The New Year is upon us and for many that means resolutions of healthy, clean eating. On Martha’s Vineyard we are fortunate to have access to dozens of local farms and purveyors that can provide us with the resources to help us stay true to our commitments of good health, while supporting the local food community.

Our friends at Island Grown Initiative (IGI) actively support a resilient and equitable food system on Martha’s Vineyard by providing food and agriculture education, and developing infrastructure to make a year-round local food system viable. As part of their mission they strive to educate Island children and families on the benefit of eating healthy, locally grown food, through Island Grown Schools (IGS), a community food education program.

Each month IGS designates a Harvest of the Month, highlighting a locally available crop in school cafeterias, restaurants and grocery stores across Martha’s Vineyard.

According to islandgrownschools.org Martha’s Vineyard was the first school system in Massachusetts to pioneer Harvest of the Month in 2012-3, and is now working with the Massachusetts Farm to School Project to spread their model across the state. Pretty incredible, huh? In efforts to help support this important cause we’ll be regularly promoting each month’s Harvest of the Month on our blog.

For January that means focusing on whole grains, a critical component to a healthy diet, that are packed with nutrients and fiber that have been proven to help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease–just to name a few.  In Simple Green Suppers, the vegetarian cookbook I launched earlier this year with the incredibly talented Susie Middleton, an entire chapter was devoted to Susie’s appreciation for grains.

Foods like corn, wheat, rice, and oats are abundant in their versatility and can be easily incorporated into just about any meal! They can be prepared wholesomely and deliciously, to complement a hearty protein or antioxidant rich vegetarian meal, or used as a standalone snack. They’re a healthier alternative to pasta and other starch heavy foods and won’t leave you feeling bloated after you clear your plate.

Start off the New Year with theses healthy substitutions and you’ll quickly feel the difference, and see it too. Some of our favorites include farro, wheat berry, barley, and quinoa. Need some more inspiration? Try Island Grown Schools recipe for Overnight Oats and see just how sweet whole grains can be.

Whole Grains

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

½ cup whole rolled oats

½ cup milk of choice (dairy, almond, coconut, soy)

1 tsp maple syrup (or you can mash ½ banana to replace sweetener)

1/8 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a coffee mug or 8oz mason jar and mix with a spoon until everything is combined. Cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to eat, give it one last stir and top with your favorite fixings!

*Add-ins/toppings: cinnamon, fresh fruit, nuts, shredded coconut, dried goji berries, dollop of nut butter or yogurt, lemon zest, plain cooked quinoa for some extra protein and fiber!

*Tip: Use the last of your favorite nut butter jar as the container to make sure to use up all that hard-to-get peanut/almond butter!

 

Randi Baird is a founding member and president of Island Grown Initiative’s Board of Directors and has long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard.

 

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