Let’s start with our Soda Free Summer campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce consumption of soda and sugary drinks among children and adults in Boston.   As the summer temperature rises so does the consumption of these drinks. The average person eats almost 100 pounds of sugar a year, and the largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet is sugary beverages. This campaign is to raise awareness that these drinks typically have lots of calories and no nutritional benefits.  

Consumption of soda and sugary beverages has been shown to increase risk for obesity and other chronic health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These issues are very much a reality for Boston residents, as 52% of adults in Boston are overweight or obese, and almost half of Boston high school students are overweight or at risk of being overweight.   

 

Just how much sugar are we drinking?

A 12 ounce can of non –diet soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

A 20 ounce bottle of non-diet soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar.

To put this in perspective, drinking one 12-ounce can of soda per day can result in a weight gain of 15 extra pounds per year. Drinking one 20-ounce bottle of soda can lead to 25 extra pounds in a year.

Any reduction in consumption is a step in the right direction. Replacing soda with healthier options such as water, water with fruit slices, unsweetened tea, low fat dairy, or seltzer will have positive health benefits. The greatest benefit will be seen by those who reduce their consumption the most, or eliminate soda entirely. To support selecting a healthier option, CLICK here for the quick and easy Raspberry Sprizter. For other helpful information on selecting healthy beverages, CLICK here
 The Soda – Free Summer campaign is a fun way to encourage individuals and youth organizations to take the pledge to be soda free for the summer.     When taking the pledge, individuals have two options:

  1. I pledge to not drink soda this summer
  2. I pledge to reduce the amount of soda I drink this summer

 

Take the Soda-Free Summer Challenge and re-energize your life!

www.bphc.org/sodafreesummer  or www.Facebook.com/HealthyBoston

The second exciting thing about summer is that local produce is now available at Boston‘s farmers’ markets.  The array of produce is fresh-picked so it has not lost any nutritional value in the time it takes to travel long distances that may happen at grocery stores.  The variety of produce makes this the perfect opportunity to try new vegetables such as garlic scapes, which are the early tops of garlic as it’s growing. It’s great chopped as garnish or to add a mild garlic flavor to dishes.   Right now scallions, summer squash, cucumbers a variety of lettuces and salad mix are available.  As the summer progresses, I personally can’t wait for fresh tomatoes.Most of markets around the city have the capacity to accept EBT for individuals using food stamps.  If you would like more information of Boston‘s farmers’ markets dates and times as well as the Boston Bounty Bucks  program  CLICK  here.

 So let’s get out and have fun in Boston this summer, drinking healthy beverages to quench our thirst, and eating local produce to energize ourselves.

We are finally back to school and to what feels like the beginning of the days getting shorter and the evenings colder.   I just want to remind you that Farmer’s Markets are still going strong and offer a great variety of late summer and fall produce. 

gourds This weekend,   Mattapan is hosting their Harvest Festival & Perennial Divide on Saturday. http://www.bostonnatural.org/PDFs/evtHarvestFestival09.pdf

 On Sunday, Community Servings Farmer’s market will be hosting Earthworks and you can taste some fresh apple cider from one of the local orchards in Boston.

http://servings.org/about/news_item.cfm?news_id=245

 Along with the festiveness of this weekend, Farmer’s Market’s still have some of the best offerings that include late summer tomatoes. You have to admit that tomatoes taste their best picked right from the garden or the farm, and we all know you cannot get a good tasting tomato in the middle of winter!   Tomatoes are a terrific source of vitamin C, with a touch of vitamin A, potassium and fiber. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may slow down aging of the skin and may be beneficial against certain cancer and heart disease.

 Cooking may actually increase the health benefits of this fruit.   So how do you preserve the great taste and health benefits longer?   I find that roasting and freezing is a great way to preserve tomatoes and is not as expensive or intimating as traditional canning.  Simply slice, roast and freeze and savor the flavors during the colder seasons.    Here a couple of recipes for roasting or freezing tomatoes:  

http://www.relishmag.com/recipes/view/40305/teresas-freezer-tomato-sauce.html

 p://www.instructables.com/id/E1LNGBK0I0EQZJIA3W/

 The fall growing season can also bring another opportunity to try hearty greens that you may have missed in the early growing season.  These include   kale, collards, spinach, cabbage and others which are good food sources of calcium, and iron.  Broccoli and cauliflower is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, foliate and fiber.  As the weather gets cooler, try preparing greens in soups with combinations of beans for protein and you have a quick and easy meal that can satisfy and reduce the amount of meat that we consume.   Here a couple of farmer’s   market recipes and other favorites that will please your family and your budget:  

http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/FMFM_Main.aspx

http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/resources_consumers_recipes.htm

http://www.recipezaar.com/Healthy-Bean-Soup-With-Kale-55796

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=577195

 

 So   here’s the reminder of the dates, and times of the many markets in the city. 

