Memorial Day - that unofficial kick-off to summer we’ve all been waiting for - means white pants, flip-flops, and breaking out some fun cocktail glasses. In my house, it also always means lots of food prep.
So as you head to the grocery store or farmers market to load up for weekend festivities, here are four surprising summertime foods that promise to optimize your health with some of the top nutritional value per penny while also delivering delicious taste in every bite. And, they are easier on the planet (and your budget) than grilling up a bunch of burgers and dogs. Add them to your next shopping list or look for them on your next trip to the farmers’ market this week to save big - and maybe even free up a little space in that budget for an extra Memorial Day cocktail.
Beans and Potatoes. When it comes to comparing the cost of fruits and vegetables, beans and potatoes come out on top. A recent study comparing nearly 100 fruits and vegetables found that beans and potatoes deliver the most nutrients per penny of the bunch. Beans and potatoes also boast impressive amounts of two nutrients the vast majority of Americans are falling well short of for radiant health– potassium and fiber.
Try smoky black beans this weekend in a soft grilled taco, a zesty homemade hummus made with chickpeas, garlic and fresh squeezed lemon or serve a side of black-eyed pea salad at your Memorial Day BBQ. And check out this bright and bold take on the traditional ho-hum Memorial Day Potato Salad Recipe from the US Potato Board (I have no financial relationship with them, just love this recipe): Potato Salad with Quick Preserved Lemon and Arugula.
Watermelon. The farmers’ market is the perfect place to find these ultra-hydrating, ultra-economical fruits at a bargain right now. Many supermarket chains also offer locally grown summer melons, so look there as well. One of the top fruits when it comes to the antioxidant lycopene, watermelon racks up even more nutrition points because it’s an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Two cups of watermelon is also a good source of potassium, a key nutrient when it comes to healthy blood pressure. As the name implies, watermelon is rich in water (about 92%), which is why they feel so heavy when you pick one up. It’s this high water content that makes it a fantastic summer food to nourish, refresh and hydrate at the same time. All this while helping you fit into that summer swimsuit, since one cup of diced watermelon has just 46 calories. Savor slices as a hydrating snack, cubed in a salad or as a refreshing dessert.
Mushrooms. Memorial day is the unofficial start to Grilling Season-and adding mushrooms to the mix can deliver major meat-lover appeal at a fraction of the calories and cost, while also slashing saturated fat and sodium. Mushrooms help you stretch your food dollar, since most mushroom varieties cost considerably less than meat per serving. Craving inspiration? Check out this ultra-tasty leaner greener burger (made by blending mushrooms and meat) the James Beard Foundation's new Better Burger Project is dishing up here. Or fire up this mouth-watering Grilled Mushroom Burger with White Bean Spread from Martha Stewart. And there are health benefits aplenty: whether viewed through a Western medicine, integrative medicine or functional medicine lens, mushrooms are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods and are rich in a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins, the antioxidant selenium and Vitamin D.