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Nutrition from the ground up!

by Susan Stevensen, M.Ed., LDN
Licensed Dietitian

“Nutrition from the ground up” is the theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month in March 2010. The idea to eat foods grown locally is not new, but now is a good time of year to be thinking about getting a garden started in your own backyard. If you and your family can’t make a garden all by yourselves, you may be able to work in a garden together with relatives or neighbors.

Fresh and tasty

Why is it important to try to produce your own food or purchase food grown locally? You may have noticed in the news last year that some foods grown in other countries or locations are occasionally found to be tainted with bad bacteria, and the number of food recalls has grown rapidly over the past few years. Knowing where your food is grown is just good practice for everyone, and is especially important for the elderly, the very young, and people who may have immune systems that are either compromised or immature.

Research has shown that people who have vegetable gardens tend to consume more fresh produce than people who rely only on the grocery store for their food supply. We are blessed to live in a bountiful location that has good garden soil and a long enough growing season to produce a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Gardening is also great exercise, and is a wonderful excuse to get outside on a beautiful spring day.

Fresh and tasty

Many gardeners start thinking about the type of garden vegetables they wish to plant in early spring. Of course, it is important to be realistic about the actual garden space you have available. If you have limited space, you may be able to make a container garden, as long as it can be kept outside in a sunny location.

If you decide to plant a garden, do not wait until the last minute. Do start on preparing your soil in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked (but not too wet). Many gardeners make the mistake of planting tender vegetables too early, before all chance of frost is gone. In our mountain region, many seasoned gardeners wait until the end of May to set out tender plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash. However, hardy vegetables like lettuce, onion sets, greens, and peas can be planted as early as March. If you are unsure, talk to your friends, neighbors, or local Extension Service about suggested planting schedules.

Fresh Food Even if you do not plant a garden, it is important to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Nutritionists recommend at least three servings of fruit (not counting juices), and at least three servings of vegetables, at a minimum, every day. Try to eat as many foods as possible that have all the colors of the rainbow. For example: red apples, orange sweet potatoes, yellow squash, green broccoli, blue blueberries, purple grapes, brown whole grains, and white bananas. The more variety of colors that you eat, the greater amount of nutrients you will consume. Remember, to be healthy, you must eat healthy.

The theme for National Nutrition Month comes from the American Dietetic Association. Go to their website at for more information.

Good Food, Good Friends, and Good Life.