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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Keeping Your Food Safe This Summer

GettyImages-459911339It is estimated that there are almost 48 million cases of foodborne illness/food poisoning in the United States each year (source: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-poisoning). Of these cases, around 128,000 individuals are hospitalized and about 3,000 deaths occur. Rates of foodborne illness are higher during the summer months, as they are often warmer and more humid—the ideal environment for bacterial growth. In addition, many people participate in outdoor food-related activities, such as picnics, barbeques, and campsites, where the typical safety controls of a kitchen, such as refrigeration, cooling, and running water, are not always available

Keep reading to learn about the common causes of food poisoning, their symptoms, and steps you can take to protect your food this summer.

Common Food Poisoning Culprits and Their Symptoms

The onset time of the signs and symptoms of food poisoning depend on the type of virus, bacteria, or other pathogen you were exposed to and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common food borne illness causing pathogens and their symptoms include the following.

Salmonella

Symptom onset: 6 hours to 6 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting.

Food sources: Raw or undercooked poultry and meat; eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices; raw fruits and vegetables.

Staphylococcous aureus (Staph)

Symptom onset: 30 minutes to 8 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping.

Food sources: Foods that are not cooked after handling (sliced meats, pudding, sandwiches, etc.).

Clostridium Perfringens

Symptom onset: 6 to 24 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea and stomach cramps (vomiting and fever are uncommon).

Food sources: Beef, poultry, gravies, dried and/or precooked foods.

Norovirus

Symptom onset: 12 to 48 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting.

Food sources: Leafy greens, fresh fruit, shellfish, unsafe water.

Clostridium Botulism

Symptom onset: 18 to 36 hours after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Double/blurry vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, muscle weakness.

Food sources: improperly canned or fermented foods.

Escherichia Coli (E Coli)

Symptom onset: 3 to 4 days after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: Severe stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody).

Food sources: Raw or undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices, raw vegetables (sprouts, lettuce), unsafe water.

Listeria

Symptom onset: 1 to 4 weeks after exposure.

Signs and symptoms: headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches.

Food sources: Soft cheeses, raw sprouts, fresh melon, hot dogs, and other deli meats.


Individuals at Increased Risk for Foodborne Illness

People who are most at risk include the following:

  • Pregnant women and infants.
  • Children younger than 5 years old.
  • Elderly (> 65 years of age).
  • Immunocompromised (cancer, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, etc.)


6 Steps for Practicing Food Safety This Summer

Follow these tips to avoid food poisoning at your summer gatherings.

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after food preparation and handling. Be sure to dry your hands completely after washing using a clean towel. If you don’t have running water or access to safe water, be sure to bring wet disposable wipes, paper towels, and surface disinfectant for cleaning hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils.

Keep Cutting Boards and Utensils Clean

Use separate cutting boards, serving dishes and other utensils (tongs, spatulas, etc) for cooked and raw foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash all items that come into contact with raw food with warm soapy water prior to reuse.

Get a New Plate After Handling Raw Meats

Never serve cooked foods on the same plate or platter that once held raw meat, poultry, or fish to avoid cross-contamination.

Thaw in the Refrigerator

Thaw food in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature or on the counter.

Cook to Safe Internal Temperatures

Use a food thermometer to ensure the food reaches safe internal temperatures:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal (steaks, roasts, chops, etc.): 145F
  • Ground meats (hamburgers, etc.): 160F
  • Whole and ground poultry (chicken, turkey): 165F

Don't Leave Food Out

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours after cooking. If outdoor temperatures exceed 90F, refrigerate perishable foods within 1 hour. Keep your refrigerator below 40F.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer picnics food safety illness prevention viruses bacteria food poisoning

Tips for Healthy Eating at Summer Barbecues

Summer is perfect for being active outdoors and grilling some healthy items for cookouts. Getting together with family and friends is a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, some barbecues can turn into really unhealthy meals quickly. Here are some simple tips to ensure you keep up healthy eating while enjoying a cookout. Healthy Eating at BBQ

