The leaves have turned orange and the air has become crisp. It’s time to reach into the top cupboard and pull out the box of scarves and beanies. It is wintertime! And during winter, our ‘farm-to-fork’ produce differs as all the winter fruit and veg start to stock the shelves.
The grocery stores have become decorated with fragrant citrus, oversized strawberries, pumpkins and parsnips and golden apples. ‘Eating in season’ means to consume food that is seasonally fresh and available, so as to utilise the fruit and veg at their prime. By doing so, we allow our families to receive nutrient dense, sustainable, non-GMO, organically fresh, and naturally ripened foods.
Eating seasonably fresh fruit and vegetables, is synonymous with the guidelines of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ which is not as much of a diet, but rather a lifestyle that we can all strive to live by. During the upcoming weeks, my kitchen is going to be filled with winter fruit and veg so that I can cook up a few of my winter favourites: roasted vegetable trays, hearty soups, homely curries and stews, and warm baked goodies!
If you, like me, love the ‘hygge’, cosiness and comfort in winter cooking, here are a few tips for ensuring your winter meals are rich with nutrients, tasty, and health promoting. Let’s chat about some of my favourites (remember to adjust textures and consistencies for children based on age):
Roasted Veggie Trays: One of my favourite meal components of a typical winter meal, is a roasted tray of mixed winter vegetables. In winter, our vegetable selection is magnificent. There are so many beautiful varieties of colourful vegetables that are rich with nutrients and fibre, the more colourful the better (read previous blog: ‘Eating the rainbow’).
They are beneficial for overall immune function, gut health, and bodily functions (for you and the family). I typically choose 5-6 different veggies to include in my mix (eg: red onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli, baby tomatoes, butternut, zucchini, etc). The majority of grocery stores sell ready-prepared/cut bags which are an easy and quick fix if you don’t have time to cut and peel veggies for the entire family every night. To add some flavour, I usually add a drizzle of honey, some crumbled feta, a squeeze of lemon for a bit of zing, fresh rosemary, and dried cranberries/dates for some sweetness!
This is a delicious winter meal that even the littlies can enjoy!
Hearty Soups: Whether you buy ready-made soups or make your own, soups are an easy ‘go-to’ winter meal that puts a smile on everyone’s face, especially when it allows you to throw any bits and pieces AND leftovers into a pot and make it into a new meal. If you are preparing your own soup, you should be aware of the high sodium content in soup powders and stock cubes when flavouring your soups. Typically, these products contain a lot of salt for flavour, which can be detrimental to our cardiac system and blood pressure. Try to use less of these flavourings, and include other methods of flavouring your soup like herbs, spices, garlic, onions, lemons, etc.
A great way to increase the satiety effects of your soup, try to include some protein sources like various beans and legumes, as well as adding a side of a whole grain bread to dip into your yummy soup.
Curries and Stews: Who doesn’t like a homely serving of steaming hot curry/stew on a cold winter evening? Similarly to preparing our soups, we need to remember the high sodium content of stock cubes when making our delectable dinners (utilise the other methods of flavouring as much as you can to be heart friendly).
If you’re cooking for a big family or cooking extra for meal prep, there are a few ways you can stretch the yield of your cooking to feed more mouths, for longer. Adding a bag of dried lentils, or a can or two of tinned beans (butter beans, chickpeas, kidney beans) etc. will not only enrich your meal with plant-based protein but grow the yield of your meal extensively.
Similarly, adding a bag of mixed veggies (even the frozen mixed veg varieties) will have the same effect, as well as increase the micronutrient content of the meal.
Warm baked goodies: What best to accompany a hot cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate on a rainy afternoon, with a scrumptious little baked goodie? During winter a steaming scone, aromatic cinnamon roll or a familiar apple crumble might just be the ‘something sweet’ to satisfy your tummy.
As a dietitian, people often assume that ‘sweets and treats’ are swear words in my vocabulary, and it is actually quite the opposite. I am an advocate for balance in our daily diets: an occasional indulgence is good for the soul and can be a much-needed serotonin booster (especially when our daily dose of sunshine is cut short by rain clouds and shortened daylight hours).
I cannot recommend eating sugar-soaked delights for every meal, but restrictive diets that prohibit enjoying any non-nutritious foods can lead to unhealthy eating habits and create a destructive relationship with food. This is important to learn from a young age (read previous blog: ‘Let them eat cake’).
If you’re baking your own goodies, a tip to highlight the essence of winter: add cinnamon and nutmeg (2:1) to your mixtures… Thank me later!
Eat seasonal this winter: Nourish your, and your family’s, bodies with nutritious winter meals that promote health and wellness. Enjoy the warmth and comfort that food offers when the cold winter air is relentless.
Head to the FARMacy before the PHARMacy: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Hippokrates
Georgia Burnett (Registered Dietitian, Sweet Paeds) – RD, BScHONS
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