Seasonal Eating 101: Why You Need to Start Now

The benefits are endless.

Illustration by PHUONG NGUYEN

Chances are, the whole farm-to-table movement has caught your attention… and for good reason. Eating seasonally has been known to have a number of health benefits, including more nutrients in your food and helping to support local farmers and drive the economy.

Lauren Slayton, MS RD and founder of NYC-based nutrition service Foodtrainers, explains, “When things travel from where they’re grown to your plate, nutrients can degrade. Local and seasonal food means peak freshness, and as a result, more nutrients.”

But while the process seems simple enough, actually figuring out what’s in season can be a little harder. After all, if you head to a supermarket in the dead of winter, you’ll still be able to find everything you need, from strawberries to endive—and that’s where the confusing part is. We’ve grown accustomed to seasonless eating as a result, so in that sense, realizing certain things aren’t available can feel like you’re limiting yourself… which isn’t the case. In fact, once you realize how many different, new things you can eat in each season, you’ll never feel deprived again.

Below, check out our beginner’s guide to seasonal eating.

What does seasonal eating mean?

In short, it means to eat with the seasons—aka, find the foods that are being grown and harvested at the time in which you eat them. For instance, frozen berries in the winter means they’ve been in storage since they’ve been grown, and their nutrients have been depleted. Or maybe you got an avocado from Mexico at Whole Foods, which might be seasonal in Mexico, but traveled so long to get to you, it no longer has the vital nutrients you need.

Seasonal and local are therefore pretty synonymous—by eating seasonally, you eat foods grown close by, and therefore have a stronger connection to the food you’re eating, too. Sounds like a win-win.

What benefits does seasonal eating provide?

Aside from the fact that seasonal foods are more nutrient-dense than food shipped in from far away, seasonal eating can also be cheaper, better for the environment, and help prevent you from getting sick. Danielle DuBoise, founder of organic, seasonal meal delivery service Sakara Life, explains, “Seasonal changes impact everything from your mood and behavior, depending on what’s locally grown in your area. As the seasons shift, your body needs different nutrients. Adjusting your diet to the seasons ensures vital nourishment, and will improve overall health in delicious, symbiotic ways.”

Not to mention, eating seasonally has economic benefits as well. “Not only does eating local support local farmers, but it significantly cuts down on the needs for transportation, which in turn cuts down on pollution and reduces your carbon footprint,” explains DuBoise.

How do I eat seasonally?

An easy way to eat seasonally is to go to places that focus on locally-grown, farm-to-table food. For instance, Sweetgreen locations across the nation have special seasonal menus depending on the region, focusing on foods that were grown close by—so the seasonal veggies in New York locations are not the same as the ones in Los Angeles.

Co-founder Nicolas Jammet explains, “Eating seasonally helps us get connected to the land, and work with farmers to see what they’re growing. Not to mention, seasonal food just tastes better!”

Take stock at the supermarket. Any fruits or veggies suddenly boasting exorbitant prices? Do you see an abundance of certain items around certain times? Does the supermarket explain where the item has come from (most do, now)? With those kinds of tips and clues, you can easily figure out what’s in season and what’s not.

Also, shop your local farmers’ markets, where farms will grow and sell what’s in season near you. As a bonus, it’s also much cheaper.

Signing up for a CSA—otherwise known as Community Supported Agriculture—will make you sure you get sent fresh fruits and vegetables on a weekly or biweekly basis, depending on your schedule. You can also add organic dairy or eggs, and while you won’t really know what you’re getting (since it all depends on what’s been grown), you can always play around with new recipes and discover some fun ways to experiment.

What do I eat, exactly?

Although each region has a slightly different offering when it comes to eating seasonally, there are a certain guidelines that work throughout the board. In addition, buying a fun chart from Etsy reflective of your region can also make the guesswork easier, and this website can work as a great visual reference.

Winter

Broccoli rabe, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, kale, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, sunchokes, beets

Spring

Artichokes, arugula, watercress, asparagus, young chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, cherries, spinach, parsley

Summer

Berries, eggplant, cauliflower, avocado, figs, fennel, green beans, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, plums, lettuce, peppers

Fall

Apples, pears, brussels sprouts, winter squash, pumpkin, persimmons, garlic, carrots, kale, chard, broccoli, cauliflower


See more wellness guides:
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Published on March 12, 2018 - 4:45pm EDT

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