From farm to table: The benefits of eating local

These days, eating local is all the rage. And for good reason! There are a number of benefits to heading to your local farmers’ market to get your groceries. From eating better to supporting your community, we say skip the supermarket this weekend! Just be sure to grab your cooler and a couple of ice packs before you go.

So what are the benefits?

An easy way to avoid temptation

Sure, the grocery store may offer more choice, convenience and prices that “can’t be beat,” but it also has shelves and shelves of packaged foods that are loaded with sodium, sugar, preservatives, and a whole bunch of hard-to-pronounce ingredients that are low in nutrients.

Yup, there’s a reason health experts recommend avoiding the center aisles – they’re filled with junk! And we all know how hard it can be to resist that pretty packaging.

But at a farmers’ market, you don’t have to worry about facing your (food) nemesis, nor will your self-control be tested over and over again. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by fresh fruits and vegetables, locally raised meats and homemade goodies that might even be healthy.  

“On average, [people in a study who were provided a $20 incentive at every 3rd visit to a farmers’ market] reported that they had lowered their daily soda consumption by 25% and increased the amount of vegetables they ate by 12%.”

A really great way to know what’s in your food

Speaking of super long ingredient lists you can’t pronounce, that’s rarely (if ever) an issue at a farmers’ market. Asparagus is asparagus. An apple is an apple. And that cut of steak? No need to concern yourself over whether or not any hormones have been added!

You can be sure of complete transparency when it comes to what makes up an animal’s diet – because chances are, the person behind the stall is the farmer, so all you have to do is ask.

They’ll be able to tell you what they feed their animals, if the item they are selling is truly organic, if they’ve used any pesticides, what safe handling practices they use, and if the item in question contains any allergens.

It’s another way to support your community and the environment

It’s no secret that buying local benefits farmers and shopkeepers in your area. And if the local economy is booming, your entire community does better. Not to mention it’s good for the environment too.

Think about it. If you commit to buying from your ‘own backyard,’ you are helping reduce your carbon footprint (bonus points if you walk or bike to the market!) And by buying just what you need (rather than heading to a big box store and buying in bulk), you’re eliminating unnecessary waste and being mindful of future generations. Sustainable agriculture for the win!

Are there any health risks?

While there’s no doubt that farmers’ markets are the way to go, it’s important to note that there can be some associated health risks, mainly when it comes to items that need to be refrigerated. If you want to eat local without worry, here are a few things to steer clear of in order to avoid contracting a foodborne illness, like Salmonella:

  • Unpasteurized ciders, milk, or cheese
  • Dairy, meats (or other items that need to be refrigerated) that are stored in a cooler

Remember that a cooler will never reach temperatures as low as a refrigerator, so if you’re buying items that need to be chilled, go early (with your own cooler) and make sure the items are back in your fridge within 2 hours.

If you don’t plan on eating a meat on the day of purchase, freeze it. It’s safer, and when you do end up cooking it, it will taste just as fresh as the day you bought it.

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