MILWAUKEE - Shop at your local farmers market this season, and support farm families in your area and you'll find produce in season that's fresher than what's in a grocery store, says TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization.
1. Get in some exercise and scope out the best produce and prices by walking all the way around the market and looking at each booth before returning to make your purchases.
2. Be on the lookout for fresh-cut or potted herbs and spices that you can use as low-cal seasoning alternatives to butter, sour cream, dressings and mayonnaise.
3. Load up on greens and legumes, including beans, peas and lentils. Vegetables like carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini are delicious raw and easy to cut up for a quick snack or lunch.
4. Steer clear of stands with homemade goodies, such as pies, pastries and cookies, as well as vendors selling ice cream or anything fried.
5. Be sure to check labels on homemade jams, jellies, preserves or chutneys, as they may be high in sugar or salt. Ask the sellers about their ingredients.
6. Try to limit buying large amounts of produce that are also starches, including potatoes, corn, pumpkin and some types of squash and peas.
7. Keep an eye out for new foods to try. Don't be afraid to ask about an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable. Most vendors are happy to explain what it is and how you can prepare it at home.
8. Talk to vendors about which produce will keep for a long time or is good for canning or freezing. Apples, potatoes, squash and garlic will keep for many weeks or months when stored properly. Tomatoes and berries are great for canning. You can make your own salsas, sauces and jams, while controlling the amount of sugar, salt and additives you're eating.
9. Looking to treat yourself? Pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers or a bar of homemade soup at the farmers market instead of reaching for a sugary treat.
10. Make the trip a group outing. Encourage friends and family as you all enjoy the festive atmosphere, fresh air, and healthy foods.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 66 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a "Real People. Real Weight Loss." philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise and wellness information. TOPS has about 150,000 members male and female, age seven and older in thousands of chapters throughout te United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $28 per year in the U.S. and $32 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.