Eat your vegetables! Ah, it’s the ultimate mom advice that we’ve all heard at one point or another over the years. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great advice—thanks, Mom, I really do love Brussels sprouts now – but I’m starting to think the better message might be this: Grow your vegetables!
Think about it. If you’re a gardener, chances are you care about your health. You value where your food comes from and see the importance of growing your own. But it doesn’t stop there. Like many of you, I’m passionate about gardening, which naturally fits in with my love for cooking and being active.
So if you’re looking for ways to incorporate healthy living into your routine, look no further than the garden! Gardening for your health combines cooking, gardening and being active into a happy trio that can benefit you` for years to come. Ready? Let’s go!
1. Start off simple. Growing your own vegetables is one of the best ways to kick off a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to get fancy. Even the most basic tomato plant will produce fruit that is 10 times better than what you’ll get in the store.
2. Try heirloom veggies. Heirlooms have been around for decades. They might not have the same commercial look as other veggies (odd-shaped tomatoes or weird colors of carrots), but they are delicious and good for you.
3. Get extra vitamins. Did you know certain types of vegetables are healthier than others? Cue Burpee’s Boost Vegetable Collection. With six varieties, it has three tomato hybrids, a pepper hybrid, a lettuce mix and a cucumber hybrid, each of them developed to provide maximum vitamins and minerals. Check them out at burpee.com.
4. Add flavor with herbs. Something tells me you’re well aware that herbs add delicious flavor to just about any meal. What you may not know is that by adding certain herbs and spices to your cooking, you gain valuable health benefits. Some herbs help protect against chronic conditions. And think about this: Adding herbs to meals is the easiest way to add flavor without the calorie load. Tempting, right?
5. Enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. Maybe growing your own veggies isn’t quite in the cards. Or, like me, you want to supplement your homegrown vegetables with a more diverse variety. By signing up for a community supported agriculture group (CSA), you’ll be guaranteed fresh produce all summer long. Here’s how it works. At the start of a growing season, you commit to either weekly or biweekly deliveries for a set price. During delivery week, expect to pick up a box of fresh farm-grown vegetables.
6. Go online for local flavor. To search for local farms that offer CSAs in your area, visit localharvest.org. Also check out slowfood.com, a nonprofit member-supported association that helps educate consumers on the impact of their food choices.
7. Commit with a friend. So you’ve decided on a CSA but are hesitant to commit. No worries. There are share sizes with everyone’s needs in mind, from families to singles. If you’re still feeling hesitant, grab a friend and split a share. The small sampling alone may be enough to pull you in. That’s what got me two years ago.
8. Try something different. I like to say the bunch of kale I got in my first CSA changed my life. It was absolutely delicious, and something I would never have considered buying on my own. Now I’m one of its biggest fans and can persuade just about anyone to try a bit. So I say next time you’re hesitant about a specific veggie, bring it on home. Research it, cook with it, have fun with it. You never know what you’ll end up absolutely loving.
9. Explore the farmers market. Wake up early on a Saturday morning and, coffee in hand or pup in tow, discover your local farmers market. It’s not only a great way to mingle with neighbors, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick and choose your vegetables. Chat with the local farmer about why his produce is truly the best, and get cooking inspiration from those around you.
10. Get cookin’. The beauty of vegetables, whether you prefer to grow or purchase them, is the reward that follows: enjoying them. I’ll admit, I’m a healthful cook by choice, but I’ve come to realize that the more fresh produce I have in my fridge, the more courageous I am about experimenting with new, nutritious dishes.
11. Head outside to get moving. Cooking and gardening definitely go hand in hand, but don’t forget the third component: staying active. Walk or bike to your local farmers market. Or just make it a point to get out in your garden on a regular basis. A few examples of the approximate number of calories you burn per half hour while gardening:
- General gardening: 170 calories
- Planting seedlings: 150 calories
- Weeding a garden: 170 calories
- Laying sod: 170 calories
- Raking: 130 calories
- Bagging leaves: 130 calories
- Digging and spading dirt: 190 calories
12. Have fun with it. What do you have to lose? Use those new, interesting veggies to spark creativity. Pair unlikely herbs with your favorite dishes; you never know what you’ll come up with. And most important of all, feel good about the nutritious food you’re eating.
Good luck combining gardening with an overall healthy lifestyle. The rewards are incredible. From fresh vegetables to healthier cooking, you’re sure to notice a difference. I know I have.