  • Better your burger. Consider topping your burger with fresh and flavorful veggies such as onions and tomatoes versus higher-fat options like mayonnaise and cheese. Also, grab a whole-wheat bun to increase the fiber, or a sandwich thin to keep calories lower. Seek out lower-fat ground beef to make your burgers, such as Laura’s Lean Beef, or grab a turkey burger or a plant-based burger to grill. 
  • Select sides wisely. Coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad are typical staples of most cookouts. However, these mayonnaise-based options are loaded with fat and calories that aren’t necessarily the best for a balanced plate. Choose a serving the size of a tennis ball to keep portions in check, or choose oil-and-vinegar or yogurt-based dishes if available. 
  • Fill up on fruit. This time of year is full of almost every fruit in its peak season. Load up on filling berries, cherries, and melons. Make a giant fruit salad or kabobs, or toss some peaches or pineapple on the grill and top with nonfat vanilla yogurt. If fruit pies are on the menu for dessert, choose the option with a bottom crust only and stick to one slice!
  • Don’t forget the veggies. A lot of times veggies are completely forgotten at a barbecue, but these can be super tasty and easy to fix when done on the grill. Zucchini, squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and peppers are great on the grill and can easily be made into fun kabobs. Corn on the cob is technically a starchy vegetable, but it’s still a vegetable! Just be cautious with the amount of butter and salt that you load on top of it. Instead, try grilling it in foil with a touch of olive oil and squeeze a lime on it before eating. You won’t even miss the butter and salt!
  • Be careful not to burn your meat. Two compounds found in charred and overcooked meats are known carcinogens. Always make sure to clean your grill to get rid of preexisting charred food bits before you start grilling, or grill on top of foil or a grill mat. Another great idea is to marinate your meats before throwing them on the grill. Not only will it increase the flavor, but it can reduce the presence of the carcinogens. Grab a meat thermometer and make sure beef, pork, fish, veal, and lamb reach 145 degrees and poultry reaches 165 degrees.
  • When you are finished, go play. Challenge the kids to a game of cornhole or horseshoes. Start tossing the ball around or choose another outdoor game. The point is to not just to jump around and “burn off” dinner, but to get up and moving and away from the tempting chips and other snacks!

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories summer disease prevention paleo

Staying Hydrated When Exercising This Summer

GettyImages-868150638Did you know the human body is composed of about 50 to 60 percent water? Throughout the day, your body uses and loses fluid by way of natural body processes such as sweating, breathing, creating saliva, making and excreting urine, and having bowel movements. Losing more water than you consume can quickly lead to dehydration, which typically presents as excess thirst, headache, dizziness, weakness, digestion problems, and/or nausea. These symptoms typically resolve once you rehydrate your body.

How Much Water Do I Need Each Day?

The amount of water needed each day is different for everyone and varies depending on your age, gender, weight and height, activity level, and health status. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those with chronic diarrhea often have increased fluid needs, while some individuals, such as those with kidney disease or congestive heart failure, may need less. Consuming alcohol and caffeine may also increase fluid excretion, thus requiring an increase in fluid intake.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration because you can achieve normal hydration status with a wide range of total water intake. Total water intake includes plain drinking water, water in beverages, and water that is found in food sources, such as in watermelon or cucumbers. On average, close to 20 percent of total fluid intake comes from food sources.

Instead of an established recommended intake level for water consumption, an Adequate Intake level for total water was set to prevent dehydration and its side effects. The Adequate Intake for total water for adult men and women is 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters each day, respectively. However, water consumption below the adequate intake doesn’t automatically put you at risk for dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to consume HALF of your body weight in OUNCES of water. For example, an individual who weighs 150 pounds should aim to consume 75 ounces of water each day (150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces).

For more individualized fluid recommendations, please speak to your physician or a registered dietitian (RD/RDN).

How Do I Know If I’m Drinking Enough?

The simplest way to determine your hydration status is by looking at the color of your urine. Pale urine is typically indicative of proper hydration and gets darker the less hydrated you become. It is possible to consume too much water, so if you’re urinating frequently or your urine is clear, you may be drinking too much.

Suggestions for Staying Hydrated

Here are some tips for increasing your fluid intake.

  • Purchase a reusable water bottle.
  • Opt for water rather than soda and/or sugary drinks.
  • Wear clothing that is made of moisture-wicking material and fits loosely, to help you keep cool.
  • Bored of water? Add fruit to still or sparkling water. Try out some of these suggestions: Mint, lemon, and strawberry slices; cucumber and melon slices; orange and lime slices; apple slices and cinnamon sticks; cranberry and orange slices; orange slices and cloves; pineapple slices and raspberries.
  • Consume foods with a high water content such as watermelon and cantaloupe; strawberries; grapes; lettuce, cabbage and spinach; celery and carrots.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water outdoor exercise

A Breath of Fresh Air: The Many Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

GettyImages-1191767354We have all heard the old sayings about fresh air and how it affects your well-being. It usually comes in the form of sage advice and sounds like something you can take with a grain of salt, but is there truth to this advice? There are times in our lives when we might not even see the sun, whether it’s because of our careers, lifestyles, or by choice. Although these reasons may have validity, there is some very good research that supports outdoor activities as a viable way to improve your overall health.

