Do you find yourself pleading with your child, niece or nephew to eat fruits and vegetables? Do you have difficulty pulling them away from the screen to play outside? Perhaps the answer lies in gardening. A study conducted by Auburn University investigated the impact of a school garden and nutrition education on the knowledge, preference and actual consumption of fruits and vegetables among second-grade students. Results revealed that a combination of nutrition education and gardening (rather than either intervention alone) led to a significantly greater knowledge and taste preference for vegetables and resulted in the greatest likelihood of children choosing vegetables in a lunchroom setting. “California Healthy Cities” shows that participation in school and community gardens increases an individual’s physical activity per week and consumption of fruits and vegetables per day.

            Research strongly associates various forms of “tending to nature” such as gardening with health benefits. Those who engage with nature are more likely to participate in other forms of physical activity and healthy behaviors. Data indicates mere exposure to nature and the ecosystem improves an individual’s perceived quality of life and lowers markers of stress. Interacting with nature also improves adolescent attentiveness and cognitive development all the while building a sense of cohesiveness within a community setting. Fields to Families is one nonprofit organization in the Charleston area always looking for volunteers to help pick unwanted produce to deliver to those in need. The organization’s mission is to “help increase nutrition and ease hunger by coordinating the distribution of fresh produce obtained from local gardens and farms to nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry.” Or pick up the shovel and start your own garden!

Raspberry smoothie- a refreshing summer smoothie packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium and heart healthy fats

Ingredients: ½ cup milk (lowfat dairy or vanilla almond milk), ½ cup plain yogurt, ½ cup raspberries, ½ banana, tsp honey, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, ice cubes. Blend all ingredients except honey in a blender until smooth, add honey to taste.