Interest in where our food comes from and how it gets to our plate is on the rise. Health-conscious eaters and those trying to reduce their carbon footprint are leading the cause of “eating green.” But what does that mean exactly? Children’s Medical Center Clinical Dietitian Kara Gann explains below.
What Is Eating Green?
It seems only fitting that just a few days after Dr. Seuss would have turned 110 years old that we talk about eating green. Of course, that has nothing to do with green eggs and ham, as you may recall from the author’s famous story. It actually refers to making food choices that are better for the environment.
For example, choosing organic foods supports the practice of farming without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Buying locally farmed foods at places like the Dallas Farmers Market cuts down on carbon emissions from transporting foods from distant states or abroad.
Here at Children’s, we host a farmers market at our Dallas and Plano campuses. Omar Romero, a produce distributor from the Dallas Farmers Market, offers our employees seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.
Growing your own vegetable garden combines the benefits of both local and organic farming. Plus it’s just fun to grow and eat your own food! Here’s a recipe for a tasty garden vegetable soup you may want to try using your homegrown vegetables.
What if I Don’t Want to Plant a Garden?
If planting a backyard garden isn’t up your alley, then where you choose to buy your food can make a difference.
Those organic apples at the grocery store might have been grown in South America or New Zealand, travelling many miles (and burning a lot of fuel) before ending up in the produce section.
The organic label just ensures they have met USDA criteria for being grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
But what about that watermelon at the farmers market that was grown just a few miles out of town but doesn’t have an organic label?
Does that mean harmful chemicals were used to grow it? Not necessarily. The right to use the USDA organic seal is pricey, and some smaller farmers opt not to get the certification, even if they use 100% organic farming methods.
To enjoy the freshest tasting foods, support local farmers and help out the environment, I think visiting a farmers market is the way to go.
Farmers Market Tips
Here are some tips for making the most of your trip to the local farmers market:
- The early bird gets the…best tomatoes? Most Dallas-Fort Worth farmers markets open at 8 a.m.; many only on Saturdays. The Dallas Farmers Market is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. I suggest you get there early to get the pick of the crop.
- Bring your reusable grocery bags. Carrying your purchases in reusable bags reduces paper and plastic bag use. A basket with a handle is also a good idea to keep overloaded arms from shortening your shopping experience.
- Talk to the vendors, and ask if they are the farmers. Ask about where the food is grown, when it was harvested and what methods were used.
- Buy produce that is in season. Produce tastes the best at the peak of freshness. And they are less likely to be shipped in from far-off tropical places that have virtually unlimited growing seasons. Did you ever wonder how grocery stores can offer most every fruit and vegetable year-round?
- Use the trip as a teaching opportunity for kids. When you visit the farmers markets, talk about farms, farmers and how food grows. Tell them about how choosing healthy foods helps them to grow. Most vendors gladly offer samples of their foods, giving children – and you – a chance to try something new on the spot.
- Wash your produce thoroughly before eating. Rub fruits and vegetables briskly under running water to remove dirt and microorganisms. No washing method removes 100% of germs and/or chemical residue, but thoroughly rinsing with water is what the FDA recommends. The FDA advises against the use of commercial produce washes, as they are not tested for safety or effectiveness. Please note that children with compromised immune systems may be required to eat a low-bacteria diet and avoid raw foods. Thoroughly washing and cooking produce is safer for them.
With spring just around the bend, soon there will be bountiful fruits and vegetables to choose from. Learn more about local, fresh foods in the DFW area by visiting www.edibledfw.com. Here you will find more information about area farmers markets and other ways to eat green enough to make even Sam-I-Am proud.