Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the foundation of a healthy diet, with a goal of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The easiest way to meet this goal is to fill half your plate with these foods at every meal.
Local produce is an excellent option, especially while it’s in season. Low in calories and loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fresh produce is always a great choice. Fruits and vegetables harvested at the peak of ripeness are more flavorful and richer in nutrients than produce picked green and shipped long distances. In fact, some antioxidants, such as vitamin C, folate and carotenoids, will rapidly decline when stored for extended periods of time. Shopping at a local farmers market — which are plentiful and open year-round here in Central Florida — is a great way to get your whole family involved in eating healthfully.
Focusing on foods in season encourages a diverse diet and gives you something different to look forward to each season. An added benefit of seasonal produce is that it can cost less than out-of-season produce due to less traveling, storage and production expense.
Seasonal Foods Support Your Body’s Natural Nutritional Needs
Eating food that’s in season harmonizes with nature’s production cycle. In the winter, citrus fruits are abundant. These fruits are high in vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. Winter vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli and spinach, offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, stews, soups and casseroles. Summer produce, such as stone fruits, provide us with extra beta-carotene that protects us against sun damage. So named because of their very large and hard seed, stone fruits include peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries. Summer produce also provides sweetness for cool summer salads.
Healthy Eating Tips
When your favorite produce is not in season, it’s still important to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables. They offer so many health benefits, regardless of whether you choose fresh, local, seasonal, organic, frozen, dried or canned. Here are some tips for incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet:
- Buy produce in bulk and preserve it by freezing.
- Build meals around seasonal produce, whether you are making a stew, salad or stir-fry. Or try a baked potato bar with nutritious toppings such as steamed broccoli, chives, Greek yogurt or salsa.
- Think color first. If everything on your plate is the same color, then your diet is probably not balanced enough. Every meal should look like a rainbow:
- Eat a vegetable salad at lunch filled with red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opt for a fruit salad for dessert or breakfast filled with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi and pineapple.
- To create balanced meals for your family, use the plate method:
- For dinner, fill half your plate with an assortment of roasted vegetables. Brussels sprouts, parsnips and sweet potatoes complement just about anything, so toss them with a bit of olive oil plus fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, and grill or roast as a side dish.
For access to a farmers market in Central Florida on any day of the week, check out this list:
Freshfields Farm Orlando
400 E. Compton St., Orlando Monday–Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Celebration Farmers Market Lakeside Park
631 Sycamore St., Celebration 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
City of Maitland Farmers Market
Lake Lily at Maitland Avenue
(intersection of Maitland Avenue & 17-92) 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Clermont Farmers Market 685 W. Montrose St., Clermont
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Orlando Farmers Market Lake Eola Park, Downtown Orlando South Osceola Avenue and North Eola Drive
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Audubon Park Community Market 1842 E. Winter Park Rd., Orlando 5 – 9 pm
Kissimmee Valley Farmers Market Kissimmee Lakefront Park
201 Lakeview Dr., Kissimmee
3 – 7 p.m.
Edgewood Farmers Market Edgewood City Hall
405 Larue Ave., Edgewood 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Windermere Farmers Market 614 Main St., Windermere
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
*Goldsboro Farmers Market Westside Community Center 919 S. Persimmon Ave., Sanford 2 – 6 p.m.
Cagan Crossings Farmers Market Cagan Crossings Town Center 600 Cagan Park Ave., Clermont 4 – 8 p.m. (September-May)
Winter Park Saturday Farmers Market Train Depot
200 W. New England Ave., Winter Park 7 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Oviedo Farmers Market @ Lawton House 200 W. Broadway St., Oviedo
Grounds of Historic Lawton House
8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (1st Saturday of month)
Lake Mary Farmers Market 101 N. 4th St., Lake Mary 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Lake Nona Community Farmers Market Valencia College
12350 Narcoossee Rd., Orlando
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Winter Garden Farmers Market Downtown Pavilion
104 S. Lakeview Ave., Winter Garden 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Remember to look online to verify market’s date and time.
To learn more about how Orlando Health supports the Central Florida community, see our Community Benefit Report at OrlandoHealth.com/CommunityBenefit.