Eating in season is not only great for your wallet (it’s a lot cheaper to eat what’s currently at its peak in ripeness and growth), but also for your health and taste buds. Yet, there are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to making the most out your purchases, and sticking to your healthy goals. Here are a few tips from dietitians.
The Dos and Don’ts of Healthy Shopping at the Farmers Market
Do: Go For Berries
All seasonal fruit is a great option at your favorite farmers markets, said Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “Do focus on enjoying local seasonal produce that you cannot buy farm-fresh all year round. The nutrient content is likely higher than something you would find in the supermarket, since it hasn’t been picked, stored, and shipped across the country,” she added.
Be sure to add some fresh strawberries and blueberries to your basket, because they are a particularly good choice to get fresh. “The quality of more delicate items, like berries, will certainly be better when purchased locally.”
Don’t: Load Up on Baked Goods
Our expert suggests you do your best to not “fall prey to all the tempting baked goods and candied nuts” at the stands. They might be homemade, but they should still be considered “once-in-a-while foods.” You should really be at the farmers market for produce and fresh dairy and meat products.
Do: Buy the Ugly Fruit
Don’t judge an apple by its awkward shape or color. “Buy ugly fruits and vegetables. It cuts down on food waste, and this unusually-shaped produce is just as nutritious as its prettier counterparts,” said Maggie Moon, MS, RD, and author of The MIND Diet. “A little cosmetic scuff here or there is OK, especially if you’ll be eating the produce soon. You still want to avoid overly bruised fruits and veggies, which is a sign of spoilage,” she explained.
Don’t: Sample Everything
You might be tempted to pick on fruit or dig into sample platter as you leisurely walk around the farmers market on Sunday morning, but Moon said she sees red flags all around.
“I know this is a hard one, and really, it’s buyer’s choice, but my food safety radar goes off just thinking about the unwashed produce and any unwashed hands that may have sampled before me,” Moon said. “You can use smell and touch, and ask questions about the produce to help you pick the winners.”
Do: Try New Foods
Farmers market are your chance to find interesting types of your favorite produce, like heirloom tomatoes in different colors and apple hybrids that’ll switch up your daily snack.
“Look for fruits and vegetables you aren’t familiar with. Trying new fruits and veggies means you’ll be getting a greater variety of protective nutrients to stay strong against daily inflammation and oxidation,” said Moon.
Don’t: Eat the First Thing You See
If you’re headed to the farmers market without having breakfast or lunch, you’ll be hungry and probably pick up the first snack you see. Take a few minutes to make a lap and check out your options instead.
“If you’re like my dad, he’ll eat the first gyro that pops up, and then within 10 minutes, he’s already onto the burrito down the line,” said Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, CDN, CLT. “While all these foods are prepared with locally grown and fresh ingredients, they still are very filling, and can cause a significant amount of caloric intake if you’re not mindful in gauging your hunger and fullness cues,” she added.