As a kid we were often told to 'eat your veggies' but it turns out that not all vegetables are equal.
Dietician Nicole Barber says fresh really is best and choosing ones that have travelled a shorter distance to market is the key to a more nutritious meal.
She has shared her tips with shoppers at the Slow Food Earth Market Maitland in NSW's Hunter region as part of a new pop-up series that is honing in on wellbeing.
"When you are getting fresh produce you are getting a higher amount of vitamins and minerals which is better for your health," Ms Barber said.
"We lose those vitamins and minerals so quickly through handling and transporting and storage. Oranges can lose Vitamin C within the first two hours of them being picked."
But theres another important reason to focus on vegetables - and that is the link to gut health.
"Your gut health is often thought about like a garden bed. You want to have a really nice and rich intestinal wall, and that is supported by the more veggies you eat.
"Plants actually build up your gut wall because they are rich in prebiotic fibres and the more we are building that gut wall up the more you are creating a nice environment for gut bacteria.
"When you're trying to build your immune system and your health it all starts with your gut."
The approaching winter season is a great time to start meal planning and put a greater focus on eating seasonally, she said.
"If you can plan it so each meal has at least one veggie in it you're doing well," she said.
"Aim for your plate to be half filled with veggies of all different colours - if you can get 5 colours on your plate you are doing well but even three colours is a good start.
"The more we can include them throughout the day instead of just at the end of the day is much better for your health. They help to reduce oxidative stress, they do have lots of natural vitamins in there which help our cells and they have lots of fibre that fill us up. They are also low calories so they help to balance out plates nicely.
"An omelet is a way you can include it at breakfast. You can put them into smoothies or even into snacks."
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Ms Barber said the earth market offered the chance to buy a wider range of fresh food which would help to build good gut health.
"Cooked veggies break down the fibres so they are digested easier, but you do loose some nutrients. With raw veggies you have a higher water, vitamin and mineral content.
"At the end of the day having a good variety of veggies is best."
Ms Barber has been a dietician for over a decade and said people who ate more veggies soon felt the benefits.
"Most clients say within a few days they are feeling so much better and they have more energy and are snacking less during the day," she said.
"When we are hungry and we haven't planned what we are going to eat we often make a poor choice."
For those times during the week when making a meal from fresh produce isn't an option Ms Barber said frozen vegetables were the next best choice.
"They are snap frozen at harvest so they hold all of the nutrients, and it's a great alternative if you can't get to the earth market," she said.
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