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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Want to Eat Healthier? Eat Local

Eat local. It has become the rallying cry of so many, yet a way of life for only a few. Despite the farmers’ markets popping up like daisies and the major grocery chains touting their local food offerings, eating locally grown food is a challenge. It takes more work, effort and planning than eating the way we’re used to.

If you’re finding it hard to make “eat local” your own rallying cry, consider this: Eating local isn’t only a way to feel good about your food purchases. It’s healthier too. It makes you feel food as a consumer…and makes you a healthier consumer too.

The Wake Forest Farmers’ Market is one of several Wake County farmers’ markets that is open year-round.

1)    It keeps you out of the processed foods aisles of grocery stores. When you buy from Wake County farmers’ markets, produce stands and CSAs, you avoid the temptations of the snack aisle, the convenience of the processed food choices, and all those shelves full of cases of soda. By default, your food choices are going to be healthier. Where at the fruit stand are you going to find a stand full of potato chips, Oreos and Pepsi? When you’re not tempted, you go without and these types of foods become less appealing as you get used to your healthier choices.

2)    Ditto for fast food. All the benefits of bypassing the grocery store are yours when you bypass the drive through too. Unless your town’s fast-food burger joints are stocked with locally grown beef and potatoes, eating local means eating elsewhere.
3)    Your food is more nutritious. Eating locally grown food forces you to eat food at its most nutritious because it’s eaten when ripe. Forget the tomato picked green and trucked 2,000 miles to garnish your salad in March. As they say in the movie Food Inc.,  that’s really only the notion of a tomato. It’s devoid of flavor and nutrients. Wait for the tomato ripened locally in the summer sun, on the other hand, and you’ll get a burst of real flavor and more nutrients too.
4)    Your options are healthier. Before sitting down to write this, I ate a home-made lunch that included a handful of locally grown cherries. If I hadn’t stopped by the fruit stand yesterday and stocked up on the in-season fruits, my lunch might have included canned tomato soup or processed crackers or some other unhealthy choice. By making a conscious choice to eat more locally grown food, I am indirectly choosing healthier options.
5)    Your repertoire grows. We Americans have gotten boring. We are eating the same old thing all year round. Why? Because we’re not eating locally grown, in-season foods. A varied diet is a healthy diet. Learn to love leeks. Get a kick out of kohlrabi. Get groovin’ with garlic scapes. Change it up in the kitchen because variety really is the spice of life…and better for your body too.
6)    You’ll slow down. This is perhaps the biggest benefit to come from eating locally grown and produced food. Because it takes more effort to shop the farmers’ markets or pick up your weekly CSA box, your food choices will be more thoughtful and your time in the kitchen will be too. You’ll eat at the table. You’d rediscover the family meal. And you’ll reconnect with your farmers and food sources in a way that will make food a whole lot more meaningful. All while eating healthier.
Eating locally—and healthily—isn’t an overnight life change. It’s a gradual shift in how you think, buy, prepare and eat food. But it’s a shift that’s going to benefit you, your family, your community, your farmer and your world for a long time to come.

Thanks to guest blogger Sharon Long of for this article. The Wake Forest Farmers’ Market is featured in the photo above. Check listings for all the area markets, road-side stands, u-pick farms and CSAs through AHA’s maps.

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