “Does this mean organic is healthier and more nutritious?” Well, there is currently an ongoing debate regarding the difference in nutrient quality of organic vs. conventional foods. Buying organic is a personal decision based on your preference and budget, as organic foods tend to be more expensive.  Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean organic is safer – all foods can become contaminated so remember to wash, store and cook safely.

Ideas to Incorporate!
The main goal this month is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Below are some ideas to help get you started:
1. Boost your Breakfast. Add fruit to your morning cereal, oatmeal, pancakes or blend in a smoothie.
2. Load up Lunch. Throw in some extra veggies like mushrooms, cucumbers, carrots, radishes and peppers to salads, sandwiches or wraps.
3. Sneak in Snacks. Use fresh, cut-up fruits and vegetables or pair with unsalted nuts for snacks in between meals to curb hunger.
4. Swap your Sides. Instead of higher calorie sides, try filling half your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables.
5. Decorate Desserts. Try dipping your fruit into melted dark chocolate or freezing your favorite fruit for a frozen treat! Berries or sliced peaches make a great topping for frozen yogurt too.

Here are a few recipes to try this month.
Check your local farmer’s markets for the freshest available produce – there’s nothing better than shopping outdoors! Also, strawberries are in season; add some exercise to your day by finding a pick-your-own orchard and then enjoying the fruits of your labor the same evening.

Spinach Strawberry Salad
Courtesy of Food.com

1 lb. fresh spinach, washed
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
½ cup pecans, toasted
For Dressing
1/3 cup raspberry red wine vinegar
½ cup sugar or ½ cup sugar substitute
1 tsp. dry mustard
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1. Toast pecans over low heat, set aside to cool.
2. Combine dressing ingredients and shake well.
3. Combine spinach, dressing and pecans into a bowl. Toss and garnish with a few sliced strawberries
4. Serve immediately

Summer Pea, Watermelon and Farro Salad
Courtesy of Myrecipes.com

1 cup uncooked faro or wheat berries
1 cup shelled green peas (about ¾ lb. unshelled)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cubed seeded watermelon
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup (1 ½ oz) shaved fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1. Place farro in a large saucepan, and cover with water to 2 inches above farro. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 23 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
2. Add green peas to pan with farro, and cook for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse farro mixture with cold water; drain.
3. Combine farro mixture, salt and black pepper into large bowl. Add watermelon cubes and chopped parsley, and toss to gently combine. Top salad with Romano cheese.

Balsamic Asparagus
Courtesy of Food.com

1 bunch fresh asparagus (stalks approx. same thickness)
1 Tbsp. oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1. Prepare asparagus by washing and snapping off tough end.
2. Heat oil in frying pan.
3. Add asparagus and keep moving around in pan until changes color (approx. 3 to 5 minutes).  Add balsamic vinegar and pepper sprinkling over asparagus.
4. Remove from heat and cover for a few minutes to enhance flavor.
5. Serve.