Farmers Market Schedule

Don’t forget your EBT card to take advantage of Boston Bounty Bucks!   Try a couple of new fall recipes on your family.   Along with the variety of vegetables come the fall fruits, crisp apples and fragrant pears.  These fruits are a good source of soluble fiber and potassium and both are delicious in sweet and savory dishes.  Join me next week as talk about seasonal apples and all the free orchards available in the city.

 Sometimes we think farmer’s markets are not cheap and in this economy everyone is watching their budget tightly, however farmers’ markets are beneficial for both your personal finances and for your local economy.  Farmers’ markets provide closer, fresher, and more nutritious foods for just slightly more than or equal to the price of produce at a supermarket. 

 For some neighborhoods in the inner city, supermarkets are usually far away.   If you cannot pay the extra transportation costs, this leaves people with the limited selections offered at small grocery stores, convenient stores and fast food restaurants.   All of these are places where prices are high, products are processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables are poor quality or non-existent.     Since the smaller stores lack the ability to buy in huge quantities like chain supermarkets, they pay more for the products and produce they sell.  Their prices may also be higher due to higher property costs, higher security costs, higher shrinkage (loss of products due to theft and waste), and higher employee turnover, these costs are all pass onto the consumer.

 When a farmers’ market in your community is open, residents should take advantage of the opportunity to buy some of highest quality food available for themselves and for their family.  The farmers do not have to charge for transportation and middle-men costs. In addition, most  of them take WIC and Senior coupons.  Half of them take EBT, and if you are using EBT, check out Boston’s Bounty Bucks’ to find out how you can double your purchasing power!   

Perhaps the most interesting financial benefit of shopping at farmers’ markets is the impact it has on the local economy.  A lot of people don’t think about where their money goes after it is spent.  When you buy produce from supermarkets, the majority of the money you spend goes to the supermarket corporation, whose headquarters may be thousands of miles away.  Only a fraction of every dollar goes back to the farmers themselves.  This is part of the reason why most large farms are subsidized by the government.  They are actually running at a deficit because of the low return they receive for their products.

 When you buy produce directly from the farmers, they get 100% of the money.  They then reinvest a lot of this money back into their local or regional economy.  Small farms are more likely to buy equipment and supplies from other small businesses in the area, and are also providing jobs for local residents.  Local farms stands and businesses are also more likely to stock and sell products from other local merchants.  Since the money you give them stays and re-circulates in your neighborhood, you actually reap more of a benefit from it in the long term. A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every pound (or dollar) spent on local goods generates nearly twice as much income for the local economy as money spent in national chain stores

 So contrary to popular belief, farmers’ markets are more beneficial to you than supermarkets.  For the same money that you would spend at the supermarket on produce that has been sitting in warehouses and on trucks, you can by fresh, delicious, and more nutritious produce. Often you can find a greater variety of produce at the farmer’s market, because the grocery store purchases on volume and cannot store different varieties in small quantities.

 Shopping at your local farmers’ markets can impact your health, as we had discussed in one of the past blogs, but it can have an even deeper impact, because you will be helping to support your neighborhood, small farmers, and your wallet! 

 The sight of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm, and the interaction with people who grew them, leaves a good taste in your mouth for the summer, but it might offer a reconnection to nature and to where food actually comes from all year long. 

 Come join us at many of the farmer’s markets in Boston.  Here’s the listing of times,  and location.

June is here, which means that farmers’ markets will soon be opening.  There are more farmers’ markets in Boston than you probably think.   Here is a link to all TWENTY farmers’ markets that will be operating in Boston this summer, including locations, days, times, and what forms of payment they take.  Scroll down to find the Suffolk County (Boston) listing.      

 Due to some great work by various partners in the past two years, ALL Boston farmers markets now take WIC and Senior Coupons.  Additionally, about half also now have electronic bank transfer (EBT) machines to accept food stamps. 

Farmers markets’ provide fresh local produce to neighborhoods that have limited access to this healthy option.  Everyone should have the opportunity to affordable food, and Farmers’ markets help make local organic produce available.  

 Here are a few reasons for selecting locally grown produce and for patronizing farmers’ markets. 

  • The soil and production methods used on smaller farms tend to increase the nutritional quality of the crops

Small farmers are more likely to use organic and sustainable methods of growing.  Studies have shown that roots in organic soil grow deeper than in soil fertilized conventionally.  Deeper roots mean the crops take up and incorporate nutrients more efficiently, which increases their nutritional content.  These methods are also better for the environment because famers use fewer chemicals and practice crop rotation.

  • The produce is allowed to ripen before being picked, which increases its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content 

Produce allowed to ripen before harvesting has higher amounts of nutrients than the same kind of produce ripened in storage.  The longer a plant is attached to the soil, the more nutrients it can absorb.  The soil and sun also help the plant create more antioxidants.  Local produce is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to endure long transportation and storage time.

