The Diet Detective: How to Shop Better at Your Farmer's Market

Going to a farmers market is romantic and inspirational, especially if you're a foodie, but even if you're not, it still has many pluses. Here are a few tips to get more from your next farmers market shopping spree.

Find a Farmers Market

Are you looking for a market? The USDA has a fantastic search engine with more than 4,000 listings. Go to this website

The site allows you to search anywhere in the country for farmers markets in your area. It also lets you search by specifics, such as products (e.g., baked goods, cheese, fish, fresh fruit, nuts, plants, honeys, jams, soaps, etc.), and even by payment methods accepted. You can also check out LocalHarvest.org.

More: Local Is the New Organic 

Eat Fresh and Local

Buying at a farmers market ensures that you are eating the freshest foods, and that you are choosing locally grown. To find out what fruits and vegetables are in season check this website.
 
When you're deciding what to prepare for dinner look online and find recipes that use the fruits and vegetables in season. Here are some websites with recipes:

  • Allrecipes.com: a Reader's Digest Association (RDA) brand.
  • Myrecipes.com: Has recipes from magazines and cookbooks you love and trust, including Cooking Light, Southern Living, Sunset, Coastal Living, Real Simple and Health.
  • FoodNetwork.com: Click on the Healthy Eating tab on the top navigation bar.
  • EatingWell.com: A Vermont-based website and magazine.
  • Epicurious.com: Go to the Recipes & Menus tab and select Healthy.

More: 6 Guilt-Free Pasta Recipes

Look for phone apps for these sites as well. If you're at the market and see a veggie you would like to try in a recipe, just plug it into the app on the spot and come up with recipes.

Go Early

Get the pick of the crop. The best and freshest foods go first—so get an early start.

Talk It Up

Get to know the farmers. Ask them what is the best of the seasonal produce that week and how to prepare it. Farmers are foodies and many will have great recipes and tips, says Kathleen Hiraga, president and founder of Organics Rx.

More: 5 Healthy Ways to Cook

Find out Who Grew It

The idea of going to a farmers market is to buy locally grown, fresh-picked produce.  However, Calvin Finch, Ph.D., a master gardener and the project director of regional initiatives and special projects for the San Antonio Water System, suggests that some vendors may have purchased the produce they're selling from a wholesaler rather than growing it themselves.

According to Tim Lymberopoulos, owner and founder of Fooducopia.com, some vendors bring produce that is grown in neighboring states and/or countries. Locally grown produce is fresher, tastes better and can contain more flavor and nutrition because it is ripened on the plant.  Do a little due diligence by asking where the produce was grown and what's in season.

More: Locally Grown Foods

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