Tis the Season (What's the big hype about seasonal eating?!)

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

 

Tis the season…

 

It’s been a beautiful 60-70-degrees most mornings around here in Texas meaning one thing: Fall is here.

 

Despite the lingering 80 and 90-degree temps come high-noon time, there’s no escaping the Halloween décor displays at the stores; the changing color of leaves (typically straight from green to brown in Texas), and the large pumpkins, root squash sales, juicy apples, robust sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens and rich smells of cinnamon-spiced candles and foods on display at the grocery stores.

 

What’s been cooking in your kitchen or on your plate lately?

 

 

Crisp apples in your lunchbox? Chili on Gameday Saturdays? Pumpkin muffins or pancakes for breakfast? Diced and roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes alongside your protein at dinner?

 

Check. Check. Check. Check.

 

There’s nothing more nourishing than eating foods in their freshest forms: Eating seasonally.

 

And there’s no denying what foods are fresher—and which ones are not—based on appearance and taste alone.

 

At the grocery store this past week, I wanted berries…some delicious, juicy, sweet strawberries to throw in a morning smoothie or pair alongside an egg and bacon scramble. However…picking up the berry container: mushy, off-red and even a hint of hair (i.e. mold) graced the little guys.

 

Hmph…Putting the container back down, I decided $4.99/lb. for the berries was not worth it.

 

Unfortunately, berry season is done for.

 

 

As I perused the produce, I then stumbled right into the pear display in the center of the section with a big sale sign above the various varieties (Bosc, Bartlett, Red Anjou, Comice to name a few).

 

Sold!

 

Fresh crispiness awaited me later that afternoon, as I enjoyed a pear with a handful of macadamia nuts, happy with my purchase for the week.

 

Thinking, “Eating seasonally is downright tasty.”

 

Perhaps you’ve heard “health experts”, news reports or claims on local restaurant menus about the importance of eating “seasonally” (i.e. including foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year you eat them)…however, they never really tell you why.

 

“Eating seasonally” has simply become one of those buzz words that sounds trendy; but that most of us simply overlook—primarily due to the ‘luxury’ we now have with our current farming, shipping and agricultural practices.

 

Sure, conveniently, we can go to the grocery store at any given time during the year and get practically any food, any fruit or any vegetable, we want—no matter the season—but, unfortunately, just like our great cell phones that have ‘connected us’ and ‘disconnected us’ at the same time (ex. we are more into our phones at a dinner table than our conversation), “eating seasonally” has merely become a “good thought” or “idea”—but with no real appreciation of the benefits of eating seasonally.

 

The primary benefit?

 

Nutrition!

 

 

A HUGE part of “eating healthy” or “eating to THRIVE” goes far beyond: a.) the number of calories you eat; b.) the macronutrient ratio you get in a day (ex. 40% protein, 30% fat, 30% carbs, etc.); or c.) the claim on a label (“packed with vitamins and minerals” or “heart healthy”).

 

As SIMPLE as it sounds… “eating to THRIVE” means food quality; eating nutrient-dense foods…And those foods just so happen to be the ‘in-season’ variety during particular times of year.

 

Just like there is a difference in the quality of a McDonald’s hamburger (Grade D meat) versus a homemade grass-fed beef burger (I’ll let you decide which one is more nutritious), there is a huge difference in the nutrient-bang we get from our fruits and veggies—depending on the season.

 

 

 

 

As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, nutritional breakdown begins. In fact, many vitamins present in the fruit or vegetable before harvest are highly unstable and are largely depleted after only a few days. Hence why: “out of season” produce—shipped from miles and miles away, spending many days in transit and the back of 18-wheelers, is less nutrient-dense (loses those vitamins even more quickly because it’s not as rich in them during that time of year).

 

Buying produce at its peak of seasonality and freshness means the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are also freshest!

 

And this is not just heresay. A study in the International Journal of Food Science & Nutrition investigated the Vitamin C content (nutritional quality) of organic, conventional and seasonally grown broccoli to determine if “organic” is really better (more nutritious) than “conventional produce.” In addition, they wanted to see if the time of year changed the nutritional content of produce. The findings?

 

 

The vitamin C content of organically and conventionally labeled broccoli was NOT significantly different, however, there were significant seasonal changes observed. The fall values for vitamin C were almost twice as high as those for spring for both organic and non-organic broccoli.

 

Another study on the nutrition quality of fresh vs. frozen vegetables found vegetables picked and frozen when in season are higher in nutrients than those “fresh” vegetables out of season.

 

 

And one more study, on cows, found that due to the fresh greens they eat in the summer, their milk contains higher levels of the vitamin folate during this season than in wintertime.

 

In addition to getting more nutrients, eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is a cornerstone of preventive medicine.

 

One doctor, Dr. Preston Maring of Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center in California, is actually even writing prescriptions for his patients to buy fresh food from the hospital’s on-site farmers’ market, complete with suggestions about how they can prepare it. This after being inspired by a study documenting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet—reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density and weight loss.

 

“No duh Sherlock!” you say.

 

 

But seriously, use this to your advantage.

 

Buying “In Season”

 

How do you know what’s “in season” or if you are eating the best fruits and veggies for this time of year?

