CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. – Mercy supports efforts to encourage healthy eating, and local farmers' markets provide a perfect place to find a wide variety of locally grown produce.
Because the fruits and vegetables come from local farms, they are often picked that same day and at their peak of ripeness, which insures the best flavor, according to Dawn Nelms, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson.
"Another great advantage to shopping at a Farmers' Market is the chance to talk to the person who planted, watered, weeded, watched and picked the produce that he or she is selling," Nelms said. "They know their vegetables and can often offer new ways to prepare and enjoy the products they sell. Don't be shy, the people selling their products want to answer your questions and tell you about their crops."
Fruits and vegetables are a great way to get the most nutrition out of your calories. They are low in fat and are packed with color, flavor, texture, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
"You should try to consume at least two cups of fruit and up to three cups of vegetables each day," Nelms advised.
Washed and ready-to-eat snacks like sweet peppers, broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers and snap peas can be handy treats. Add shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach or carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes or pasta sauce and rice dishes. “Squash, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, corn on the cob and others are great on the grill next to your favorite meat selections,” added Nelms.
In addition to fresh produce, the market may also offer other staples like home-made bread, farm fresh eggs, honey, jam or jellies, beef, nuts, crafts and soap. Live music and other entertainment are also common at local markets.
"To get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, take them along to the market and allow them to pick items they would like to try," Nelms said.
Mercy Hospital Jefferson supports Farmers' Markets held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at Grace Presbyterian Church in Crystal City; from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at 1004 Rock Road in DeSoto; and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at Arnold City Park.
For more information about how to enjoy more fruits and vegetables, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website www.eatright.org or consult with a registered dietitian at the Mercy facility in your area.