In honor of April being National Garden Month, we are going to explore how to include foods from our garden into our diet. One of my favorite ways to add flavor to my meals is with fresh herbs or a fruit or vegetable that I grew myself. Gardening can be a great addition to any lifestyle; it’s relaxing, it gets you moving, and it’s fun.
We are going from seed to table, so feel free to get creative. You can grow an array of fruits, vegetables or herbs in any size space. If you have a large yard, you can plant a variety and see what works best, or even if you have no yard, you can plant some herbs in pots and keep them in your kitchen. Planting your garden in a raised plant bed is also a great idea and can make it easier to maintain if you have mobility concerns.
The change of the seasons allows for changes in what you plant and leads to more variety in your garden throughout the year. By growing your own fruits and vegetables, it makes adding these nutrient dense foods into your diet easier. Imagine making a delicious fruit salad made with fresh fruit that you grew yourself. For some reason, I always enjoy my meals better when I know that the produce came from my own garden.
Here are some great ideas on how you can incorporate your home-grown fruits, vegetables or herbs. Some of my favorites are adding fresh basil to a vinaigrette dressing and tossing it with fresh fruit salad, grilling summer squash or adding cherry tomatoes into my salad or pasta dishes.
Starting a garden can be very cost effective since not much is needed to get started. You can pick up seeds, soil and a shovel at your local home improvement or garden store. Many local farmers or county extensions hold classes to teach you about gardening and what is best to plant in your local area. Another great resource is your Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT), ask for a referral to your registered dietitian nutritionist to find out more about incorporating these healthy foods in your daily intake. If your local VA has a Healthy Teaching Kitchen—consider joining in on a cooking class.
Chelsea Skillman is registered dietitian and performance improvement/training dietitian at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Fla. She loves to cook and learned how to garden from her grandfather who is a Veteran.