Bye, bye beets and broccoli, hello cucumbers and other cool foods!
As the warm weather starts to make an appearance, I look forward to making way for summery foods—not only in my kitchen, but also as fresh, seasonal nourishment for myself and for my family. Think of it as de-cluttering not only your crisper drawer, but your grocery list and meal planning. Here are a few ways to make the transition from winter to spring and summer the next time you’re in the grocery aisle or at the farmer’s market:
1) First, I take an inventory of all the fruits and vegetables that I use to make winter dishes like warming stews and soups. As nutritious and satisfying as they are, it’s time to say farewell to fresh butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts as well as apples and pears which are no longer at their peak.
It’s important to note that winter vegetables, because they take a long time to grow, are much more warming to the body than the vegetables that grow in summer. Root vegetables are very grounding, nourishing to the stomach and help stimulate blood circulation. Grains are also very warming for the body and are perfect additions or accompaniments to winter dishes. During the summer, go with a lighter variety of grain such as quinoa or couscous, both of which are delicious in chilled dishes as they are in warmed.
2) The arrival of spring is the perfect time to cleanse the body from the excess accumulated during the winter months—and prep for summer. Bitter greens like arugula, dandelion greens, and nettle are good greens to incorporate in the diet to stimulate your liver to eliminate excess wastes. During this time, I like to drink a lot of green juices and make light vegetable soups.
3) As summer approaches, shop the aisles and farmers’ markets for lighter foods, fresh and locally-grown if possible. Vegetables are abundant and include zucchini, carrots, yellow squash, corn, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and green beans. I love to incorporate all the fresh vegetables growing at this time into my diet. Because these vegetables tend to grow quickly, they are much more cooling to the body. As for succulent summer fruits, these include peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, watermelon and cherries—and don’t forget lots of berries.
Summer is also a good time to eat raw foods, which are usually too cooling in winter so I like to make a salad with every meal—or eat a salad as a meal. Foods like cucumbers and watermelon have a high water content to keep you hydrated, so be sure to incorporate them into your diet—the perfect summer snack on their own—in creative ways. Also, I shift to quicker cooking techniques, such as sautéing or grilling because these are also much more cooling than slower, longer cooking techniques, such as braising or stewing.
So as you begin to get ready for the warm weather ahead, it’s a good time to think about how you can start to incorporate summer’s bounty into your diet to fully benefit from all the nutrition summer fruits and vegetables have to offer. Just a little time and planning can go a long way in making you feel more vibrant and energized.
Rachel Khanna is a holistic health counselor, chef and author of the Live, Eat, Cook Healthy: Simple, fresh, and delicious recipes for balanced living. Rachel has positively impacted peoples’ lives through her cooking classes, workshops, and individual and group coaching. She began focusing on nutrition after leaving a career in marketing and having four children. She trained at the renowned Institute of Culinary Education. She founded Tiffin in Greenwich, Connecticut, her successful organic catering business. Later, she became a certified health counselor and food therapist through programs at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the Natural Gourmet Institute, respectively. She continues to pursue her studies in holistic health. www.liveeatcookhealthy.com
Do you eat seasonally when it comes to vegetables and fruits?