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Ask Darya: What should I do if I don’t have a local farmers market?

by | Dec 18, 2015

ask farmers market 650px

Hi guys,

Today we have another episode of Ask Darya, where Stacey from Denver asks:

“I love your idea of shopping at farmers markets whenever possible, but I’m located in Denver, where farmers markets tend to run from June/July through October-ish. What would you suggest as an alternative during the rest of the year? Should I order produce from a CSA and have it shipped to me? Should I find a farm that does pasture-raised poultry/meats and order through them?”

It’s a good question, and I offer a slight reframe on the value of farmers markets and share some of the solutions I’ve been using since moving to NYC from California.

Want me to answer your question? Submit it on the Ask Darya page.

Cheers,

Darya

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For the Love of Food

by | Jul 17, 2015
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week new warnings about ibuprofen, how to get ripped without steroids, and a surprising risk from grocery bags.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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For the Love of Food

by | Dec 12, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the shocking truth about “humanely raised” chicken, the 1-minute workout, and a surprising new benefit of fiber.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Foodists

by | May 12, 2014

Photo by 55Laney69

Have you ever searched all over your house for your phone or your keys then realized they were in your pocket (or worse, your hand) the entire time?

Sometimes we are so focused on solving a difficult problem that the simple, obvious solution eludes us. This is how I felt when I discovered the solution to my life-long battle with food and body weight.

Since food caused me so much stress I assumed it was the primary cause of my problems. It took me nearly two decades to realize that since I couldn’t fight it, my only choice was to embrace it.

Now that I’ve spent over six years as a foodist the way I eat and deal with food seems so obviously correct that it feels like commonsense. Still millions of people struggle with these issues daily, searching desperately for a fix that’s right under our noses.

A foodist knows that food is the answer to, not the cause of our health and weight issues. Eating is essential to our survival and our innate drive to do it is too strong to override for long. The solution lies in constructing habits that work with us, not against us, balancing our needs for both health and happiness through food.

While there are many different paths a foodist can take to optimize our healthstyle, the most successful rely on seven core habits that have the biggest impact on our long-term success.

You might notice that none of these depend upon a specific food or nutrient.
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Food Labels: The Only Thing You Need To Know

by | Sep 23, 2013

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

It’s no secret that my favorite foods rarely have labels. Whenever possible I recommend starting with raw ingredients from the produce aisle, fish counter and butcher, and building your meal from scratch. Seasonal ingredients from your local farmers market are better still, and tastier to boot.

But I’m also aware that we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that aren’t particularly conducive to healthy eating. Eventually most of us will end up staring blankly at the back of a plastic container or cardboard box, wondering what evils will descend upon us if we choose this packaged morsel over another.

Food labels have become stupidly complicated, not to mention misleading. Instant oatmeal mixes have “30% more protein” (huh?). Several brands of granola and crackers at my favorite health food store include “love” on their ingredient list (how is this legal?). Products without any animal-based ingredients proudly showcase that they’re “cholesterol free,” as if it were possible for plants to produce cholesterol (or dietary cholesterol even had a measurable impact on your health). And sometimes it seems like every processed food under the sun has the American Heart Association’s stamp of approval (Thanks guys, real helpful.).

Don’t kid yourself, these labels are not about health. They’re about selling more food at higher prices. The data consistently show that people (that includes you and me) are willing to pay more for a product if we think it has a special health benefit. Unless the system changes, expected to be bombarded with misleading food labels for the rest of time.

Fortunately, navigating the insanity is fairly simple.
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Nutritionism 101: How to See Past Nutrition Marketing

by | Jun 19, 2013

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

Long time readers know that I’m a huge fan of today’s guest blogger, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, and his pithy and entertaining blog Weighty Matters.

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How to Find Real Food at the Supermarket

by | Apr 24, 2013

Foodist Supermarket Navigation

 

Grocery shopping has never been more confusing than it is in 2013.

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10 Tips To Save Money While Eating Healthy

by | Feb 4, 2013

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe (click for recipe)

Most people consider it common knowledge that healthy food is expensive and unhealthy food is cheap—that’s why we’re all so fat, right?

But for most people it does not need to be this way. Since I upgraded my healthstyle not only have I lost weight and become healthier, I have also managed to save more money.

How?

In a nut shell, I started cooking more at home.

