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Enjoy the Health Benefits of Local Produce at the Farmers Market

By Carol Witte, RDN, Director of Nutrition Services and Centers

There is nothing better for me than Michigan summers. The only thing that tops the bright colorful flowers is the variety of fresh herbs and vegetables at the Farmers Market. The flavor of Michigan produce is the best! Walk through the Midland Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings to increase your activity as well as to eat healthy by including some colorful produce. I enjoy grilling outdoors and finding new ways to include the colorful fruits and vegetables of summer.

Grilling Menu Ideas

Go Lean  Try ground turkey or ground chicken in place of traditional hamburger. If you do choose hamburger, use ground round or ground sirloin, which are lower in fat. Season without added salt. Use herbs and spices like garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, parsley, green onion or shallots. Experiment with new herbs from the Farmers Market. For steaks and pork, choose leaner cuts like sirloin.

Grill Vegetables  Think beyond the typical favorites. Start building your healthful barbecue around fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories, high in fiber, colorful, and packed with the nutrients you need. The Farmers Market and your local grocery store have local, fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Season and baste vegetables such as red peppers, corn, eggplant, summer squash, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, or onions and place directly on a hot grill (or a piece of tin foil) until they are tender and brown. Even beets are delicious on the grill! Eggplant is a scrumptious low calorie vegetable and is rich in phytonutrients, phenolic acids and flavonoids which have antioxidant and possibly anti-inflammatory benefits. They also taste great with tomato sauce and herbs. Another treat is to grill romaine lettuce and top with cheese and sunflower seeds or nuts. And don’t forget the onions! Red, white, yellow, or green, they not only add color but more importantly, flavor and nutrients to your favorite food. Onions are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

Seafood  Fresh fish can be grilled whole, in steaks, as fillets or on a kabob. Salmon, grouper, shrimp and tuna are great grilling options. The Midland Farmers market also sells fish to have with your colorful vegetables. Fish is a great source of protein and also contains omega 3 fatty acids which are beneficial for your heart, brain and also work as anti-inflammatory agents. It is good to add fish to your diet once a week. Salmon, trout, pollock, perch and whitefish are excellent choices which are also lower in mercury. Go online to www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish to find out more about mercury in fish.

Don’t Forget Dessert Grilled fruits are also scrumptious! Cut peaches in half and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Grill and serve with yogurt. Fruit kabobs are fun for a picnic. Clean, season and place on skewers. Refrigerate or keep in a cooler until you are ready to cook. Grill on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden for a tasty and nutritious dessert. You can grill watermelon for 30 seconds on each side to bring out unique flavors. It’s also worth taking time to search out recipes for grilling your fruit with different balsamic vinegars.

Grains Remember to read labels and limit high sodium and high fat snack foods. Try unsalted pretzels with hummus, lower sodium crackers, whole grain breads and wraps to go along with your meats and vegetables. Whole grain pasta salads are amazing! Mix in your favorite vegetables along with olive oil, vinegar and your favorite seasonings.