Are You Making the Most of Your Time Outside?

Of course you go outside as part of your daily routine, but are you making the most of your time outside? How can you make that time more productive? The reasons for going outside are numerous, whether it be for work, hobbies, recreation, exercise, or relaxation.

Health Benefits of Being Outside

During the daytime, sunlight can have some positive impacts on your body such as Vitamin D activation (and its wide range of benefits, like helping with everything from osteoporosis to decreasing depression). Researchers at Harvard University have laid out five important health benefits from being outdoors:

  • Vitamin D enhancement: Benefits include disease-fighting properties, weight-management properties, and mental wellness properties.
  • Opportunities to exercise: Being outdoors allows for a higher probability for physical activity and putting your body into movement.
  • Mood enhancement: Light and fresh air have been shown to improve your mood. Smiling more also doesn’t hurt!
  • Concentration and focus: Fresh air has also been shown to help individuals living with ADHD.
  • Healing: Some studies have shown that individuals who had surgery or were experiencing pain had a less stressful experience when exposed to sunlight and fresh air.

How to Get Outside More

There are many opportunities to immerse yourself in outdoor activity. Simply going outdoors for a walk around the block is a great way to get the ball rolling. As you grow your outdoor experiences, you can branch off toward the many facets of wellness and fitness. A bootcamp workout with friends, reading a book by the canal, and walking your dog are just a few of the activities waiting for you outdoors. Don’t limit it to yourself; include others and inspire them to go outdoors with you.

As the summer continues, being outdoors becomes a highlight of the day. At NIFS, going outdoors to exercise could not be simpler, especially with the abundance of space and scenery at your fingertips. Several classes offered at NIFS, including NIFS Bootcamp, take advantage of open space near and around the facility. For more information about NIFS and exercise opportunities, please feel free to reach us at fitness@nifs.org or through our social media.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer outdoor vitamin D relaxation outdoor exercise mood health benefits

Summertime Safety: Protect Your Skin During Outdoor Workouts

GettyImages-828979918The glorious return to summer is upon us, and if you are like me, you will be spending as much time as possible soaking up sunshine as you take your leisure outdoors, take up hobbies in the yard and garden, and engage in group fitness bootcamp classes in the park. The sunshine feels good and has many benefits, including mood enhancement, vitamin D production, and even treatment for a number of skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. There are, however, some dangers associated with extended sun exposure that can be limited with the use of sunscreen, most notably skin cancer.

Finding the Balance Between Healthy Sun Exposure and Overdoing It

After a long winter or even a rainy spring, predictably, we will want to get out and about on the very first day possible. The first exposures to the summer sun usually leave us with a surprisingly red glow, the first sunburn of the year. For some people, this sunburn is a rite of passage for the season. As I noted before, there are some dangers with overexposure to the sun that have more serious consequences than a simple sunburn. According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and the number of cases is on the rise. This cancer forms when prolonged exposure to the sun is accumulated over time.

The old saying “too much of a good thing” really resounds as we try to find the balance between healthy sun exposure and overdoing it. For many people, using sunscreen is a way to find a happy medium so that they can enjoy the outdoors. Scientists at Harvard have some healthy tips for those who may have reservations using sunscreen (such as developing acne and exposure to chemicals) and warn that the alternative to sunscreen usage is much, much worse. The biggest takeaway, though, is that sunscreen, by itself, will not be enough if limited prolonged overexposure to the sun is not your priority.

Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Here are some pointers that will take your sun safety to the next level.

  1. Be aware of the dangers of overexposure. There are many sources to help educate yourself about these dangers and the ways you can limit and prevent serious damage to your body.
  2. Sunscreen is good, but it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. You will also need sun-protective gear and clothing to stay safe.
  3. Use sunscreen correctly. When using sunscreen, make sure you know the specific rating and reapply regularly.
  4. Watch for skin changes. See your doctor if you develop any abnormal skin (always be safe, not sorry).

Prepare for Sun Exposure

Take time to treat your skin, your body, and your mind. We need sunlight to live, but we need to respect it. As we move into summer, more and more fitness classes are held outdoors. Make sure you are preparing for the sun. Ask your facility whether they provide sunscreen; NIFS provides stations at the entrances for your convenience.

If you have questions regarding health and wellness, NIFS staff members are available for consultation and can provide information regarding workout planning, fitness testing, and nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian. As always, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner summer cancer sunscreen vitamin D outdoor exercise

Summer Foods: Delicious Fruits and Vegetables for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1009597020It is important to get in the nine recommended servings of fruits and veggies each day. This can definitely be challenging. However, in the summertime when produce is readily available all over the country, this is the time to make it a priority to reach that goal! These fruits and veggies are also at their nutrient peak, which is more reason to load up and fill your plate with these colorful items!

