What are the best seasonal healthy winter foods?

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Answered by: Nina, An Expert in the Nutrition - General Category
Food Therapy

Whether you live in the frigid Adirondacks or the just-below-tee-shirt-temperature valleys of Southern California, wintertime can be a drag. When clouds cover the sky and the thermometer takes a plunge, even the most chipper optimist may wither into a dreary seasonal slump. Luckily, there is a cure for chilly-weather woes—food! Healthy winter foods are chock-full if vitamins and minerals, and are simple to prepare in the cozy comfort of your home kitchen.

Winter is root vegetable season and beets, potatoes, squash and onions are all prime for the picking. Beets are excellent sources of folate and manganese, contain cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, and have been credited with granting borscht-loving Russians their infamous longevity. Potatoes, given an unfair rap due to their high carbohydrate content, are great sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. Flavorful varieties of squash such as butternut, acorn and hubbard contain plenty of beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as vitamins E and B6, potassium and fiber.

Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga and cabbage are also in season this time of year. All are very low in calories, and contain loads of fiber as well as vitamins A and C. Cruciferous veggies also have disease-fighting phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer. Some unexpected fruits like oranges, kiwis, pomegranates and avocados also make winter appearances. These are all packed with antioxidants to help ward off winter colds and flus.

In addition to fruits and veggies, wintertime brings a fresh assortment of super-healthy shellfish. Oyster season spans all months containing the letter “r,” and these bivalves provide complete protein as well as a rainbow of minerals such as iron, zinc, copper and selenium. Clams and mussels, also packed with protein and nutrients, are in season throughout the winter as well.

So let the grey clouds loom, and the chill permeate the air—few cases of wintertime blues can’t be cured by a steaming hot, soul-satisfying, meal crafted from healthy winter foods. Try a veggie lasagna with nonfat or low-fat cheeses, made with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and grated carrots. Another option is oyster stew. Many versions are heavy on the cream and butter, so look for a broth-based recipe that doesn't have all the added fat. Sandwiches are another simple option. Stuff them with avocado, onions, greens and cheese. Use mustard for moisture and flavor, and forgo the calorie-laden mayo; the avocado provides all the creaminess you need. Use a whole-grain bread like rye, and press in a panini grill or toast the bread for warmth.

If simplicity is your game, boil some whole-grain pasta and follow the "three-ingredient rule" by tossing with garlic, clams and broccoli, with a tablespoon of olive oil to pull the dish together. Frittatas are another simple option—all you need are eggs, veggies and a cast-iron skillet. Another cold-weather favorite is stuffed squash, which looks stunning on the plate. Use wild rice, garlic, spices and parmesan cheese. If you're a potato lover, pop a few in the oven or mash with garlic, a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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