MILWAUKEE, WI – Enjoy the relaxation of summer vacation, but avoid letting good health habits take a holiday – follow these suggestions from TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly):

During the summer, it’s easy for families to eat poorly at festivals, ballgames, and tourist sites. Luckily, summer offers a bumper crop of opportunities to increase fruit and vegetable intake. For the freshest food possible, plant a garden at home. It’s economical, nutritious, and promotes a closer tie to the environment.

Garden produce offers a cornucopia of health benefits. Here are some common fruits and vegetables and the ways they boost health:

* Tomatoes – The «fruit of summer» offers lycopene, a powerful protection against certain kinds of cancer. Tomatoes also contain potassium and vitamin C.

* Red pepper – Sweet, rather than spicy, red peppers provide vitamin A for bones, skin and teeth, and also provide as much vitamin C as an orange. Vitamin C helps promote a healthy immune system.

* Watermelon – Another source of lycopene, watermelon also reduces the risk for certain cancers, especially prostate. It also can decrease the chance of developing macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over age 60.

* Strawberries – This sweet fruit is rich in vitamin C and folate, which helps promote a healthy heart. Folic acid also has been known to decrease the chance for some birth defects.


Farmers Markets

For those who would rather not seed and weed at home, farmers markets offer bushels of thrifty «slow food» produced locally. Here are practical ways to maximize a trip to a farmers market:

* Take menu cues from what’s in season, making gazpacho from cucumbers and tomatoes, and adding corn kernels from fresh ears of sweet corn to salsa. Make a tossed salad by combining a little of everything you bring home from the market.

* Try a new fruit or vegetable. Stroll through the rows of vendors and buy food of five different colors, as a way to get a variety of nutrients.

* Ask the vendor his or her favorite way to prepare a particular type of produce. Many have recipes to share. Also ask for tips on storing and preparing locally grown produce.

* Check if there are any special events offered at the farmers market. Many have cooking demonstrations, tastings, and fun activities for the kids.

For a summery, light burst of flavor, try the following salad recipe:

CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD

  • 1 large sweet red pepper
  • One 15-oz. can white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • One-fourth cup minced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One-fourth teaspoon black pepper

Cut pepper in half and remove seeds. Place pepper halves cut-side down on a rack in broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from heat until skins blister, about 8 minutes. Immediately place pepper halves in a bowl, cover, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel off and discard charred skin. Cut pepper halves into strips and place in large bowl. Add beans, onion, and basil. In a jar, combine vinegar, oil, and black pepper. Cover with tight-fitting lid and shake well. Pour mixture over the beans. Toss to coat. Yields 8 servings of one-half cup each.

TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss education and support organization, was founded more than 60 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., TOP

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