Swap the produce aisle for farm-to-table and your body will thank you.
Will Cockrell 1 / 13
Farmers’ markets can be daunting places, full of foods you can’t pronounce and people who seem to have way too much free time on their hands. But they’re also full of high-impact foods, and ensure fresh seasonal eating. “The more variety you pack into your diet,” says nutritionist Saskia Kleinert, “the less chance your body will be missing that one vital nutrient.”
Kleinert, who often helps athletes identify the best “power” foods, says that shopping produce aisles at the grocery store—even in places like Whole Foods—can actually be more confusing because they have so many unseasonal (often imported) options on hand at all times. Farmers’ markets, on the other hand, take the guesswork out of eating seasonally. “Plus, most vendors will let you try foods before you buy them and even explain the best ways to cook whatever you get,” Kleinert points out. “It’s a great way to be introduced to new fruits and vegetables.”
Fennel has a licoricelike taste. Shave it fine and use it in salad, or cut it into chunks and eat it as a snack. If the flavor’s overpowering, roast it until it’s buttery, then sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan.
Why It’s Good for You: It’s packed with vitamin C, and one of its phytonutrients, anethole, has strong anti-inflammatory and recovery properties.
What to Look For: Healthy fennel is white with some green; the smaller ones are more tender.
Kleinert considers carrots a “sports” food because they provide a low-carb boost before a workout and help replenish energy afterward.
Why They’re Good for You: The bunches with greens still attached are perfect for carrying around with you as a snack. Larger, rougher-looking ones are best peeled and then used for cooking or in juices.
What to Look For: If you see tiny roots growing from them, they’re old; young, fresh ones will snap when you break them.
Kleinert thinks of strawberries as a “transition” food for clients who eat too much sugar. “I tell people to eat them anytime they crave sweets,” she says. Eat them alone or on top of cereal or fresh cooked oatmeal.
Why They’re Good for You: Strawberries are low on the glycemic index, high in vitamin C and antioxidants, and great for joint health.
What to Look For: If a berry’s red through to the middle and sweet, it’s ripe; a white ring around the top means it was harvested too early.
Not only is honey a healthier sweetener for cereal, many markets have single-serving honey sticks, a great pre-workout energy boost. Eating local honey is also thought to reduce seasonal allergies. Ask the vendor if they leave some honey behind for the bees to feed on—many commercial bee farmers replace it all with sugar water, which often causes the bee community to become unhealthy and require antibiotics—which eventually end up in our jar of honey.
Nuts are an easy snack to carry and are packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Mix them with dried berries and you’ve got the best pre- or post-workout energy bar available. You can also add walnuts atop everything from oatmeal to salad. The freshest ones come out in fall and usually lose their oomph by early summer. If they taste off, they’re probably rancid.
Fermented foods not only boost healthy bacteria to help with digestion and support the immune system, they’re also a rich addition to hearty salads and can be eaten on their own or as a snack with cheese and crackers. Also a fall staple, the most common pickled veggies are cured in a salt-and-herb brine.