You may not think you have
time to eat more seasonally. Managing busy weeknights, picky eaters, and a
shortage of inspiration can make seem impossible to add anything else to the
mix. Believe it or not, eating with the seasons can actually be a useful tool
to help make healthy meals everyone will love.
What's In Season?
Find out what's in season
in your region by checking state agriculture boards for a crop availability
calendar. Many will post lists of produce from month to month like this one
from my state of Connecticut.
Once you've figured out
what's available, get out and explore the possibilities. Expose the family to
fresh foods when ever possible. Hit up a local farmers' market or farm stand,
see what local produce is available at your local grocery store, and when the
climate allows getting your hands dirty in your own garden.
Eating with the seasons
allows you to take advantage of the best ingredients at their peak of freshness
and flavor. Since seasonal produce items travel a shorter distance to get to
your plate, more of the nutrients remain intact. Part of the beauty of eating
seasonally is the variety – changing up your options allows for exposure to a
wide array of nutrients throughout the year.
Since some seasonal items
have a short season, hold on to the flavors. Put 'em up to enjoy later in the
year by freezing and making jams, sauces, soups and pickles.
Each season has its own
special foods and nutrients to offer. Here are some examples of nutrient-filled
seasonal superfoods and family-friendly recipes to use them with.
Dried fruit is a terrific
option especially in the winter months when options are less plentiful. Dried
fruit is sweet as candy but packed with nutrients like fiber and iron. Raisins
and a pinch of cinnamon make this bowl of oatmeal taste like a decent treat.
For variety swap in other dried fruits such as cranberries, apricots or
Recipe: Cinnamon Roll
I've made oatmeal this way
so many times I had to write up the recipe. It has all the sweet goodness of
sticky bun, but it is a much healthier way to start your day. For easy morning
time prep, make plain oatmeal ahead and store in the fridge. Microwave to
reheat and then pile on the toppings.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Low-fat milk or soy milk (optional)
In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar—set aside. Prepare oats with
water according to package directions. Top with cinnamon sugar, walnuts, and
raisins; stir. Finish with a splash of milk or soy milk, if desired.
Spring is an exciting time
of year for produce – it's time to get the garden planted and head back to the
farmers' market. I love to take my kids berry picking in the late spring. We snack on lots of berries right away but
also try to save some for the freezer and this amazing homemade treat.
Commercially prepared fruit
leathers are filled with highly processed sweeteners and even trans fats! This
recipe is made from whole-food ingredients and keeps the sugar content in
check. Take the kids berry picking and hold on to the tasty memories a bit
longer. It is just as easy to double or triple this recipe but be sure to use
separate sheet pans for each batch to get the proper thickness and cooking
time. This recipe is a little time-consuming but most of the time is inactive.
The hardest part will be waiting to dig in.
1½ cups chopped fresh strawberries
½ cup chopped fresh kiwi
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 170°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a
Silpat mat and set aside. Place fruit, honey, and sugar in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, then puree using an immersion
blender.* Continue to cook over medium-high heat for an additional 10 to 15
minutes or until thick and syrupy; the mixture should be thick enough to coat
the back of a spoon. Pour the hot fruit mixture onto pre- pared baking sheet
and spread evenly into approximately an 8 × 12 inch rectangle. Place in the
oven and bake for 3 hours. After 3 hours have passed, turn off the oven and allow
to sit overnight. Cut into strips with a pizza cutter; roll up in a clean piece
of parchment paper. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
*If you do not have an immersion blender, puree in a food processor and
then return mixture to saucepan.
Nothing says summer like
zucchini and fresh herbs, both are bursting with nutrients and the flavors of
summertime. This dish also incorporates tomatoes and corn – more fresh produce
filled with vitamins and antioxidants.
Recipe: Summer Squash
Later in the summer I'm
always looking for something new to do with the zucchini I have all over the
kitchen counter. The whole house complains ("Zucchini again?!"), but they don't
mean it. This dish is all about the flavors from the family garden. A Zyliss
julienne peeler is my tool of choice for making easy strips of squash.
3 large zucchini, unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup corn kernels (preferably fresh but can be
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Using a vegetable peeler, strip zucchini into thin
ribbons. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, tomatoes,
and corn; season with salt and oregano and cook until vegetables are slightly
wilted and warm, about 5 minutes.
Fall foods like sweet
potatoes, winter squash and pumpkin are loaded with vitamin C, fiber and beta-carotene
– an antioxidant vital for healthy skin and eyes. Pumpkin puree (not to be
confused with sugary pumpkin pie filling) can be used for soups, sauces, and
baked goods. My youngest daughter is truly obsessed with these muffins.
Recipe: Charlie's Double
Charlotte is obsessed with
pumpkin muffins and there are no complaints from me. I created this recipe
especially with her in mind, and I find myself making and freezing batches of
these at least once a month. Pumpkin seeds make for the "double" pumpkin
designation, but sometimes we just make them plain. They are also dynamite when
you add a couple handfuls of mini chocolate chips to the batter.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray mini muffin pan with non- stick cooking
spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking
soda, cinnamon, and salt; whisk well to combine. In a separate bowl whisk
together brown sugar, egg, canola oil, carrot- applesauce, milk, vanilla, and
pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and mix until just
combined. Fill each muffin cup with 1 tablespoon of batter and sprinkle with
pumpkin seeds and sparkling sugar. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until a
toothpick comes out clean from the center. Allow to cool for at least 20
minutes before serving.
Many recipes can be
modified for any season. Toss seasonal goodies into kid favorites like soup,
pizza, quesadillas and mac and cheese.
Recipe: Mac and Cheese
with Vegetables and Chicken
This is an awesome mixed
meal for little ones who are ten to twelve months old. Serve with fruit for a
complete and well-balanced meal. I still make this (unpureed) for the entire
family to enjoy.
½ cup broccoli florets
½ cup chopped carrots
3 ounces cooked chicken breast
¼ cup low-fat milk
2 ounces American cheese, shredded or chopped
(Applegate brand recommended)
2 cups small-shaped pasta (such as stelline or orzo)
Cook pasta according to package directions and set
aside. Place broccoli and carrots in a small saucepan and boil until very
tender (about 15 minutes). Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Transfer cooked vegetables and chicken to a food processor and pulse until well
chopped; add a bit of reserved veggie cooking liquid if mixture appears too
dry. Set aside.
Heat milk in a small saucepan until steamy. Add pasta
and cheese; stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Mix in chicken
mixture and add more cooking liquid, if desired.
Yield: about 3 cups
information per ½ cup Calories: 147, Total Fat: 4 grams, Saturated Fat: 2
grams, Carbohydrate: 18 grams, Sugars: 1 gram, Protein: 11 grams, Sodium: 157
milligrams, Cholesterol: 21 milligrams, Fiber: 2 grams, Vitamin D: 5 IU,
Calcium: 78 milligrams, Iron: 0.6 milligrams
Dana Angelo White, MS,
RD, ATC, author of the new release FIRST BITES: Superfoods for Babies and
Toddlers (Perigee/Penguin Random House) is the nutrition expert for
FoodNetwork.com and founding contributor for Food Network's Healthy Eats
blog. As a registered dietitian and certified athletic trainer
specializing in culinary and sports nutrition, White is an educator, a
clinician, and most importantly, a mom of two. Learn more at www.danawhitenutrition.com
and follow her on Twitter @DWNutrition.