Eating fresh, eating local

by Hazel Halliburton

Soon it will be summer and nothing says summertime more than biting into a fresh peach or homegrown tomato as the juice runs clear down to your elbows. With farmers’ markets in full swing, there is an abundance of fresh produce available, making it the perfect time to focus on achieving healthy nutrition.

Vegetables and fruits found at many markets are packed with hidden nutrition gems such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The foods normally have less pesticides and herbicides than produce purchased in a store, and when it’s picked in season, it’s fresher and more flavorful.

“When I think about summer, the big thing I think about is all of the available fresh produce and how you can get it locally,” said Unity Health Clinical Dietitian Karen Szelinski. “The farmers’ market is a great option for fresh produce. It’s local so it’s fresher, tastes better and hasn’t been trucked across the country so it leaves a lower carbon footprint. It’s also a really good way to support the local economy on more of a grassroots level and help support smaller farmers.”

When considering the nutrition aspect of market produce, it’s important to remember to choose a variety. Each item contains different nutritional benefits that, when combined with other vegetables or fruits, can meet all of your nutritional needs. Watermelon is 92 percent water, so it is a great source to rehydrate and beat the summer heat while also providing your body with lycopene, which helps protect your skin. Lettuce and dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach have been proven to help benefit eye health, and fresh strawberries are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, a natural immunity booster.

In addition, incorporating a variety of market produce can provide you not only with a healthy diet, but can also make mealtime fast, easy and delicious. Preparation ranges from chopping vegetables and eating them raw to grilling or sautéing. The options and benefits are endless.

To ensure better nutrition, Szelinski recommends getting the entire family involved in the meal preparation process by taking your children to the farmers’ market to pick out new vegetables, fruits and herbs to try. “When children get to help with the entire process, they are more likely to try new foods,” said Szelinski, adding that simple actions like visiting the farmers’ market and trying new fresh foods can result in a lifetime of healthy habits.

To help the residents of Searcy create long-lasting, health-centered habits, Unity Health is proud to sponsor this year’s farmers’ market located on the courthouse square in Downtown Searcy. Operational hours are 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and 3-6 p.m. on Tuesdays. The Searcy Farmers’ Market offers locally produced vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, USDA certified meat, jams, jellies and more. For more information about available produce and additional offerings, visit

Cucumber and Watermelon Salad

2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 medium unpeeled cucumbers, washed, ends removed, sliced lengthwise
     then sliced crosswise
3 cups watermelon, cut in 1-inch cubes (about 1 pound)

Combine the lime juice, sugar and salt in a 2-quart bowl; whisk together. Stir in parsley. Add the cucumbers; toss with a rubber spatula, coating all cucumber pieces. Add the watermelon; fold in gently.

Cover, set aside and allow juice from the watermelon to mix with the other juices. Stir gently and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Choose a watermelon without a flat side and that sounds hollow when you knock on it. Look for a melon with a dull (not shiny) rind free of soft spots, gashes or blemishes.

Serving size    1 1/2 cups
Serves    4
Calories    90
Total Fat    0.5g
Saturated Fat    0g
Cholesterol    0mg
Sodium    300mg
Total Carbohydrate    20g
Dietary Fiber    2g
Protein    2g