Eating seasonal produce is good for your health, your wallet and your community. Find out why – and what to eat and when.
You’ve probably heard the advice to eat seasonal produce, or more specifically: seasonal produce. The benefits of following this advice are vast and varied, and include everything from better tasting food to money savings and a positive impact on your environment and local agriculture. And yes, you can eat seasonally, even if you only consume products from the supermarket.
Whether you want to give your diet an autumn refresh, eat more sustainably or are simply looking for new menu inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. We’re sharing a comprehensive list of when all your favorite foods are in season (including a fall food list for next fall) and all the nutrition facts you need to take advantage of seasonal dishes. Read more!
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What is the advantage of buying seasonal products?
“Overall, incorporating seasonal produce into your diet provides a wealth of benefits for your health, taste buds, the environment and local communities,” says Danielle Smith, RD, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching. “It’s a win-win that encourages a well-rounded, sustainable approach to food.”
For starters, seasonal fruits and vegetables tend to be higher in nutrients because they are harvested at the highest level of ripeness, so you get a healthier bang for your buck. And speaking of money, it’s cheaper too. “When produce is in season, it is plentiful and readily available, which reduces production and transportation costs,” Smith explains. “As a result, prices are often more affordable compared to off-season items that require imports or special growing conditions.”
When you choose seasonal produce, you also support local farmers, which both strengthens your community and local economy and reduces the emissions that would result if that same food had to be transported longer distances. “It also promotes the preservation of heirlooms and traditional plant varieties,” Smith adds. “This contributes to the conservation of biodiversity and protects against the loss of unique and important crop species.”
Finally, seasonal products simply taste better. Just think of the difference between freshly picked apples and the average supermarket apples. “Products in season tend to be fresher and have better flavor compared to fruits and vegetables shipped from faraway places or stored for longer periods,” says Smith. “By eating in season, you can enjoy the natural and full flavor of each food product.”
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When it comes to summer produce, most fruits and vegetables are best consumed raw, straight from the tree or shrub, from the package or in a light and fresh salad. “Blueberries are definitely my favorite,” says Smith. “I grew up picking blueberries every summer and also had smaller bushes in my backyard. I’m a purist and love them the way they are. That said, my childhood wouldn’t be the same without blueberry cobbler with our freshly picked berries!”
These are the best seasonal produce for summer, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
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With root vegetables, squash, cruciferous vegetables, and mild and tart fruits flooding the shelves, fall is the season for roasting. When considering how to store produce, keep in mind that many of these fall favorites have a longer shelf life than their spring and summer counterparts, but only if you’re aware of the fruits and vegetables to avoid you keep them together.
Here are the best fall produce to enjoy.
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Winter is the season for cozy and heartwarming meals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make room for plenty of savory items. “I love beets. They really are one of my favorite vegetables,” says Smith. “I like to cut them into cubes and roast them with other winter vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips and turnips. Another one of my favorite ways to eat them is in a nutritious salad with quinoa, avocado, and another winter favorite: pomegranates.
Here’s what’s in season during the winter.
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Besides summer, spring is the season most often associated with fresh produce, and for good reason: it’s bursting with delicious tufts that are just begging to be eaten before you even get home from the market.
“Fresh peas are a game changer for me. As a child I hated peas until I was allowed to eat freshly picked peas from the garden in primary school. I was surprised by how sweet they were!” says Smith. “We made a huge salad with other freshly picked vegetables, and my perception of vegetables has never been the same, in a good way. Add fresh peas to a garden salad or simply eat them as a healthy snack.”
Here are more top picks for spring.
Now that you know which seasonal produce to choose depending on the time of year, check out this cheap grocery list to save even more money, or learn how to grow your own food.
About the expert
Danielle Smith, RD, is a registered dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching who focuses on using nutrition to support the long-term health of her clients.