Here are my top 6 tips on how to shop your local farmers market for the healthiest in-season produce to make your tummy smile and improve your health.
1. Research and Plan
I suggest making a plan and doing some research before you go to your local farmers market. This will allow you to enjoy the farmers market even more. You may find fresh locally roasted coffee, crafts, gifts, freshly cooked-to-order meals, hot cider, a kombucha vendor, or live entertainment by your favorite local band. Set aside enough time for yourself enough time to enjoy them all. You can also make it a social event and meet up with friends and family (make sure everyone utilizes safe COVID-19 practices).
2. Bring Ideas and Take Notes
Before you go, pack your recipes and healthy cooking ideas, new or family favorites! If you do a little research before you go, you can find the ingredients you need and make them more amazing by getting them at their tastiest. If you see something new and exciting, pick it up, or create a note about it for next time. One thing I suggest to my health coach clients is to try one new food per week. This will expand your palate as well as widening your nutrient intake. All good things!
3. Shop Local
When you shop for locally grown produce, you get fresher products that taste better and have more nutrients. As produce ages, it loses nutrients. According to a University of California paper, vegetables lose between 15 and 77 percent of their vitamin C within a week of harvest. Since farmers markets feature everything in season, it is fresher than what you can find in a typical grocery store. It is typically grown within a 100-mile radius so that you know it is some of the freshest foods and nutrients around. If you are not sure if something is local and fresh, just ask.
4. Get There Early
If you can get to your local farmers market early, do it! It is so worth it! You will find the best picks of the day before everyone else scoops them up. Don't forget to bring reusable, eco-friendly bags, and make sure to bring extra. I always find interesting things I want to try and have regretted not having enough bags to fit it all in. Getting there early also means fewer people, easier parking, and more time to ask the vendors questions.
5. Choose Colorful and Darker Foods
When you eat the rainbow, you get more benefits. So, pick a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies, and go for dark green leafy vegetables. The darker ones have more phytonutrients and higher antioxidants believed to help fight disease. Learn more from my 5 Ways to Support Gut Health blog.
6. Talk to the Food Experts
The farmers themselves (or their staff) are often at the market presenting their delicious produce. They are the real foodie experts. They know the best recipes and how to store them to keep them fresh. They can confirm if their products are organic, even if they are not advertising it. It takes years to become Certified USDA Organic, so many companies may not have this designation, but they can still be organic. You can also ensure if they are the direct source. Sometimes items can be sold by third parties and have more of a markup, so check the labels and ask questions. And, after you become a regular, the vendor may even put your favorite farmers market finds aside if you can't make it there early the next time! Or, you may be asked to be one of their taste testers (YUM!).