  • Tomatoes: Filled with antioxidants and Vitamin C but most importantly the phytochemical lycopene, which is a cancer fighter.
  • Zucchini: This vegetable has a fiber called pectin, which has been linked to increasing heart health and lowering cholesterol.
  • Watermelon: This fruit is loaded with…water, which this time of year with high temperatures is important to help stay hydrated. It contains lycopene, which is useful for preventing skin cancer.
  • Oranges: Citrus fruit is loaded with potassium, which is important to replace when you lose it through sweat during the summer months. Also, since oranges are 80 percent water, they can help keep you hydrated.
  • Cantaloupe and honeydew melon: More fruit loaded with water to help keep you hydrated. These melons are high in Vitamin C and potassium, and honeydew has high levels of B vitamins.
  • Raspberries: This fruit is typically very pricey in the off season, so take advantage of the lower prices and get 8 grams of filling fiber per cup. They are also loaded with Vitamin C.
  • Peaches and nectarines: Loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and fiber, these sweet treats are nutrition powerhouses and the perfect portable snack.
  • Dark, leafy greens: Fill up on raw veggies versus steamed this time of year, especially greens, and load up on much-needed carotenoids. These convert to Vitamin A and protect your skin from sun damage.
  • Strawberries and blueberries: These sweet berries are filled with flavonoids. They increase blood flow to the skin and decrease sensitivity to light, which can improve the skin’s appearance.

Try some or all of these produce powerhouses soon when the cost is cheaper and they are more readily available. Enjoy the health benefits along with the fresh flavors of these fruits and veggies.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating summer hydration fiber whole foods vitamins fruits and vegetables

Fair Food Finds: Healthy Eating While Having Fun at the Fair

GettyImages-886128934It only comes around once a year, so why not just indulge, right? Well, some of your favorite fair foods might only be consumed once per year, but if you aren’t increasing your exercise, too, the extra weight gained can stick around for longer.

Top 6 State Fair Foods—and How to Burn Them Off

Here are some of the more popular fair food items and how far you will need to walk to burn off the calories.

  1. Elephant ear: Average is 310 calories and 15 grams of fat—3 miles
  2. Funnel cake (6”): 276 calories and 14 grams of fat—3 miles
  3. Lemon shakeup: 254 calories: 2½ miles
  4. Deep-fried everything: Fried Snickers, 444 calories and 29 grams of fat; fried Twinkie, 420 calories and 34 grams of fat—either would take 4.5 miles. One Oreo, 98 calories—1 mile
  5. Corn on the cob: 250 calories and 12 grams of fat—2½ miles
  6. Corn dog: 200 calories and 10 grams of fat—2 miles

Fair Food Fixes: Better Nutrition Choices

There are some easy ways to save some of these calories or burn them off. Try these tips:

  • Think your drink—grab bottled water, sugar-free lemon shakeups, unsweetened tea, or diet sodas to drink instead of empty calories from other beverages.
  • Don’t arrive starving, which can lead to you wanting to purchase everything in sight. Have a balanced snack before you head to the fair.
  • Share with friends and family so you can try smaller portions of more foods.
  • Sit down and eat versus walking and grazing. This can help you feel fuller faster and more satisfied.
  • Wear comfy shoes to maximize your walking! Park farther away and avoid taking the shuttles or train services.
  • Check out all booths and choose your absolute favorite…you’ll eat less and walk more.

As with holidays, vacations, and other events that come around infrequently, the goal is to enjoy the day and then get back to balanced eating at the next meal. All foods can be a part of a balanced diet as long as it is done in moderation. Be sure to plan healthier meals and snacks leading up to and surrounding the higher-fat choices that will be available at the fair!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition walking healthy eating calories summer fair food

It’s Summertime! Stay Safe in Your Outdoor Exercise

GettyImages-914977726We’ve waited for this time for months, where there is no more snow and plenty of sunshine. Long days of outside fun, no kids in school, road trips and vacations—what more could we ask for?

But, baby it’s hot outside! Don’t let the heat cause you to lose your momentum. You can still keep working hard during the summer time; you just have to adjust a little. Keeping the following summertime fitness tips in mind will help you continue to get stronger and healthier.

Try water workouts.

Choose water workouts and aqua fitness, and make a splash as you get fit and strong. You can even improve your performance in the heat by lowering your body temperature in the pool before heading outside.

Use the shade.

It’s smart to move your workouts to a different location to avoid overexposure to the sun. If you are a runner or a biker, try a route in a wooded area.