It is a sad reflection on our culture that so many people rely on fast food for their daily sustenance, and my heart goes out to those who truly cannot afford better. But I contend that many of the bad decisions we make about food each day are more an issue of (perceived) convenience than price.

Last I checked burritos in San Francisco averaged over $5. And if you have properly set up your kitchen you will find it actually takes less time to cook a healthy meal than it does to place and fill your order at El Farolito.

Every penny counts in this brutal economy. Here are a few tricks you can use to save a buck and get a little healthier too.

10 Tips For Eating Healthy On A Budget

  • Cook at home The most important change I made to save money was to turn cooking at home into my default option rather than rely on neighborhood eateries as my go-to cop out. Eating out is expensive, no matter which way you cut it.
  • Shop on weekends If you already have fresh food in the fridge you will be more motivated to cook for yourself instead of going out and spending money. Make the habit of buying food ahead of time and you won’t be as tempted to waste money going out.
  • Shop seasonally When choosing what to eat, taste trumps health 90% of the time. (That’s why you rolled your eyes when I suggested you eat fewer burritos.) If you really want to start eating healthy you must want to eat vegetables, and that will only happen if the ones you buy taste delicious. Seasonal, farm fresh produce can completely change how you feel about vegetables and fruits—it also tends to be the best deal in the produce section.
  • Shop at the farmers market In my experience the best tasting produce in a chain grocery store is at Whole Foods. But if you have ever been shopping there you know what a dent it can put in your wallet (this does not apply to their non-fresh items, which are competitively priced and often cheaper than other stores). Rather than handing over your Whole Paycheck or settling for less than inspiring options at Safeway, do your weekly produce shopping at your local farmers market. If you shop intelligently (see below) you can get 2 meals for the cost of one burrito.
  • Focus on leafy greens Leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach and broccoli are some of the most nutritious, least expensive things you can buy. And this is true at any grocery store, not just the farmers market. Frequently, half a bunch of kale with some beans, grains and herbs is my entire dinner and costs around $1.50. It also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Can you beat that?
  • Buy in bulk Canned beans are fine, but dried beans taste better and are way cheaper. Grains from the bulk bins at your local health food store are only pennies per serving. Cook these staples in large batches and save them in your freezer for cheap, quick and nutritious food anytime. This is also true of lentils. Just add some greens and you’re good to go.
  • Eat less meat This is probably the easiest way to save money. Whether at the grocery store or at restaurants meat is always the most expensive thing on the menu. I do not advocate a vegetarian diet, but limiting meat to once or twice a week is an easy way to cut back on both calories and expenses. If you are worried about protein (you needn’t be) you can eat beans, eggs and lentils instead.
  • Use fish from cans Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but fresh fish can be expensive (especially the wild sustainable kinds). Canned salmon, sardines (boneless, skinless), smoked mackerel and anchovies are inexpensive alternatives for protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make fruit dessert If you think the farmers market is expensive my bet is you spend most of your money on fruits. I am the first to admit that fruit can be very expensive, especially summertime berries and stone fruits. While I do recommend you invest in some high-quality farmers market fruit, it will be easier on your wallet if you consider fruit a treat.
  • Think long term I am not arguing that buying every single food item at the farmers market is the cheapest way to shop, but it is almost certainly the healthiest. Our hedonistic tendencies may incline us toward cheap, greasy foods but you should consider what you are really paying for in the long run. Poor diet can be attributed to most cases of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a generally difficult, painful life. And I probably don’t need to convince you that a farm fresh salad costs less than a hospital trip and a lifetime of medication. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, but unhealthy eating can cost you your life.

What are your favorite money saving tips for healthy eating?

This post was originally published on May 20, 2009.

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How To Eat Healthy Without A Local Farmers Market

by | Oct 1, 2012

Photo by rick

“I don’t live in California and don’t have access to year-round amazing produce like you do. How am I supposed to eat healthy without a local farmers market?”

Not everyone is blessed with the kind of produce we have here in California, but that shouldn’t prevent you from eating healthy, delicious food year round. Although the local food movement is awesome and doing a tremendous amount to help people make better food choices, it isn’t a requirement for healthy eating.

Good produce can still be found in the winter. Here are 13 tips for eating healthy even if you don’t have a local farmers market.

