What is one of the best ways to lower your grocery bills and provide a fun and free form of physical activity? If you said by growing them yourself and gardening you are exactly right! Few people would argue that there is a better tasting tomato than one fresh from the vine, but gardening can also help Veterans stay in shape!

Whether you own a home with lots of acreage, or live in an apartment, there are many ways to start gardening.  For those of us with limited outdoor space, container gardening may be the way to go.   Containers allow the option of planting a variety of plants in a multitude of different sized pots and containers (ask an expert at your local gardening center for assistance in choosing containers based on your outdoor space and the plants you wish to grow).  Raised bed gardens are another option that has become popular.  With the right tools you may choose to build your own, or purchase a raised bed garden kit at your local garden center.

If outdoor space is a problem many cities and towns offer community gardens within your neighborhoods.  This gives people a chance to manage a garden in another location outside of their home and the ability to mingle with your neighbors.  Your local extension office or park district can give more information on community gardens and may offer free seedling starters!

When we have fresh vegetables at our doorstep it makes it easy to implement a healthy plate. Check out Choose My Plate for tips. Half of the food on your plate should come from fruits and vegetables.  It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables from a wide array of colors.  Be sure to include dark green along with red and orange fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.  All of these foods can be grown in your very own garden.  You may need to talk with your PACT dietitian about specific disease conditions that may prevent you from eating certain foods or nutrients.

As I mentioned before, heavy gardening such as digging and shoveling can even strengthen muscles and bones.  Along with an increase in physical activity gardening can also be therapeutic.  It can be a time of solace to unwind and relax and relieve stress and tension from your day.

Talk with your PACT team for referrals to your dietitian, physical therapist, social worker, or mental health specialist for more information on healthy eating, ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, community food assistance programs and stress management activities.

Kasey Vagedes, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian working in both inpatient and outpatient areas at the Dayton, OH VA Medical Center.  She has been employed with VA for four years and enjoys spring time and outdoor gardening in her own back yard and community.

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Published on Jun. 8, 2012

Estimated reading time is 2.4 min.

Views to date: 46


  1. Ken Ferenchak June 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve been backyard gardening since I was a young boy in Struthers, Ohio – helping my grandpa and learning well from him. After I retired from twenty years of US Air Force service, and settled on some permanent dirt in Lakeview, Ohio. And, play in the dirt I did – tilling, weeding, raking, planting… On MY…and NOT some foreign soil. I believe that this simple undertaking helped me transition back into the “real world.” Harvesting the fresh vegetables was very fulfilling!
    Vegetable gardening was very rewarding – NOT like most of by twenty years as a medic serving in the US Air Force. Traumatic feelings/experiences deeply buried in the deep recesses of my mind soiled and ruined the many experiences as I transitioned back to CONUS with no idea of what had to be done…not until my behavior identified me as someone needing professional help. This was 29 years after my experiences in Vietnam that I was told that I was dealing with war-related PTSD. And I simply thought I was still crazy after all these years!

  2. Elizabeth Adams June 24, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I do agree. My aunt is 64 years old now and she loves to plant vegetables in her garden and she usually make use of the vegetables she planted when cooking dishes. And she definitely have a healthy body.

  3. Diana June 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the article; can’t wait to taste the tomatoes growing from the free plant I received at a recent Earth Day event. For those who receive EBT/food stamp benefits in California, are you aware that you may purchase fruit and vegetable “seeds” to grow your own produce?

  4. Bill and Mary June 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    We are already growing squash,Bell Peppers,Tomatoes,potatoes,sweet potatoes,and Green Beans. Have had a very good time eating healthy as we can be.

    Bill and Mary

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