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You ate them in February, from half a continent away, and they were flat and bland—passable, but nothing to write home about. Now, you take a bite from one grown half a mile away, and it’s spectacular—sweet, juicy, and flavorful.

We’re talking in this particular instance about tomatoes, but we could say the same thing about any of a dozen produce items you’ll find at your local farmer’s market now. 'Tis the season to eat fresh, as the tender new growth of spring ripens into the rich abundance of summer. So why settle for "so-so" when you can savor the sensational? Consider the benefits of eating foods at the peak of their season. Seasonal foods…
  • serve up the most flavor.
  • pack the biggest nutritional punch.
  • boost your budget.
  • are  tied to the special days and seasons of our lives: sweet, luscious watermelon paired with the memory of fireflies and fireworks; fragrant hearty soups that temper winter’s chill; sweet young vegetables that accompany spring’s first warm day.

As consumers today, we’re very lucky in some respects. The crisscross networks of our global village provide things our ancestors could only dream about, such as oranges in December. On the other hand, as we shed our rural roots, we tend to lose sight of the seasonal rhythm of life, relying heavily on processed foods and a worldwide distribution system that makes our grocery shelves look pretty much the same year-round. The out-of-season produce we buy has often traversed 1,000 miles or more by the time it reaches our kitchens—with a corresponding loss of flavor and nutrition and an increase in wax coatings, chemical ripening agents, and other preservatives.

But locally-grown seasonal foods often harmonize with our nutritional needs. For example, the beta carotene in the orange pigment of pumpkins and other squash will help bolster your immune system just in time to help ward off winter colds. And the oils of nuts—fats in their purest form—will provide nutrient-rich calories that help keep you warm as the temperature drops.

Read more: Seasonal Foods Exceptional Flavor & Nutrition that Fits in Your Budget

Pool parties, beachfront vacations, and water park adventures…ahhh the joys of summer are almost upon us! To celebrate the causal, relaxed pace of the season, SparkPeople is happy and excited to introduce The Bikini Diet, a fun and simple way to control portions, shed a few pounds, and feel fit and energized.

There is no weighing food, no carrying around measuring cups and spoons, no special foods to purchase or prepare. The Bikini Diet can be used at home with the family, at the neighborhood cookout, or when dining out with friends. So bring that itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini back into your life—it’s a wonderful tool when it comes to healthy eating.

Bikini Tip #1: Start with a 9-inch plate.
You may not be surprised to learn that as our waistlines have increased, so have the sizes of our plates. Get our your plate and measure its diameter with a ruler—don’t eyeball it. If your plate is bigger than 9 inches, put it back on the shelf and get a new one!

Bikini Tip #2: Visualize a bikini on your nine-inch plate.
  • The bikini top has two bra cups that each cover one-fourth of the plate.
    • A serving of meat, legumes, or tofu should fit on one of the bra cups. Notice that a 10-ounce steak will not fit, but a 3-ounce steak will.
    • Place your choice of bread, rice, pasta, or starchy vegetable (such as corn, potatoes, peas, or lima beans) on the other bikini bra cup, also covering one-fourth of the plate.
  • The bikini bottom covers the lower half of your plate and will hold your vegetables and salad. You can select a large portion of one vegetable or salad, or smaller portions of several.
An 8-ounce bottle of sunscreen is the perfect visual to represent the amount of low-fat milk to enjoy with your meal.

Bikini Tip #4: Sweeten with fruit.
Picture a tennis ball, balancing inside a large seashell. Your fruit selection should be about the size of that tennis ball. You can enjoy your fruit with your meal, or save it for a snack later in the day.
  • When selecting berries or melon, you can enjoy 2 fruit selections, since these types of fruit are low in calories and high in water content.
  • On occasion, you may want to substitute a dessert in place of the fruit. This dessert portion should also fit into the shell.
Bikini Tip #5: Imagine a tube of sunscreen lip balm.
Add this amount of fat to your meal. This could be salad dressing, olive oil used to sauté vegetables, butter or margarine, sour cream, or mayonnaise for a sandwich.

Bikini Tip #6: For breakfast, think bikini top only.
Enjoy your meat and grain items on the bikini top. Add some low-fat milk the size of your sunscreen bottle, and fruit that fits in your large shell.

Bikini Tip #7: The bikini body is an active body.
The Bikini Diet encourages getting

Nourishing your family's health and growing appetite are probably among your highest priorities. You can satisfy both priorities with kale, the super food that should be on everyone's grocery list. Kale is called a "super food" because it packs more nutrition per calorie than almost any other food. Unfortunately many people haven't a clue how to prepare the stuff usually seen only as garnish beside the onion rings.

Follow these simple instructions for delicious, tender, steamed kale:
1. Select dark green crisp leaves.
2. Wash kale in cold water to remove sand or dirt.
3. Fold the kale in half, lengthwise, hold the base of the stem and rip the leaves from the stem.
4. Chop leaves and add to a steamer basket and place in a pan of boiling water, filled just to the base of the basket, and cover.
5. Steam for about 4-5 minutes, then check for tenderness.
6. Kale cools rapidly, so enjoy immediately.

You can eat it plain, spritz it with soy sauce, sauté it with garlic and olive oil, or toss it into soups. Use it in place of cooked spinach in your favorite recipes.

Even kids like kale--especially if you start them on it young. Prepare as directed, then mince very finely. Serve it plain or mix it with some whole wheat pasta and they'll gobble it right up. If that doesn't work, try tossing it into their favorite soup.


There are a lot of things that can conspire to keep you up all night: The slumping markets. The rising prices. That recurring nightmare about being chased down the street by Steven Tyler's lips. But if you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep, here's a culprit you might not have looked at: Your diet. Turns out that plenty of late-night snacks can actually interfere with sleep—and conspire to make you gain more weight than you should.

It's true: When food keeps you awake at night, it's actually doing a double-whammy on your tummy. In a study from Wake Forest University, adults younger than 40 who slept 5 hours or less gained more abdominal fat over a 5-year period than those who slept for 6 or 7 hours a night. (You think Jimmy Kimmel looks like that by accident?) And worse, in a recent study from the European Heart Journal, researchers found that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night are at a higher risk for certain health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

What are these late-night dietary double-crossers? And how can you tweak your diet so you not only burn calories day and night, but get the added fitness burst of a good night's sleep? Eat This, Not That! has (tirelessly) compiled a list. Let's find out...

Beef Ribeye (8 oz)
565 calories
33.5 g fat (13 g saturated)

If you eat dinner late, avoid big, fatty beef cuts. They digest slowly, which means your body has to keep active when you want it to be in shutdown mode. Plus, the heavy dose of protein will pump you full of tyrosine, an amino acid that triggers neurons in your brain to become more active. That's not something you want before you nod off. If you must appease your grumbling, stick with poultry as your main meat. The tryptophan in turkey and chicken induces serotonin, a compound that plays an instrumental role in regulating sleep cycles. And the bun that holds the chicken? That helps, too. An Australian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that starchy carbs—like the ones in bread—can bolster the tryptophan and serotonin spikes.

Eat This Instead!
Grilled Chicken Sandwich
400 calories
15 g fat (3 g saturated)

DID YOU KNOW? Grocery cart handles are dirtier than bathrooms, and half of them carry E. coli, says a new University of Arizona study. Discover more surprising health, nutrition, and weight loss secrets like this by following me on Twitter right here (where I'm giving a FREE iPad 2 to a lucky follower) or by signing up for our FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter. And check out Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide. It'll help you navigate the jungle of 60,000 supermarket choices and lose weight while eating your favorite foods.


Read more: The Worst Late Night Snacks

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