Local food best for diets

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005

BATON ROUGE – Following the unveiling of the new MyPyramid food guide by the USDA, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom is reminding Louisianans to shop for healthy food alternatives at their local farmers markets and roadside stands.

“Louisiana soils produce some of the best-tasting fruits and vegetables in the world,” Odom said. “Most everyone in the state, whether they live in an urban or rural area, is within a short driving distance of a farmers market or roadside stand. It’s worth the drive to get fresh, healthy alternatives. Plus, you support local farmers.”

The Department of Agriculture and Forestry has a list of farmers markets and roadside stands operating in the state on its Web site, www.ldaf.state.la.us <

“Communities are really good at publicizing their local markets and produce stands, so if you can’t get to our Web site, look in your newspaper for locations, dates and times,” Odom said. “The late spring and early summer months are when fresh, locally-grown produce is most abundant. Take advantage of the availability now because many of these foods can be frozen and cooked later.”

The new MyPyramid food guide recommends daily consumption levels of the food groups based on age, physical activity and sex. In general, women aged 19-50 should consume two and a half cups of vegetables each day. Men aged 19-50 should consume three cups of vegetables each day. All of these portion sizes will vary with age and physical activity levels.

Daily fruit consumption should total one and a half cups for women aged 31-50 and two cups for men of all ages.

“Dairy, or milk, is another important factor in the new pyramid. In Louisiana we’re fortunate to have several creameries that sell their milk and milk products fresh from the dairy. You can find these products at dairies, farmers markets and grocery stores,” Odom said.

The USDA recommends consuming three cups of milk or milk products daily for men and women of all ages.

Guidelines for children can be found on the MyPyramid.gov Web site.

Some fresh fruits and vegetables available in Louisiana during the spring and summer months include figs, mayhaws, watermelons, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, greens, peppers, squash and tomatoes.

The total value of Louisiana’s commercially grown vegetables is about $99 million; fruit is valued at about $17.8 million and sweet potatoes at about $151.6 million.

“As you can see, these healthy choices are important to the economy in our state,” Odom said. “When we eat locally-grown fruits and vegetables, everyone benefits.”