  • The produce  is usually sold with in 24 hours of being picked, which means that it hasn’t had time to lose a lot of those nutrients

Produce starts losing nutrients the moment it is picked.  Did you know that conventional produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to its retail destination?  The journey usually takes between 2-7 days, and then the time spent on the shelf at the store begins.  Local produce at farmers’ markets travels an average of only 50 miles.  The food sold there goes directly from soil to consumers’ hands within a day or two.   So you’ll be able to buy corn on the cob picked that very morning in many Boston neighborhoods later this summer! 

  • Farmers’ markets usually offer more uncommon and interesting selections than conventional markets, so you’re more likely to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

More variety means a greater spectrum of new produce for you to try, but also increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   Produce sold at supermarkets has been chosen for endurance of long transportation and storage.  Local farmers can grow more of a variety thanks to handpicking and the limited shipment involved.  Farmers’ markets in different areas may also exhibit various products appealing to ethnic groups that live in each neighborhood.  This gives an exciting opportunity to discover plants used in other cuisines.  Ask how the farmer how to prepare the new produce if you’re not sure!                                                                       

So as we approach the season, mark your calendar so you can experience the joy of attending a farmer’s market.  Being at the market is also a fun social interaction time with neighbors, friends, family, and the farmers.  All of these factors work together to increase of appreciation and enjoyment of healthy, nutritious, locally grown food!

Special thanks to Rebecca Brotzman for her contribution to this blog!

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a goal for many people, yet adding them into our daily meals sometimes creates a challenge.  Fresh and local fruits and vegetables are the best choices, and in another two months the options to choose local vegetables and some fruits will be available through farmers markets.   Until then, selecting in- season produce and frozen fruits and vegetables are good alternatives to locally grown produce.    Check out this Guide  to Buying Fruits and Vegetables  

Better Choices with Canned or Frozen Produce

Canned or frozen produce is handy when planning meals in advance and for bulk purchasing. While they may keep longer than fresh produce, some varieties may be loaded with sugar, salt or additives. The better choice when buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables is to select those varieties packaged with just the item itself. Frozen vegetables are often processed with nothing added and canned vegetables varieties can be found salt-free and sugar-free. Frozen fruits are sometimes processed with sugar, but check the label and you will find varieties are available where the item is quick frozen without sugar.

Go Organic for the Popular Items

While organic foods are pesticide-free and all natural they are usually more expensive. Instead of busting a budget for all organic produce, a great choice is to choose organic fresh fruits and vegetables the family eats daily or often. Do the members of your family enjoy eating pears? This would be a great item to purchase organically grown.  Just knowing one item that the family eats on a regular basis is free of pesticides can be reassuring for parents and may get some adults to eat more fruits too.  As I mentioned, in June Farmers’ Markets will be opening, and there you will be able to get local organically grown food at reasonable prices.  The good news is many of the markets will be having Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines so food stamps recipients can purchase produce.

 To meet the challenge of incorporating fruits and vegetables into our everyday diets, here are a few tips:

Offer fruits or vegetables for Healthy Snacks

After school can be a time for active snacking, so offering fruits or vegetables for children is great. This also goes well for adults wanting a snack during the day or in the evening. Having a bowl of cut-up apples, oranges or bananas sprinkled with lemon juice for flavor and to prevent browning makes a great snack while doing homework. Mini carrots or carrot sticks are the easy and usual choice. Also try adding radishes, zucchini sticks and cucumber sticks for something easy and inexpensive to prepare.   Have low –fat dressing for dipping.

 If it is necessary to keep shelf stable fruits and vegetables on hand, always read the labels. Applesauce may be a quick and delicious apple snack, but some varieties have high fructose corn syrup or colorings.

Fortify   prepared mixes

Quick mixes for fruit muffins and pancakes like blueberry or banana usually contain highly processed colored and flavored bits of imitation fruits. Making the recipe at home from scratch with the real thing is a better choice. Plain recipes such as muffins and pancakes can be easily fortified with frozen or fresh blueberries, chopped peaches or mashed banana.  Here  is a basic muffin mix to get started. Vegetables are easily incorporated into quick breads. Frozen cut corn or freshly chopped bell peppers can be stirred into cornbread mixes for added color and flavor and can give an added nutrient boost as well.  

 When in a hurry, frozen vegetables can also be added to packaged rice and noodle mixes to increase the volume, fiber and flavor without adding salt or added fat.   For a nice change, try adding added diced tomatoes (The no-salt version), and shredded fresh carrots, zucchini or yellow squash to your favorite pasta sauce.  For more ideas that are quick ways to increase fruits and vegetables into your daily diet and keep the cost down, Check out Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.

This week’s grocery tips:

Here is a recipe using these produce items to celebrate Mother’s Day

Berries and cantaloupes are inexpensive choices this week.  Cut the fruits and add canned pineapples and pears (packed in their own juice) for a quick and easy fruit salad.  The fruit salad can be offered for dessert or add some low-fat yogurt and whole grain cereal for a quick breakfast.  Check out this Crustless Tasso Ham, Asparagus, and Leek Quiche recipe!