Tidy Up Your Pantry and Spruce Up Your Spring Meals

As the weather warms up and local farmers’ markets begin selling spring vegetables and fruit, it is time to tidy up your pantry, update or revise old meal plans, and look for recipe ideas. 

Just as we put away winter apparel, doing the same in the kitchen allows us to make the most of the produce from the markets during the spring and summer months. The result is simple, tasty meals from fresh fruit and vegetables.

You don’t have to get rid of pantry staples; instead, look at using them in different ways. For example, a tin of mixed beans used in a cold-weather vegetable soup will now make its way into my meal plan in a mixed bean salad, and the pasta stocked up over the winter for spaghetti dinners is used instead for fresh salads.  

As spring arrives, we gradually move away from warming food such as soups and stews and look to lighter, brighter and crunchier foods using produce that will be in season in the coming months. Grocery stores provide us with a year-round supply of fruits and vegetables, but not all are in season, and there are so many health benefits to eating locally and seasonally.

In April and May, I like to watch for rhubarb, beets and asparagus. The bright red colour in beets comes from beta-carotene. They are also full of phytophenols, which are great at boosting the immune system. Asparagus are full of vitamins A and E, which support our body in fighting off free radicals (toxins that our body is exposed to daily), as well as supporting the health of our skin, which is important when you think that we are layering down exposing much of our body to the sun’s rays. Rhubarb is delicious when cooked in a pie or a crumble; it is also full of fibre, which helps keep good gut bacteria happy.   

From a practical point of view, with more activities taking place outside, warm-weather routines change, so why not adapt our meals?

For simple dinners, this can often mean chopped vegetables with a few simple dips, some fresh whole wheat bread, and cheese. Sandwiches and wraps are another type of meal that I find myself making more of this time of year.

It’s not about being on a diet; it is more about being aware of the change in season, what this means for the meals we prepare, and maintaining health. As always, supporting local farmers’ markets is a good idea when possible, but supporting local takes on a whole new meaning when thinking of your gut health! 

If you meal plan and work with a list of meals, it is time to revise that list and add new meals that reflect the seasonal vegetables that are beginning to be available in the produce section and farmers’ markets. In doing so, this helps us to appreciate the variety in the foods available to us and not fall into the rabbit hole of always eating the same meals.

One-pan meal recipe from nutritionist Susan Alsembach

My one-pan asparagus and broccoli dish—pictured above—is quick and easy. It will allow you to eat a healthy family meal and still make it to your kid’s practice on time.

There is nothing like the first few bites of fresh spring vegetables, such as asparagus, rhubarb, and tomatoes, to help us appreciate Mother Nature. 

Susan Alsembach is a nurse and registered holistic nutritionist. For more information about the services she provides, visit her website susanalsembach.com

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