How To Eat Healthy Without A Local Farmers Market

1. Shop in season, even if it’s from CA, FL or TX.

Though local food can taste amazing, it’s not the only place delicious food can come from. Buying foods that are in season but shipped from somewhere a little farther from home will taste better and be cheaper than food shipped from another hemisphere. Follow the seasons and let your local grocery store surprise you.

2. Learn to cook

Good produce will only get you so far if you don’t know how to prepare it. Follow food blogs, buy a cookbook from your favorite celebrity chef and get your hands dirty in the kitchen. The learning curve is short and the skills (and pleasures) will last you a lifetime.

3. Find dedicated produce marts

Big grocery stores and farmers markets are not the only options for fruits and vegetables. Look around town for smaller, dedicated produce marts. These will often have better selections than what’s offered at the local chain store.

4. Find natural stores

I used to avoid natural food stores because I always assumed they were too expensive and filled with weird, hippy foods. Though these things can sometimes be true, natural food stores are a great source of high-quality organic produce and other healthy foods.

5. Find ethnic grocers

Asian and Latino markets are fantastic resources for interesting, tasty and often very inexpensive produce. Everything they carry might not be organic, but healthwise it’s more important to eat a variety of produce than to be rigid about organic standards.

6. Buy vegetables

Vegetables are the basis of any healthy diet. If you can find any at all, you should buy and eat them.

7. Buy fruits

Citrus fruits from Florida and California are amazing in the winter, and ship well to almost anywhere. You should also be able to find some good pears and apples. Eat fruit, it’s nature’s candy.

8. Buy fish

One advantage of large grocery stores is they have the resources to ship fish safely from almost anywhere. Whole Foods in particular has an excellent seafood section, if you have one in your town.

Vegetables are not the only health food and fish is some of the highest quality protein and fat you can eat. Keep your eye out for wild fish varieties and try to avoid tuna and swordfish, which are high in mercury.

Read more on How to choose fish and seafood.

9. Buy legumes

Legumes (beans and lentils) are easy to store, easy to cook, taste delicious and are available everywhere year round. I recommend experimenting with dry beans and using a pressure cooker to prepare them. Check the bulk bins for the best deals.

10. Buy bulk grains

Oats, barley, brown rice, farro and quinoa are all relatively easy to find, particularly in the bulk sections of natural and regular grocery stores, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a lot more. Intact grains are filled with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are effective at curbing sugar cravings.

11. Buy nuts

Local nuts are tasty, but only a bonus in a healthy foodie’s arsenal. Feel free to stock up on almonds, cashews, peanuts and pistachios no matter where they come from. Nuts are healthy and great for both cooking and snacking.

12. Survey the crisper case for interesting ingredients

Even in big chain supermarkets I’m often surprised at the variety of ingredients I find in the vegetable crisper. Pay close attention in this aisle and look for fresh herbs and ingredients like ginger. I’ve even found more exotic items like lemongrass and specialty mushrooms. Herbs and spices go a long way in making even non-local vegetables taste amazing.

13. Find the ethnic food sections and browse ingredients

Take your cooking to the next level by browsing the ethnic food sections for interesting ingredients. Most grocery stores have at least a small section specializing in Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and other ethnic foods. These are a great resource for new flavors and can give you inspiration for cooking the fabulous veggies you pick up from around town.

What are your tips for finding healthy foods without a local farmers market?

Originally published October 25, 2010.

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Tips To Keep Produce Fresh

by | Jun 11, 2012
spring vegetables

Vegetables

“How do you store fruits and veggies so they don’t go bad? It seems like I can never keep things fresh…”

I employ several different strategies to keep my produce in good condition until I’m ready to eat it. Here are my tricks for buying, cooking and maintaining the freshest fruits and vegetables.

Shop Regularly

Although it is probably self-evident, I think it is important to state that the freshest vegetables are the ones you bought today. They are even fresher if you get them at the farmers market (picked yesterday) rather than a grocery store that imports produce from around the world. In order to keep fresh vegetables and fruit in the house and eat healthy, you must shop for produce and groceries at least once a week.

Download my free guide for more tips on How To Get Started Eating Healthy.

Shop Strategically

This is my true secret to keeping food fresh. Different foods have different shelf lives, and you can take advantage of this fact when planning your meals for the week. Always make sure you buy a few robust vegetables for your Thursday and Friday night dinners (or try to schedule your restaurant dates for later in the week).