 

It’s not too difficult to find out. Take a quick look around the produce section of your grocery store. Pay attention to the way prices are trending (in season items are usually ‘cheaper’).

 

Have you noticed that berries, peaches and nectarines get really expensive at the end of fall?

Or that the berries and peaches and nectarines that are on the shelves just don’t look as good as the ones during the spring or summer?

 

That’s a good clue.

 

Also, if you notice there’s an abundance of something specific, and they’re on sale (like potatoes or pumpkins in fall, for example) that’s another good clue.

 

One way to assure that you don’t eat the same meals month after month is to follow a seasonal calendar.

 

The fall is the perfect time to stock up on the following fruits and veggies in your shopping cart, packed with vitamins and minerals to boost your health, your energy and your taste-buds:

 

Winter Squash

Apples

Pears

Sweet Potatoes

Broccoli

Beets

Brussels Sprouts

Pumpkins

Pomegranates

Cranberries

Carrots

Garlic & Onion

Turnips

Swiss Chard

Pineapple

Grapes

Mushrooms

 

As for the other seasons, some of the top picks include:

 

Winter: All animal foods (Fish, chicken, beef, lamb); Potatoes; Carrots; Onions; Nuts; Kale; Collard Greens; Oranges

 

Spring: Swiss chard; Spinach; Romaine lettuce; Honeydew Melon; Green Beans; Mustard Greens; Asparagus; Basil & Parsley

 

Summer: Berries; Summer Squash; Broccoli; Cauliflower; Peppermint & Cilantro; Apricots; Eggplant; Peaches; Watermelon; Lima Beans; Tomatoes;

 

 

 

Need some inspiration for ‘how to cook’ this season’s good tidings—even the basics? See below!

 

Pumpkin Pancakes (by Running to the Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • coconut oil for cooking pancakes

 

Directions

  • Heat a pancake griddle over medium heat.
  • Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Whisk together wet ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Add wet to dry ingredients and stir together.
  • Add enough coconut oil to the pan to grease the center.
  • Pour batter in approximately ¼ cupfuls onto pan and spread out into pancake shape (the batter will be a bit thick and need some help to form a circle)
  • Cook for about 3-4 minutes on the first side, carefully flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the second side.
  • Repeat with remaining batter, adding more coconut oil to the pan as needed

 

 

Stuffed Acorn Squash Bowls (by Healing & Eating)

 Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey, beef or bison
  • poultry seasoning
  • 7 c. spinach
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 2 acorn squashes
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 c water

Directions

  • Steam acorn squash in slow cooker with ½ cup of water for 3 hours
  • Wait for squash to cool or use oven mitts to slice squash in half and slice of ends to sit flat.
  • Scoop out squash seeds, until inside resembles a bowl.
  • Add coconut oil to a pan and cook ground meat with sea salt, and poultry seasoning.
  • Wilt in baby spinach, and add dried cranberries at the end.
  • Scoop mixture from pan into acorn squash bowls and s

 

Roasted Carrot Fries

Ingredients

  • 6 large carrots
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste

Directions

  • Cut each carrot into 2-inch long sections
  • Cut each section into thin sticks
  • In a large bowl toss carrot sticks with olive oil and salt
  • Spread out carrot sticks on a parchment paper
  • baking sheet

Bake at 425° for 18-22 minutes until carrots are browned

 

 

Loaded Turkey Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (yellow, Garnet, Japanese, etc.)
  • spinach or kale
  • 1 tablespoon fat (I used ghee)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

 

  • Cut your sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise and put them face down on a cookie sheet. Put in the oven to cook for about 30-40 minutes depending how big they are. You will know when they are done if they are easy to push on, on the skin side. If you pull them out early and the inside doesn’t come out easily with a spoon, you’ll need to cook them a bit longer.

 

  • While your sweet potatoes cook, put out a pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add a bit of fat to the hot pan then add your garlic and onions to start cooking down.

 

  • Once the onions are translucent, add the ground turkey and use a large spoon to break it up to help cook it a bit quicker.

 

  • When the turkey is half way done cooking, add the spices. Let the turkey cook until no longer pink or until completely cooked through, take off heat.

 

  • In a separate pan, sauté your greens in some fat, water and sea salt/pepper; cover for 4-5 minutes; set aside

 

  • Now pull your sweet potatoes out of the oven and use a large spoon to scoop out the insides.

 

  • Put the insides of the sweet potatoes directly into your pan of turkey and mix thoroughly to combine. Add greens.

 

  • Now scoop out the new mixture and put into your sweet potato skins.

 

  • Place loaded sweet potatoes back on the cookie sheet, face up, back into the oven and cook for 3-5 more minutes just to meld the flavors together and harden the top a bit

 

Hawaiian Chicken Skewers (by Primal Palate)

Ingredients

 

Directions

  • Combine diced pineapple, olive oil, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl.
  • Puree mixture in a blender or food processor.
  • Pour back into the small mixing bowl, and stir in the minced cilantro, set aside to use as glaze during grilling. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  • Skewer pieces of chicken and pineapple on metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers.
  • Grill skewers for 12–15 minutes, turning every 4–5 minutes.
  • Brush the chicken with the pineapple glaze periodically while grilling.
  • Garnish skewers with chopped cilantro, and serve.

 

Boom!

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