How to Eat Smart Into the New Year and Beyond

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A few local foodies sing the praises of farmers' markets Maybe you want to eat right in 2013 but, like most New Yorkers, you're always in a hurry, and making good nutrition a priority doesn't come as easily as it should. Fortunately, there are ways to turn that perception around. Farmers' markets, like those open year-round in Union Square, on Greenwich Street in Tribeca and other spots in downtown Manhattan, allow you to buy "clean, organically grown produce, which is not only good for overall health but also decreases your body's overall exposure to toxins," according to Mary Barbour, a raw food and vegan personal chef who has been frequenting the Union Square market since 1994. "If your goal is to eat better or lose weight, then eating more fruits and vegetables will help you achieve that goal," Barbour says of the market's ample offerings. "Adding more whole, plant-based foods to your diet is the healthiest thing you can do, and farmers' markets make it easy," says Maria Guadagno, a health coach and natural food chef. While many of the markets' offerings are already cheaper than what you would find at a health food store or regular supermarket, Barbour says that to get the best deals, you should wait until the market's closing for reduced prices. "Showing up week after week doesn't hurt either," she adds. Developing a relationship with growers also helps you understand exactly what you're buying and what to do with it. Guadagno says the markets are extremely accessible and most of the produce has been picked the same day or the day before. People may have the perception that farmers' markets are less prevalent-or have less bounty-in the winter, but Barbour says that's "definitely not true." "It's the time of year for heartier and root vegetables like cauliflower, cabbages, beans, potatoes, onions, parsnips and beets," she explains. "You can get your dark leafy greens from collards. I like to think of it as comfort-food season, when you can make delicious soups, pot pies and roasted vegetables." Farmers' markets offer many seasonal items that cannot be found in grocery stores. "The market in the wintertime is magical," says Guadagno, noting that leafy greens are a smart addition to any meal. Barbour urges farmers' market newbies to set realistic goals, as we should all do when it comes to new year's resolutions. "I like to tell people to not get too ambitious with the farmers' markets," she says. "It's horrible to buy lots of perishables and then throw them out because they were unused." Barbour says if you're pressed for time, juice bars can be a helpful, nutritious alternative to grabbing the whole foods yourself. "One Lucky Duck, Liquiteria or Whole Green are great for juices," she says. "It's like having all your servings of daily veggies in a cup." Guadagno recommends the vegetarian restaurant Rawvolution on 12th Street. "Have the Big Matt," she says. It's "a vegan take on the hamburger, made with mushroom." Guadagno also speaks highly of Maoz, a chain falafel shop, and Westerly, a health food store in Midtown. You certainly don't have to go vegan to eat healthy this year, but shopping farmers' markets and increasing your general fresh-produce intake will go a long way toward facilitating better and easier nutrition.

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