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Tips for Eating Healthier this Summer

In Food on May 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Photo credit: Caitlyn Holroyd

I’ve made great strides in eating healthier (and actually cooking!) since my time as a very broke university student. These days, my diet includes very little processed foods, primarily local/seasonal fruits and vegetables, and local/ethically-raised meat—a big step up from the frozen pizzas and take-out that I once relied so heavily on. Summer is my favourite season for cooking because its plentiful bounty and beautiful weather makes healthy eating much easier. (Also: BBQs. SO MANY BBQs.) So with that in mind, here are some tips on eating healthier during the warmer months.

Eat Local, Seasonal Fruits and Veggies

Good things grow in Ontario (or, really, wherever it is you call home)! And the best things grow in the summer. Asparagus, beans, sweet corn, broccoli, peppers, spinach, berries, peaches, and tomatoes are all plentiful during the warmer months—which means they’re also at their cheapest. With so many delicious fruits and vegetables available this time of year, there’s no excuse not to shop local. Check out the Foodland Ontario Availability Guide to find out what’s available and when in Ontario. When it comes to pesticides, the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 Dirty Dozen List is a helpful guide on which fruits and vegetables should be bought organic and which are safe to buy conventional.

Start a Backyard or Balcony Garden

Eating locally is a cinch when local = your backyard or balcony! Not to mention the convenience of having a vegetable garden just outside your door. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, and leafy greens are great plants for balconies and beginners. If you want to get creative with your garden, Apartment Therapy has some wonderful solutions.

Shop at Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a great way to shop for local, seasonal fruits and vegetables—not to mention one of the best ways to spend an afternoon! It’s important to know where your food is coming from, and farmers’ markets allow you to meet and chat with the people who grow and harvest it. It’s also a great opportunity to find food that you may not be able to at your local grocery store. Check out Farmers’ Markets Ontario for a list of markets happening across the province.

Cut Back on Genetically Modified Foods

Do a quick Google search of genetically modified foods (re: Monsanto) and you’ll discover some disturbing facts about our food system. What’s even scarier is that GMOs don’t require labeling in Canada, making it difficult to know exactly what you’re consuming. When it comes to GMOs, corn (field corn, not sweet corn), canola, and soy are the biggest culprits, and while avoiding them seems like an impossible task, it’s a task worth attempting. Eliminating processed foods from your diet (or at least cutting back on them) and buying organic are good first steps to avoiding GMOs. Though you won’t find the words “genetically modified” listed in product ingredients, if you see corn, soy, or canola, it’s safe to assume that product contains GMOs. Make a habit of checking labels for these ingredients—you’ll be surprised at just how prevalent they are.

Eat Better Meat and Less of It

I’m of the mentality that if you eat meat, it’s a good idea to eat meat that is raised ethically and locally because it’s better for the animal, the environment, and you. I also understand that buying local, organic and/or ethically-raised meat is expensive and not everyone can do it. But if you’re committed to eating better meat, there are ways to do it without breaking the bank.

  • Eat less meat and more vegetables. If you’re willing to pay more for meat, cutting back on your consumption can help make up the cost. Try out vegetarian versions of your favourite meat dishes and chances are, you’ll enjoy it just as much as the original. Websites like The Kitchn and Bon Appetit are great resources for recipes.
  • Learn how to butcher a whole chicken at home. It’s not as difficult as you would think and it will save you so much money! There are many how-to videos available on YouTube and butcher shops like The Healthy Butcher offer seminars and classes on learning the craft. If you’re not into home butchery, most butchers will happily cut up a chicken into parts for you for the same price as a whole bird. You can then freeze the parts for meals throughout the week.
  • Try out new cuts. Eating snout to tail may not be for everyone, but oftentimes, lesser-known and less-desired cuts of meat are just as tasty as (and much cheaper than) popular ones. If you’re adventurous, beef heart, tongue, and cheek are worth trying, and are all surprisingly delicious when cooked properly. For the more conventional, try beef flat iron steak, skirt steak, and pork shoulder (pulled pork!).

* Published on May 30, 2013 at She Does the City


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