The change of every season is the perfect time to start watching for new seasonal fruits and vegetables to show up at your local stores and farmer's markets. This idea of eating what is “in season” – foods that are being grown and harvested right as you buy them -– is called seasonal eating and it is a powerful way to eat.
Seasonal eating used to be mandatory. You could only eat what was actually growing or capable of being stored during the winter months! There was no global trade, mass transportation, and high-tech food storage options.
Today it is something you have to more intentionally choose, but it’s worth the effort because seasonal eating:
Can be cheaper!
Is environmentally friendly!
Is more nutritious.
Inspires you to mix things up and keep variety in your diet!
1. Foods in season are picked at the peak of ripeness. That means they are bursting with flavor and ready to be eaten! Foods brought to you from around the world out of season are often picked green to give producers time to ship the food you or to store it.
Foods picked when they are meant to be eaten simply taste better!
2. Seasonal foods are usually cheaper. It is the simple law of supply and demand. In-season foods are plentiful, keeping costs low. There’s a lot of competition, whereas out-of-season foods take a lot of resources to manage, package, and transport. This drives up the cost.
3. Out-of-season food isn’t usually great for the environment. It takes extra energy to artificially mimic the natural growing season. Plus, it takes an incredible amount of fossil fuel to transport the foods around the world, increasing your carbon footprint. Food grown right down the road takes a small amount of fuel to get you, but something from Japan or the Philippines uses large amounts of fuel to get to you.
Seasonal food can be better for the environment.
4. Out-of-season foods are frequently picked green to allow time for them to be shipped to you. Sometimes this can mean the food isn’t fully developed and hasn’t reached the peak of nutrition. Alternatively, seasonal foods are picked at their peak and get to you faster. According to some studies, crops grown in season can be up to three times more nutritious. Yes, please! Early harvesting, the damage of transportation, and all the time it takes the foods to be unpacked and put out at the store can decrease the nutritional content of the food.
Eliminating the transportation and storage helps ensure you bring home more nutritious food.
5. Let’s face it. Most of us are creatures of habit. If something is always available, we will always grab it. Unless we intentionally shake up the routine. Seasonal eating helps add variety to your diet by reminding you to mix up your food choices and try new foods. This way, instead of eating the same foods with the same nutrients over and over and over again, you switch to new foods each season and get new nutrients.
Seasonal foods can give you more variety and new nutrients.
First, don’t aim for perfection. Just intentional choices whenever possible. When you’re ready to try out seasonal eating, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever anything that has flown overseas, it just means you’ll look for what is local and seasonal first and go from there.
While the absolute best way to eat seasonally is to grow your own food, that won’t be sustainable for most people. (But maybe you can eventually try growing a few things!)
If you don’t have the time and resources (or you have a black thumb), the second-best bet is farmer's markets or local farmers. And it’s an incredible resource! You’ll find they are usually amazing resources, not only for getting those fresh, whole foods, but also having preparation tips, recipes, and new food suggestions for you.
If both the garden and the farmers market aren’t an option, a supermarket is the next option. It can take a while to break the habit of just heading there first, but it is worth it to really know where your food comes from!
Note: Once a food is out of season, forego it in your diet or see if you can find an organic, frozen version. Frozen food is also picked and flash frozen at its peak, so it is actually a better choice than a food that has been picked green and shipped thousands of miles to get to you.
Every part of the world has different seasons, including the different states! Check out this great tool from Sustainable Table is an interactive guide that lets you select your state and the season to see what’s freshest near you.
Seasonal eating has so many benefits. It supports the environment (seasonal food often has a lower carbon footprint), helps you save money (seasonal food is often cheaper!) and adds extra nutrition to your diet through freshness and variety!
Give it a try and let us know who it goes! We’d love to know what you find where you live!