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Healthy Meals in the Field for Farm Families

DECATUR, Ill.— Farmers across Illinois are spending long hours in the fields and farm families are shifting mealtime from the kitchen table to the field. Being in the middle of a field without kitchen conveniences like microwaves, refrigerators, and sinks requires farmers, workers, and farm families to get creative with meals and snacks. In the busyness of the season, Illinois Extension provides these tips to help in shopping for, preparing, and delivering meals and snacks with nutrition and food safety in mind.

Caitlin Mellendorf, nutrition and wellness educator and registered dietitian, recommends aiming for three to five food groups at each meal and to get in any un-eaten food groups as snacks. Different food groups have different nutrients, so having a mix of food groups throughout the day helps to ensure nutrient needs are met. When planning meals, try to include foods that contain fat, fiber, and protein. All three of these nutrients digest slowly and keep us full for longer. Choose heart-healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and oils, such as olive oil. All plant foods contain fiber, though processing tends to reduce fiber. Choose lean (lower fat) protein source and mix in plant-based protein, such as beans, for variety.

Remember to stay hydrated. Water is a great choice. Add a splash of 100% fruit juice, slices of citrus, or a small amount of powder or liquid water flavoring if plain water is not appealing. Tea and coffee provide hydration, though choose decaf if caffeine is a personal concern. Limit sweetened drinks, such as soda, sweet tea, fruit juice cocktails, and energy drinks.

To limit excess energy intake and promote positive digestion, give at least two hours between meals and snacks. For farmers that like to graze on food and drink all day and for farmers who tend to skip meals and eat one giant meal per day, practice moving away from this by setting regular eating times.

For more meal and snack ideas and nutrition information for farm families, download free “Meals in the Field” materials on the Know How, Know More blog. Or listen to Doug Gucker’s podcast “Out Standing in the Field” with guest Caitlin Mellendorf.

Source: Caitlin Mellendorf, MS, RD, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension 

Writer: Maria Lightner, Marketing and Communications, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities