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Fill up on Fresh Summer Produce

We all need to eat more fruits and vegetables! Not only do they add vibrant colors to our meals, but they are packed with all sorts of nutrients that promote good health. 

Right now you’re in luck – a vast array of fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer months, making it easier than ever to include them in your daily meal plan.

What exactly do we mean when we say something is “in season”?

When something is in season, it is the time of year that the crop ripens and is harvested for people to eat. Therefore, it is the time of year when a fruit or vegetable is most readily available.

Want to get more for your money? Buying in season often helps! Prices come down when a fruit or vegetable is in season. In addition, the quality of the produce (taste, texture, freshness, etc.) is usually better than at other times of the year.

When you buy out of season, (for example, buying berries in the winter), you are probably buying food that has been shipped thousands of miles. It is usually more expensive, less environmentally-friendly, and the quality of the food may not be as good. When you buy in season, it is more likely that you are supporting your local farmers and local economy.

What’s in season now?

Below is a list of vegetables and fruits that are at their peak during the summer months of the year. Stock up now and enjoy!

  • Basil
  • Bell Peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Green Beans
  • Honeydew Melons
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Summer Squash/Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Watermelon

*Seasonality can differ slightly depending on the region where you live.

In addition to the list above, there are many vegetables and fruits that are available during the entire year - summer included! Most greens, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, beets, lemons, oranges, bananas, and avocados fall into this category.

As you can see, there are many options available to you during the summer season. If there is a good time of the year to get into the habit of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s now! To get started, take a look at the summer produce list above. Pick out three fruits and three vegetables to buy next time you go to the store or the farmers market. Check out our meal ideas below and start thinking about how you can use them in your own kitchen.

How to Include More Summer Produce in Your Meal Plan

Fresh summer produce can be part of your main course, served as a side dish or dessert, or eaten as a snack. Here are some ideas for adding more fresh produce into your daily diet. Please note that portion sizes may need to be adjusted to make these suggestions work with your individualized plan.

At breakfast:

  • Add ½ cup of fresh berries to light vanilla yogurt.
  • Have a side of fresh melon with your cereal or eggs.
  • Top your toast with peanut butter and banana slices.
  • Add tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers to your eggs and omelets.
  • Mix blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries into your oatmeal for a natural fruity flavor.

At lunch and dinner:

  • Dice cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, and/or strawberries and toss together to make a fruit salad to serve as a side dish or for dessert.
  • For a vegetable side, steam green beans or broccoli. Season with a little pepper and trans-free margarine and top with sliced almonds.
  • Make a tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch or dinner. Add some light balsamic salad dressing too.
  • Grill corn on the cob for a starchy side.
  • Grill up some bell peppers and onions and have vegetable fajitas for dinner.
  • Bake or lightly saute sliced yellow squash and zucchini and toss with whole wheat pasta and some tomato sauce or olive oil.
  • Make a quesadilla and replace some of the cheese filling with diced tomatoes, jalapeno, and corn.
  • In charge of bringing appetizers to the party? Buy some skewers and load them up with fresh cut melon cubes and other colorful fruit pieces to make a fruit kabob. You can also do the same thing with fresh vegetables!
  • Buy red or green bell peppers and stuff them with brown rice, lean ground turkey, and other cooked summer veggies.
  • Slice eggplant, summer squash, and zucchini, brush with olive oil and grill until tender.
  • Make a cucumber tomato salad. Dice up a cucumber and large tomato, add an ounce of crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and and red wine vinegar.
  • Roast okra in the oven for a side dish or add it to stews or soups. It is a common ingredient in gumbo.
  • Make a corn, tomato, and black bean salsa. Add some jalapeno for a kick and coat lightly with homemade balsamic dressing. Use it to top grilled chicken breast or fish fillets.

For snacks:

  • Pack berries for a snack, but be sure to pack them in a sturdy container so they don’t get smashed. If just berries aren’t enough for a snack, pack some unsalted nuts or a reduced-fat cheese stick to go with them.
  • Grab a peach, plum, or nectarine for a quick and easy snack when you’re in a rush.
  • Enjoy some cucumber slices and sugar snap peas dipped in fat-free ranch dressing.
  • Buy low-sodium cottage cheese and mix in fresh peaches or tomatoes.
  • Dip fresh-cut pepper slices in black bean dip. 
  • Find more snacks in our On-the-Go Section

These ideas can get you started. There are so many things you can do with summer produce. Be creative in the kitchen, and check out this month's recipes for even more ideas!

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