Summer produce makes healthy eating a whole lot more fun! Farmer’s markets are everywhere, berries will soon be ready to pick in the mountains, and fruit trees will be loaded. Family gardens are overflowing with produce. However, with vacations, kid’s camps and work, life in the kitchen can be a blur!
Providing easy-to-fix recipes for picnics may help to entice some of your patients to try new fruits and vegetables rather than stopping at the local fast food restaurant to pick up a meal en route to the park. Sandwich wraps filled with grilled vegetables may be a hit, or cabbage salad with green peppers, shredded carrots and a bit of balsamic dressing is an easy favorite. It is easy to take blueberries on a picnic, and with a cold pack, one can add a topping of vanilla yogurt for a delicious and simple dessert.
Grilled vegetables, from kale to potatoes, are another easy way to enjoy vegetables in season. Just a bit of olive oil and spices with vegetables placed on a sheet of aluminum foil makes an easy side. Add a main dish of grilled fish or tofu, and a delicious and healthy meal can be served in a short time, and is quick and easy!
Another way to help patients eat healthier is to advertise local farmer’s markets’ times and locations, and encourage patients to go. Our clinic just began a prescription produce program, where vouchers are provided to patients who have a hard time purchasing fresh produce due to financial constraints. Each week, the truck from a local garden brings produce, and for just one dollar, they can feed fresh vegetables to the whole family for a week.
Although summer gardens are already in full swing, there is still enough time to plant a few items in a garden container or corner of the yard. As summer turns to fall, lettuce and spinach can be seeded again. Encourage patients to think about growing some of their own produce. Perhaps they will get hooked, and next year they will plant a bigger garden.
Providing recipes for produce in season may be another way to encourage your patients to try fresh produce they may have been hesitant to try before. There are a wide variety of online resources which provide recipes and include nutritional information, such as carbohydrate counts. For example:
Carbohydrate counting is so often the focus of our work with patients with diabetes, that the quality of the diet may be overlooked. Summer is a great time to encourage our patients to remember to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and we can lead the way…with menu and recipe ideas, referrals to community gardens and local farmer’s markets, and encouragement to start a small garden plot of their own! What ideas do you share with your patients for a great, healthy, summer harvest?