Spring is finally in the air! At AgingCare.com, we understand that maybe you fell off the health and nutrition band wagon this winter. From the harsh winter to the lavish holidays, it's normal to not eat as many fruits and vegetables as you normally would.
A farmer's market is an affordable and innovative way to get back into the fruit and veggie groove. The foods served are usually locally grown, more likely to be organic and even reduce your carbon footprint. The following foods are all in season this spring, so they'll definitely taste fresh this time of year:
Fava beans: Your loved one probably remembers eating fava beans boiled with a dollop of butter or margarine, but that completely strips them of all their nutrients. Try sautéing the beans in a little olive oil instead. You can even mix cooked fava beans with steamed basmati rice, chopped dill, and freshly minced garlic for a savory and healthy whole-grain dish that will surely wake up your elder's taste buds.
Asparagus: Asparagus is another great spring vegetable! Did you know, it's rich in glutathione, a detoxifying antioxidant that fights aging and potentially prevents cancer? Asparagus is usually harvested in the spring, making it a perfect pick for the farmer's market. Try chopping it raw and adding it to salads. For a healthy twist on French fries, you can also roast asparagus spears in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic and salt, for a crispy alternative to potatoes that won't cause a spike in blood sugar!
Mint: Mint is one of the quintessential herbs for the warmer months! It can certainly aid in nausea and upset stomachs, which are some of the most common ailments seniors have as they age. It also improves digestion. Try adding fresh (or even dried) mint to a salad. If you're feeling adventurous, you can mix dried mint and diced cucumbers into plain yogurt for a healthy Greek yogurt sauce to spread on chicken or beef.
Radishes: What would spring be without radishes? Usually root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are harvested in the fall, but radishes have a crisp bite to them that makes them perfect for spring.Radishes are also one of the most fiber-rich foods in the vegetable world; one cup can easily pack up to eight grams of fiber. If you want to get your loved one to eat more fiber, try adding radish into dishes gradually. Too much too soon might cause an upset stomach or discomfort.
Peas: Green peas are no longer the vegetable you hated as a child. As an elder, peas are one of the best foods for reducing inflammation—the same kind of inflammation that can cause indigestion, heart disease and even Alzheimer's disease. Rich in vitamins C, E, and the mineral Zinc, you can put peas into salads and soup. My personal favorite is throwing them into chicken salad!
Strawberries: Strawberries are one of the sweetest fruits to feed your loved one during spring. Loaded with vitamin C, they contain antioxidants which can help with all sorts of health problems and ailments. If your elder is unsteady and falls from time to time, the high vitamin C content in strawberries is thought to alleviate the severity of bruises and help them heal faster. Don't be afraid to get creative with strawberries, as you can easily add them to oatmeal, throw them in a salad or even make a dessert out of them.
Green onions/scallions: Green onions and scallions add a great punch to any dish. Unlike white onions, that have a rather pungent and acidic taste, green onions and scallions are much milder in flavor and texture. Adding a handful of scallions to a bowl of chili or soup is an easy way to instantly boost the flavor of the dish. While most people usually use scallions as a garnish, keep in mind that the white stalks can be used in the same way as white onions in a variety of foods. Try sautéing green onions in a tomato sauce or chicken dish for a subtle, but distinguished flavor.
Arugula: As seniors age, their sense of taste and smell might diminish over time. Instead of bland lettuce mixes like iceberg and romaine, try a fiery and peppery lettuce like arugula. Arugula is very rich in selenium—that's actually what gives it its peppery flavor. It's also rich in folate, making it a great base for spring salads. Add arugula into your loved one's diet gradually, and don't be afraid to get creative with it. Topping pizza with arugula, for instance, is a fun and tasty way to work nutrients into your elder's diet.
Artichokes: Artichokes are one of the most overlooked veggies in the spring and summer months. High in vitamins C and K, they also pack plenty of fiber. You can also cook artichokes in appetizers as well as entrees. Everyone loves a spinach and artichoke dip, so why not use fresh artichokes when they're in season? If your loved one likes to eat sandwiches and wraps, try adding artichokes to roasted red peppers and low-sodium turkey for a healthier take on an Italian cold cut.
Homemade breads, spreads and other pastries: We usually gravitate towards produce at a spring farmer's market. But remember, there are plenty of other fresh and delectable treats to enjoy! Many farmer's markets sell whole grain breads and pastries that provide fiber and B vitamins. If you purchase spreads like hummus, pesto, tapenade or even salsa, they're probably made with whole ingredients and fewer (if any) artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Use the start of spring as a way to wake up your taste buds and get back into some healthy eating habits. A farmer's market is a great place to get inspired and creative this season, so keep these tips in mind the next time you hit your local farmer's market!