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Stop pushing protein

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

Instead enjoy Summers’ Sweetness

There are so many things to look forward to when it comes to summer. The laid-back schedule, the time outdoors, the warmer weather, and just finding more moments as a family. Of course, being very food-centric, I get very excited when my grocery store and farmers’ markets start carrying all the in-season produce my heart could want. This is a great time of year to enjoy the freshness of the season and making produce the focus of your meals.

Benefits of a Plant-forward Meal

Plants offer so much goodness to our bodies, and many times we don’t get enough of them. A survey of current eating patterns in America shows that about 75% of the population does not get enough vegetables and fruits. At the same time, most of the population is meeting or exceeding the amount of grain and total protein that is recommended. Additionally, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium amounts are exceeded by almost all Americans. We tend to focus on protein and calories in our diet, however, I’d encourage you this summer to fill your plate with colorful produce.

Putting produce first on our plates can keep you full, naturally lower all the things we want to limit in our diet, while adding so many flavors to our meal time. While you enjoy the immediate benefits of plants, the long-term benefits of getting more are even better:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Higher fiber, vitamin, and mineral intake
  • Lower incident of certain cancers
  • Lower rate of diabetes
  • And more!

Looking for the Freshness

While not every fruit and veggie is available everywhere, there are certain types of produce peak in the warmer months.

Apples: Pick those green and red goodies in mid-to late-summer. Enjoy them chopped in salads, added to your tuna salad, or sliced and dipped in nut butter and granola. So perfect because they are high in fiber and phytonutrients that help regulate your blood sugar.

Avocados: I mean, when are avocados not amazing (unless they are unripe, unripe… then immediately ripe and you miss it!). Most avocados are best in the summer season, but if you buy and unripe one and don’t want to wait a few days, toss in a paper bag and allow to ripen in about a day. A quick lunch for your ‘cad is toasted whole grain bread (read healthiest bread options here) topped with mashed avocado, Everything but the Bagel seasoning, and a small sprinkle of feta cheese. The great thing about avocados is you don’t have to put in a lot of effort to enjoy while getting your dose of vitamins (C, E, K, B-6) and those omega-3 good fats.

Bell Peppers: Slice them and dip in hummus for a quick snack or keep them whole, stuff them with protein and grill or bake. All colors of bell peppers are best in the summer but make sure they have smooth, shiny skin and feel heavy for their size. As a rule: the more colorful the produce is, the more nutrients they contain. Bell peppers are rated by the World’s Healthiest Foods are one of the Top 15 healthiest foods with vitamin A, flavonoids, and vitamin C (basically all things that promote your health now and later in life).

Berries: Smoothies, top on a salad, or even toss it in your ice cream. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, all.the.berries! So colorful and so filled with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Melons: My kids LOVE watermelon, but have you bought a watermelon off-season? It can be risky ???? Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew are all perfect for the hot summer days. When buying, the best tasting ones are heavy for their size and have a sweet melon smell.

Greens: Lettuce and other more delicate greens are in season early summer, when it’s not too hot to make the leaves wilt. If you are looking for an easy thing to grow in your backyard, either in the ground or container. You may also find your kids enjoy salad when they get to pick the lettuce right at home.

Other amazing in-season fruits and veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, sweet peas, plums, pears,  peaches, mangos,

Bottom Line: Fill up your plate with color, grab a fresh fruit or veggies to enjoy while the kids play, and enjoy summer’s best fast food!

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