Why Eating Seasonal Is The Best Way To Eat Healthy

Food and cooking both tie in well as passions within my profession as a dietitian, I spend almost every working day talking about food with my patients. For me, cooking is something I love doing and sharing with other people, particularly my family and friends. When I’m able to teach others just how easy it can be to make delicious, healthy home made food that's cheaper than eating out, it’s rewarding.

 Making a seasonal fruit platter.

Making a seasonal fruit platter.

So, buying and cooking seasonal is something that has the capability to make healthy eating, which mostly includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, much more affordable. I teach people that basing a weekly shop around what’s currently in season is the easiest way to have a healthy balanced diet that won’t break the budget. For example, in season spinach could cost you $1 a bunch, rockmelon for $1 at the markets, or pears at the right time of year $3/kg. It may mean that you have slightly less variety, however you’re guaranteed fresh Australian produce for a much cheaper price. A guide to what seasonal produce is on offer throughout the year can be found on the Sydney Markets website

 Affordable greens at the markets. 

Affordable greens at the markets. 

Through experience, I’ve found that using good produce is important in getting the best flavour from dishes. This doesn’t mean buying expensive produce from the finest boutique grocers and providores in Sydney, but being selective in choosing ingredients that are in season and most likely going to be at their best. Seasonal produce is the best for 2 reasons:

1) Fresh produce is cheapest when in peak season.

2) Fresh produce is freshest in peak season (of the local country).

 
 Broccoli for days at Sydney Markets. 

Broccoli for days at Sydney Markets. 

 Fresh tuna.

Fresh tuna.

Through travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to experience fresh produce from all around the world as I’ve made it a goal to visit fresh food markets wherever I can, including places like Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Singapore, Vietnam and most recently Cambodia. The way that people in these places rely so heavily on local markets and seasonal produce to buy daily and cook fresh is so impressive, and what makes the cuisines from each of these places so flavoursome.

 La Boqueria Market, Barcelona. 

La Boqueria Market, Barcelona. 

 Fresh papaya salad made in a Cambodian cooking class. 

Fresh papaya salad made in a Cambodian cooking class. 

When I’m at home I try and follow this trend and visit local fresh produce markets, especially in summer, to buy up on the best seasonal produce for the week. My favourite market to visit has to be Sydney Markets in Flemington, which has a huge variety of fresh produce to choose from, ranging from eggs, seafood, herbs, fruits and vegetables, to nuts and spices. But the best time to visit Flemington is in summer when the mangoes are in full season, and go for as little as $20 a tray. We eat them freshly cut, in smoothies, with muesli for breakfast, and sometimes in desserts like mango cheesecake. 

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When I can’t get to the markets, the next best place is my smaller local grocer – Homebush Fruit Bowl. These guys have outstanding fresh produce, always of the highest quality. The reason, is that they are supplied directly from the markets, compared with the larger supermarket chains for which the produce has to be transported long distances and potentially kept in cold storage for a period of time. Homebush Fruit Bowl has been a family owned business for a number of years, supplying the local residents with the best seasonal fresh produce as well as other home made items like pasta, quiche, salads and yoghurts. They make eating healthy so accessible to people, there’s often a line up of workers around lunch time on their break coming to pick up ready to go, freshly prepared healthy meals straight from the fridge.

 Homebush Fruit Bowl.

Homebush Fruit Bowl.

 Homebush Fruit Bowl ready to go salads. 

Homebush Fruit Bowl ready to go salads. 

 Herbs, fresh chopped vegetables for meals. 

Herbs, fresh chopped vegetables for meals. 

In Australia, having access to some of the best produce in the world, particularly from large fresh produce markets like Sydney Markets, and from local fresh greengrocers definitely makes cooking much easier and more flavoursome. I love sharing stories and recipes with my patients of homemade foods, and seeing what dishes they come up with and are enjoying. Teaching people about nutrition and tying it into my love of cooking (and eating) is certainly an enjoyable career.

Cold Brew Coffee

Ingredients 

  • Commercially ground coffee (not instant), available pre-ground from most supermarkets or coffee roasters 
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Sugar or artificial sweetener, optional 
  • Milk, optional 

Method

  1. Mix roughly 4 tsp ground coffee with 5-600mL water in a jug 
  2. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight 
  3. When ready to serve, filter through a very fine sieve, careful not to disturb the coffee sediment at the bottom of the jug - discard this. 
  4. Serve with ice, milk and sugar to taste 

       Serves 2

       Tip: make a large batch, and leave in the fridge for up to a week for your daily caffeine fix

Chicken, mint, basil stir fry

Prep time: 20 minutes       cooking: 30 minutes

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

·      2 tbsp sunflower oil

·      1kg chicken mince

·      2 cloves garlic, finely diced

·      1 Spanish onion, diced

·      2cm piece ginger, finely diced

·      1-2 birdseye chillis (optional)

·      1 medium eggplant, diced and soaked in salted water for ~20 minutes

·      100g button mushrooms, chopped

·      1 red capsicum, diced

·      2 corn cobs, cooked and cut off the cob

·      1 bunch bok choi, chopped roughly

·      1/2 bunch mint chopped

·      1/2 bunch basil chopped

·      Sweet soy sauce

·      Fish sauce

·      Soy sauce

·      Brown rice, to serve

 

 

 

Method:

1.     Dice and soak the eggplant, this will remove some of the sour juices while you prep

2.     Start the brown rice as per packet instructions. This will take about half an hour to become cooked fully.  

3.     Put a large pan on medium/high heat and add the sunflower oil

4.     Add the Spanish onion and cook for 1 min

5.     Add the chilli, ginger, garlic and cook for a further 3 mins

6.     Add ~2tbsp each chopped basil and mint and ~1tbsp soy sauce and sauté for~30 seconds

7.     Add the chicken mince and break up, stirring for 3 mins until almost cooked through

8.     Add the eggplant and mushroom and cook for about 5 mins until the chicken is completely cooked and they eggplant and mushroom are soft

9.    Next, add the capsicum, corn, and bok choi

10.     Add about 1tbsp of soy sauce, fish sauce and sweet soy sauce and stir to combine, adding more as you prefer.

11.     Simmer all ingredients together for about 10 minutes

12.     Lastly, add 2tbsp each fresh chopped basil and mint and stir through

13.     Serve with brown rice