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From Yard to Table, Create the Ultimate Garden Meal

July 23, 2013

Make the Most of Bountiful Summer Produce

Never before has it been so easy to eat seasonally and access freshly picked produce grown only miles from our homes. Seasonal eating is in vogue, thanks to the visibility of the White House kitchen garden and the abundant number of Farmer's Markets in the Bay Area.

What's the big deal about local food and seasonal eating? Why is fresh food better than food produced hundreds or thousands of miles away?

"Seasonal eating means eating food when nature produces it," says Kimberlee Alvari, a registered dietitian and director of Washington Hospital's Food and Nutrition Services department. "Eating with the season brings variety to your diet which helps provide a full complement of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients."

Create the Ultimate Garden Meal

Summer is the prime season for local produce. Learn to prepare fresh, delicious meals with the bounty from your home garden or local farmers markets at an upcoming "Lunch and Learn" seminar offered by Washington Women's Center. The class "Yard to Table" will take place on Wednesday, July 31, from Noon to 1 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Please bring your own lunch. Samples will be provided. The class is limited to 50, and there is a fee of $5. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

Health Benefits of Seasonal, Local Eating

The farm-to-table movement, which advocates eating locally produced, in-season food, is firmly established. The yard-to-table concept takes it one step further with the idea of producing meals from food grown or raised in your own backyard. According to proponents of eating locally, there are environmental as well as health benefits to eating food produced close to home.

"The benefits of eating locally produced food are numerous," says Alvari. "When food doesn't have to travel far before it's consumed, you save nutrients, save flavor, and save gas, too. In-season produce is harvested just as it's developed abundant nutrients and is at peak quality and flavor."

In contrast, produce that is picked to be shipped far from its location of origin is generally picked before it is ripe and nutritionally mature. This allows the produce to survive the long shipping distance, which consumes a lot of fuel and makes for a larger carbon footprint. Alvari notes this practice does not do your body any favors in terms of nutrition or taste.

Alvari offers two easy ways to reap the nutritional benefits of seasonal eating.

"Focus on 'Not Too Far,' which means looking for local and seasonal food options," says Alvari. "Or consider IMBY (In My Backyard) - plant your own garden and you will know exactly how the produce is grown. And, you can eat what you grow the same day that you harvest it."

Seasonal and Local Takes Root at Hospital

In addition to teaching members of the community about the health benefits of seasonal eating, Washington Hospital takes a seasonal and local approach to the produce provided on its patient menus. The hospital belongs to the Regional Produce Project of Northern California which is a coalition of local hospitals that work collectively with a produce vendor and local farms to grow just what the hospitals want.

"We're proud to be providing green beans from Dwelley Farms and organic strawberries from Coke Farms," notes Alvari. "Washington Hospital also has its own urban garden just steps from the backdoor of our kitchen."

Learn More

Visit www.whhs.com/nutrition to download healthy menu options endorsed by Washington Hospital's team of registered dietitians and learn more about the Hospital's outpatient nutrition counseling program.

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