Get proper hydration.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. The last thing you want when exercising is for the summer heat to take over. Avoiding caffeine, which forces water out of our systems, is also a good idea. Here are some more tips for getting hydrated.

Choose your clothing carefully.

It is important now more than ever to wear clothing that will move sweat away from your body and help it evaporate quickly. White or light-colored clothing reflects the heat better than darker clothing.

Monitor your heart.

The heat places greater stress on your heart. Be sure to keep an eye on your heart rate as you work out in the heat. Take a break if it starts to spike or get too high.

Beat the heat.

Try beating the heat with an earlier workout time. UVAs are the strongest between 10am and 3pm. Make every effort to minimize your workout outdoors during those hours.

Sunscreen is a must.

Use a stronger SPF just to be safe. It’s important to protect your skin.

Stop if you’re feeling faint or sick.

If you are feeling faint or sick, stop working out immediately. Sit down in the shade, drink water, and always have a nourishing snack available.

Know the symptoms of heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a serious threat that can be fatal. Symptoms include high body temperature (104 degrees or higher); absence of sweating with hot, flushed, or red/dry skin; rapid pulse, difficulty breathing; strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, or disorientation; and seizure.

GettyImages-675818642

Hit the gym.

You may find that the best thing to do is simply to stay inside the gym to get your workouts in during the summer. It’s a great time to work on form, increase intensity with no worry of heat exposure, and plan out a new, exciting routine.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer hydration water sunscreen outdoor exercise aqua fitness

TRI a New Challenge This Summer—NIFS Triathlon Training Can Help!

tri-1.jpgThere are so many different types of races out there to challenge yourself with this summer. Maybe you are signed up for a Spartan Race, a trail run, or a half marathon; but have you ever considered giving a triathlon a shot? If you haven’t done one before, I can say from first-hand experience: they are challenging, but very fun!

Triathlon is the combination of swimming, biking, and running. Now most of us would say, “Okay the last two don’t sound too bad…but no way, I am not a good swimmer.” One of the biggest deterrents keeping people from going out for a tri is the swim aspect. It is true that for most this is the most intimidating part, but just like the other two events, you just have to practice and get comfortable with it! Let’s take a quick look at the three events.

Swim

The length of the tri you sign up for will determine the distance you have to swim. The swim portion is done in open water (Tri Indy does theirs in the downtown canal, and Go Girl has their swim at Eagle Creek Park). Most people are not able to train in open water, but get into the pool as much as you can before the race. Find a training plan to follow, making sure that you are getting both distance and speed work, as well as drills, in your swimming sessions. Also, if you do not have any experience in swimming, I would suggest getting a lesson or two to learn proper breathing, strokes, and efficiency in the water.

Bike

The bike portion of the triathlon is done on the road. And like the swim, the distance will depend on what race you sign up for. A common misconception is that you have to go out and spend $2,000 on a great road bike. When race day comes, you will see every shape and size of bikes! The important thing to remember is, before getting out on your bike, to make sure it’s tuned up and in good shape to ride. Then practice running with it for the transitions, ride different distances and speeds, practice shifting gears, and just get comfortable using it.

Run

For many, next to swimming this may be one of the most challenging elements of the race. Just think you have already swum and biked, and now you have to get off and run! In the beginning your legs feel like jello and your body is telling you that you can’t possibly put one foot in front of the other and keep going. But you can do it! During your training, get in some longer runs and be sure to practice some bike-then-run days as well.

***

Seems like it could be a lot, but thousands of people finish triathlons every year around the world. Make 2018 your year to scratch that off the list. There are training programs out there: get one, follow it, and finish that race!

tri training header 2019 LOGO  
ATTENTION WOMEN: If you are interested in completing the 2019
Go Girl Triathlon at Eagle Creek, we have a triathlon training program at NIFS!

Early Bird Registration is happening now! Sign up before May 15th and save $10 off training!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS running group training swimming triathlon NIFS programs summer training biking women

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets Make Summer Healthy Eating Easy and Fun

GettyImages-497835938One of my favorite things to do once it’s summer in Indiana is visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian, I’m a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find. Here are my top five reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support for the local community. Because the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market, you are cutting out the middle man and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eating foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This Indiana Fruits and Vegetable Harvest Calendar handout shows which produce is in season so that you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government sites to see whether they have a similar calendar.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendation is 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day goal. This will guarantee you are getting good nutrition and meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants, too. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, and ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break on Wednesday afternoons to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings, it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the week. To find a farmers’ market close to you check out the FDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

Whether you are picking up items for dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy-eating alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer clean eating organic foods fruits and vegetables