GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to eat healthy and save money this holiday season? Including fresh, seasonal produce in your family meals and party platters may be a good place to start.
“Fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to be less expensive, making them a smart choice for families on a budget. Try visiting your local farmers market or the supermarket produce section to find low-cost inspiration for your holiday appetizers, snacks, meals and desserts,” said Amber Ward, Sarasota County program coordinator for the Family Nutrition Program (FNP). The program offers free nutrition education to SNAP-eligible participants in 43 Florida counties through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.
“FNP equips individuals and families on a limited budget with the skills to make healthful food choices, aiming to promote healthy weight maintenance, decrease chronic disease, and optimize quality of life,” Ward explained.
“Parents aren’t the only ones who can learn to savor fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Ward.
In partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County School Gardens Program, FNP is working to help bring the experience of growing and eating fresh produce to approximately 2,000 local youth during the fall harvest months. “In addition to learning where their food comes from, these students will get to taste the same types of fruits and vegetables growing in their school gardens,” Ward said.
Of course, once you buy — or harvest — fresh produce, you have to figure out what to do with it. Ward has these five tips for using seasonal fruits and vegetables in your holiday celebrations:
- Bring the farm to fork. Delight your dinner guests by preparing freshly harvested sweet potatoes, and instead of using a marshmallow topping for your casserole, season with local honey, cinnamon and nutmeg to bring out the potatoes’ sweetness.
- Freshen up your side dish. Use fresh green beans instead of canned or frozen in your holiday green bean recipe.
- Fruits and vegetables for dessert? Try using fresh pumpkin instead of canned when making a delicious pumpkin pie, or bake apples with cinnamon for a special fall treat.
- What’s for snack? Make a delicious holiday veggie dip to enjoy with slices or wedges of seasonal Florida-grown produce such as carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. Give your dip a fun holiday-themed name such as Holly Jolly Vegetable Dip or the Festive Flurry Dip.
- Spice it up with freshness. Add fresh ginger (diced or pureed) to your dishes such as cranberry sauce or cooked carrot slices. Or simply add the ginger to a pitcher of freshly squeezed, iced lemonade or cranberry punch for a mildly spicy kick!
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Amber Ward, 805-464-9798, email@example.com
Stella Harbilas, 352-273-2814, firstname.lastname@example.org