March is National Nutrition Month and this year the country is focusing on “Going Further with Food”. It’s all about shopping from local providers, making the most of those foods, preventing food waste, stretching your food dollar, and, last but not least, foods that promote good health! Let’s explore each of these areas a bit more.
Shopping locally can be a small change in routine but it can have a significant impact on communities. It stimulates small businesses in your area and supports local agricultural as. How far does something have to travel for it to qualify as “local”? Foods can travel about 1,500 miles and be considered “farm-to-table”. Very often local produce and foods lack the preservatives and additives most packaged and processed foods contain. Remember, shop from what’s already in your fridge and pantry, to prevent buying an unnecessary amount of food!
After you buy your groceries for the week, the next step is to make sure they are stored properly, to prevent spoiling. Make sure that:
- All dry storage goods are kept in a cool, dry area between 50⁰ and 70⁰ (or at about room temperature)
- Potatoes are best kept in the pantry and things like tomatoes and bananas are best kept out in the kitchen
- Store refrigerated items at or below 40⁰
- Keep produce like apples, blueberries, and grapes in the low humidity drawer
- Keep produce like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli in the high humidity drawer
- Make sure your freezer stays at or below 0⁰ for long-term frozen food storage
Preparing and cooking your foods also plays a part in preventing waste. Try deboning meats and trimming as much visible fat as you can, to ensure that everything is edible after cooking. Don’t be afraid of slight blemishes on fruits or vegetables either. Just because it’s not a “perfect” piece of produce doesn’t mean that it’s not edible! If you let some of your fruits hang around too long, try using overly ripened apples, pears, and bananas as sweeteners in baking, to avoid tossing them in the garbage. Or use them to make smoothies, or delicious banana muffins and pancakes. Lastly, watch your portion sizes! Try not to fill your plate with more than your stomach can handle at a sitting. Safely store leftovers for meals later in the week, to stretch those food dollars!
Regardless of who you are, creating and sticking to a budget is something we should all do. Take inventory of what you already have available for the week’s meals before heading to the store to see if you have anything of use, and beware of shopping when you are hungry! Take advantage of seasonal foods as they become readily available and their prices drop.
- Spring = peas, peppers, strawberries, and beets
- Summer = artichokes, cherries, peaches, and eggplant
- Fall = apples, pears, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Winter = pumpkins, winter squash, brussel sprouts, and radishes
So, what about promoting good health through the foods we eat? All of these tips can help your food go further, but we also want to go further with our health goals by choosing the best diet for ourselves. During this month we’ll talk a bit about how the foods we eat can help us go further with those goals. Stay tuned!