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Prepare fresh veggies the healthy way

Health & Fitness columnist

Well, June is gone and now July is upon us and, as we live in Southern Georgia, we all know that is only going to get hotter and more humid as the days of summer go on. Therefore, I highly recommend trying one of the smoothie recipes I provided you all with in June. If you missed the issue, you can always go online to the Herald website to find the recipes in the past issues/columns section.

Also, if you remember last month, I talked about all the fresh and healthy produce we have available right in our backyard. I mentioned this website, www.gfb.org/commodities/cfm/harvest_calendar.html, which will provide you with information on what produce is now available in Georgia. In addition, you can try this website, http://gfvga.org/georgia-grown/, and you can locate more information in the consumer section about what is grown in Georgia and where you can buy it locally.

There are a few places in Albany where I personally have found wonderful summer produce, and two of them are Tommy Mc's Produce and Country store on Lake Park Drive and Marks Melon Patch on Route 82 in Dawson (right outside of Albany and less than a 10-minute drive). You can locate more information on Marks Melon Patch, which is open daily in the summer, online at www.marksmelonpatch.com/. This site will provide you with information on what they currently have available.

Tommy Mc's currently has listed on its Facebook page the following produce available: squash, zucchini, eggplant, corn and tomatoes. They also have numerous other delicious food items available, mostly grown and produced in Georgia. It is definitely worth a trip to check out all the yummy goodies they have in stock throughout the year.

As I just mentioned a few of the summer vegetables that are in season right now, you can also find plenty of peas, green beans, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes available. One of the simplest and healthy ways to enjoy a few of these vegetables is cutting them up in bite size pieces, placing them on a baking sheet (sprayed with olive oil spray) and then also spraying the vegetables, sprinkle with salt or any other seasoning that you like and bake on 350 for about 30-35 minutes (longer if you want them crispy). Simple, healthy and delicious!

Vegetables add a tremendous amount of nutrients to your daily intake, but you have to remember that the way they are prepared makes all the difference. If they are fried instead of baked, steamed or roasted, you essentially deplete all the goodness that you want your kids and yourself to get. A kid favorite like French fries is a perfect example.

Potatoes (which are in abundance this time of the year), either white or sweet, can be prepared by baking instead of frying. Baked sweet potatoes or white potatoes are much healthier than when frying them. Again, it is as simple as cutting up potatoes lengthwise just like a French fry (they can be as big as you like) and placing them on an olive oil sprayed cooking sheet and then spray and season the potatoes with salt. Potatoes take a little longer than other vegetables to cook, so you should bake them at 350 for at least 45-50 minutes, or until they reach the desired crispness you want.

These are just a few ways to quickly enjoy a healthy vegetable dish. You can experiment with just about any vegetable you like. Just remember to prepare it the healthy way!

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).