It can be hard to fight where we’ve come from – cave-dwelling, meat-eating hunters and gathers. Especially in winter, when many of us crave more substantial calorie-rich meals, even though we may not need that much ‘fuel’, because we’re exercising less due to poor weather.
But if you find yourself thinking about food far too often during winter, how can you fight back? Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella has compiled a list of her tips and winter food winners and explains how they can help us through the colder months.
Change up to warm up
When winter hits and the outside temperature drops, it’s a good idea to change your food choices to suit the season. Move away from the summery health foods of cold salads and smoothies and warm up from the inside by eating more cooked and warm foods.
Many of us do this automatically and start to crave winter-warming meals such as soups and stews in the colder months.
You can also increase the warming power of food by adding certain herbs and spices. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice can be used in sweet and savoury dishes for an added kick of warmth. Add a pinch or two of your favourites as you cook your porridge, soup or roasted veggies.
Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots
To satisfy the ‘carb’ cravings that often come with winter, include these orange-coloured options.
Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene – a nutrient the body can convert to vitamin A and use to aid our immune system. It helps to form our body’s first line of defence against colds, viruses and other infections that are common in the colder months.
Sweet potatoes can be used wherever you would use regular potatoes – mashed, roasted or steamed – and contain more beneficial nutrients than their paler cousins. Roasted carrots add a naturally sweet element to other vegetables or a roast.
Start your dinner with soup
Having a small bowl of veggie soup before your main meal is a great way to boost your daily vegetable intake. It can also help to manage potential winter weight gain, by reducing the amount of food you eat in the meal overall.
Soups can also form the whole meal. This cauliflower and cannellini bean soup is a delicious and extremely quick meal to prepare and especially suited to the winter months when cauliflower is in season. Other great combinations are lentil, barley and vegetable, chicken and vegetable, and lamb shanks and vegetable.
Why not make a big batch of soup and freeze portions for the days and weeks ahead.
Don’t skip the protein
A key nutrient to pay attention to during winter is zinc. This mineral helps our immune system to recognise and destroy invading bacteria and viruses, so being low in zinc can make you more likely to pick up winter bugs.
Proteins are the best sources of zinc.
Always include a fist-sized portion of protein at every meal. Animal sources of protein are meats, eggs, fish and dairy. Lower amounts are found in vegetable sources such as pulses/legumes, for example beans, chickpeas and lentils, as well as seeds and nuts.
The zinc in these vegetable sources is more available if they are sprouted, so soaking overnight in water starts this sprouting process.
The power of herbal teas
Instead of warming up with another tea or coffee, have your favourite herbal teas close at hand. Ginger tea has been traditionally used to boost circulation, it’s anti-inflammatory and wonderfully calming to the digestive system. Real chai tea [not powdered] is another good option. It can be bought as a tea blend and is made with a combination of warming herbs and spices.
An added bonus of drinking herbal teas in winter is that they help you to stay hydrated if you feel less inclined to drink water.
Find out more about healthy eating and access more recipes and quick tips by visiting the Jean Hailes Kitchen.
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