A great and easy way to step up your nutrition game is by eating seasonal foods. Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, diabetes and eating disorder expert, and contributor to Fox News and Huffington Post, joined a group of diabetes advocates to discuss how you can choose seasonal foods and how it will benefit your diabetes care. Jewels Doskicz, RN and T1D, also joined the discussion as our moderator.
Q. Why eat seasonally?
A. Laura: Eating seasonally will benefit you and the earth. You automatically consume a new variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals. You get more nutrition when you eat local foods. You support local agriculture, small farms, and help encourage sustainable living.
Jewels: Seasonal eating of what's local, fresh, and currently available is in our roots. I can only imagine it's best for our metabolism. We get the most nutrients from local, fresh-picked produce.
• To me, eating seasonally helps ensure the food I'm eating is local.
• Eating seasonal foods is a good way to get the freshest ingredients and to fully enjoy them in their prime.
Q. Name some possible benefits of eating what’s in season with diabetes.
A. Laura: Foods with fiber do not affect blood sugar like other carbs. The high vitamin C actually fights the free radicals from elevated blood sugar.
Jewels: Improved blood sugars, metabolism, and cardiovascular health through a varied seasonal diet that's high in fiber and nutrient rich.
• I feel like eating seasonal means you are overall eating healthier, which benefits your overall health, not just diabetes wise.
• Food is yummier!
Q. What does your selection of fall and winter “basket choices” look like?
A. Laura: Today my community-supported agriculture program (CSA) had romaine lettuce, scallions, sweet potatoes, kale, cabbage, and apples.
Jewels: Apples, squash, potatoes, kale, cauliflower, chard, spinach, beets, fresh herbs, and my favorite, pomegranates!
• Apples and lots of root vegetables like squash and pumpkin.
• Chili, chowders, and, yeah, some fall and winter fruits and veggies too. Post-Halloween is a good time to stock up on hypo treatments.
Q. How does your diet shift as fall and winter roll around?
A. Laura: Less fruit and more veggies in fall and winter, but lots of starchy veggies. I likely use starchy veggies rather than grain at meals. So protein, starchy veggies, and a green veggie.
Jewels: I definitely eat warmer foods in cooler months and enjoy cooking and baking more often.
• Not that much. I eat to my bg, just more or less carbs.
• Usually it’s me that rolls around as the seasons change; I get fat and lose all my fitness. But not this winter.
Q. What are your favorite winter vegetables and lower-carb fruits?
A. Laura: My favorite non-starchy carb is kale, but as some of you know my motto is, “Eat kale and cupcakes.”
Jewels: I love clementines, pears, spaghetti squash, dark greens, and Brussels sprouts.
• I love asparagus and Brussels sprouts.
• I and my T1D love spaghetti squash. The boy and the husband don't. It's hard to make a meal that pleases everyone.
Q. Fact or myth: choosing seasonal foods is more expensive. How does budget factor into your choices?
A. Laura: While it may be expensive to buy organic grains and produce, it is typically less to buy local apples, corn, and tomatoes. Purchase directly from the farmer, rather than the large chain grocery store. Buy a share in a CSA.
Jewels: What's on sale is often what is in season. Everyone has a food budget. Planning a weekly menu and shopping once a week helps me a lot.
• Seasonal foods are a pretty simple illustration of supply and demand: generally cheaper because plentiful (and perishable).
• In my experience, local/seasonal has a higher cost to it, but that's compared to box-store frozen veggies, not comparing fresh to fresh.
• If you use certain types of food a lot, wouldn't hurt to look into buying them in bulk at a wholesale club.
Q. What are your favorite fall and winter recipes? Why do they work well with diabetes?
A. Laura: Great recipe for mashed potato with cauliflower in my book Diabetes Comfort Food Diet published by Robert Rose.
Jewels: Roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash soup, veggie bowls with quinoa, stir fry, kale chips, and spinach salad with grapefruit.
• Here’s a good collection of squash recipes.
• I'm likelier to find cauliflower appealing in the fall: cooked lightly as a potato stand-in, or longer to add body to soup.
Thank you to Laura Cipullo and Jewels for their expert advice and all the T1Ds, T2Ds, and diabetes advocates that joined this week’s discussion.