Cruciferous vegetables (both leaves and roots) store the best and can last well over a week in the crisper. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, chard, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Root veggies include carrots, beets, parsnips, sunchokes and potatoes.

Summer squash can last for many days in a dry plastic bag in the crisper, and winter squash can last weeks on a shelf. Eggplant has a shelf-life similar to summer squash and can be stored in the same manner. I’ve heard eggplant keeps even better outside the fridge, but I’ve never tried.

Delicate vegetables like lettuce, spinach and other spring greens are not as robust and should be eaten more quickly. Juicy fruits like berries, stone fruits and even tomatoes are more time sensitive and should be incorporated into meals earlier in the week.

Cook Intelligently

Having a rough idea of what meals you are going to make during the week can help you keep veggies fresh in several ways. In addition to planning your dishes around which vegetables last the longest, you can also prepare large batches of food early in the week then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to eat later.

Avoid over-shopping by buying ingredients to use in multiple different dishes, rather than buying extra items for vastly divergent menus. For example, rather than purchasing red peppers for a stir fry and radishes for a salad, you can skip the radishes and add your extra pepper to your salad instead.

When buying herbs, I like to get one bunch of Italian parsley (it keeps a long time and is incredibly versatile) and only one bunch of a more delicate herb like thyme or cilantro. With this strategy you can explore recipes of different cuisines that utilize similar ingredients. For instance, if I have cilantro I may make Mexican food one night and a Vietnamese dish another night. Both incorporate fresh vegetables and herbs, but the flavor profiles of these cuisines are entirely different.

This is where it comes in handy to have a well-stocked pantry–go beyond the basics and learn to work with ingredients like fish sauce, coconut milk or quinoa. This is a great way to delve into a cuisine and explore different flavors.

Store Properly

Proper food storage can also go a long way in keeping your produce as fresh as possible. Generally speaking, most vegetables maintain their crispness best in the aptly named refrigerator compartment, the crisper. Crispers have different humidity settings than the rest of the fridge and are optimized for vegetables.

I find that leafy greens and herbs keep best in dry plastic bags or tuppers. When you get home with a large bag of salad greens from the farmers market, rinse them clean and spin them in a salad spinner. Let them sit out for an hour or so to completely dry, then put them in large tuppers to store for the week. With this strategy the crisper is not necessary.

Most fruit (including tomatoes) I keep outside the refrigerator to protect the taste, but berries are an exception. I have had fantastic luck using a reader’s suggestion to keep berries in a jar or tupper with the lid closed tight. I always put my berries away immediately after getting them home, trying to handle them as little as possible to keep any mold or bacterial spores out. I try to roll the berries into their new container without actually touching them with my hands. I buy berries much more often now 🙂

Revival Techniques

Sometimes despite your best efforts you end up with a wilted head of lettuce or a floppy bunch of basil. But if wilting is your only problem and the plant looks otherwise edible (still green and free of mold), all is not lost!

The reason plants wilt is they lose water from their cells to the environment through osmosis. But the osmotic properties of leaves can be used to your advantage. You can revive wilted greens by submerging them in a bath of cold water for 30-60 minutes, which replenishes the water in the leaves and allows them to regain their crispness! It is astounding how much they will perk up.

I learned this trick from a friend and fellow scientist–one of the many advantages of being a little nerdy.

Mold is another issue when storing fruits and vegetables, but you can sometimes salvage a batch of food if you catch it early and carefully remove all traces of it to keep it from spreading to the rest of your produce (this may involve finding a new container for the uncontaminated portion). Remember, mold is a living, growing thing that breeds more of itself. Keeping foods in sealed containers and touching them as little as possible with your hands can help control it.

Finally, fruits produce gases that cause neighboring fruits to ripen more quickly. If you have something that is perfectly ripe or over ripe, you may want to keep it away from the rest (unless of course you want the nearby fruit to ripen faster). Likewise, keeping fruits in bags will trap the gases and cause them to ripen more quickly.

Conclusion

With a few tricks and a strategic plan it is possible to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the house for an entire week. Beyond that it is a little tough if you want your food to be truly fresh.

How do you keep your veggies fresh?
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This article was originally published June 22, 2009.

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