Tag Archives: seasonal eating

Easy Seasonal Eating For Winter

Seasonal eating is something I feel passionately about – but seasonal eating for winter can be harder than in other seasons because it’s, well, winter.  So here are some easy ways to incorporate some seasonal into your diet and to help your body manage the season in the best ways possible.

Why Eat Seasonally?

It’s easy to dismiss this as a hippy/trendy kind of idea that has no real merit, but seasonal eating is the cornerstone of many ancient and holistic medical traditions.  Of course there are the side benefits of getting to buy from local farmers and not having to let your food wilt during cross-country (or cross-globe shipping) but the big thing really is health.  In the winter this is especially important because your body’s needs change with the more extreme outdoor climate (yes, even in Texas).  Your body uses more energy for basics like warmth and you may find yourself needing more sleep in the colder, darker winter months. So here are some seasonal Eating tips that optimize winter veggies and your winter health.

Love Your Squash (And Their Seeds)

Squash is just about the quintessential winter vegetable and comes in many tantalizing varieties including acorn, winter, delicata, pumpkin, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, kabocha, and crook-neck. With names like that it’s hard not to be intrigued. All of these squash have yellow to orange flesh, which is saturated with healthy carotenoids – which are compounds in the vitamin A family. All of the orange/yellow veggies have these carotenoid nutrients by color – it’s literally the colored pigments that supply the nutrition. These carotenoids, some of which convert to vitamin A, help boost your immunity against winter colds and flus, help to protect your dark vision (this is the dark season, after all) and are also high in potassium, vitamin B6 and folate. Additionally one serving of squash gives you half of your RDA of vitamin C, which also helps keep you protected from colds and flus. Nutritionally they provide lots of complex carbohydrates but very low sugars, which helps your body have the sustained energy it needs to help keep you warm and cozy.  Squash are also very filling because of the complex carbs, giving you the delightfully full-belly feeling that we all crave in the winter.

Squash and pumpkin seeds are also a great nutritional input in the winter and any squash seeds can be roasted and salted for a lovely crunchy snack. These seeds are high in good fats, protein and minerals and also add a tremendous boost to your immune system for this vulnerable time of year. Seasonal eating for winter isn’t so hard, right?

The Best Roast Squash and Pumpkin seeds:

Scoop the seeds out of the squash and remove most of the pulp.
Drizzle the seeds with a little olive oil and rub the oil onto the seeds so they’re coated
Spread the seeds out over a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until the seeds start to turn golden-brown.

Watch them carefully because once they start to brown they really brown in a hurry. The little bit of squash pulp and juice that is left on the seeds adds a nice flavor with the olive oil and salt, but be careful. These are totally addictive so if you’re planning on using them as a salad-topper or anything like that be sure to hide them from the family. Otherwise they’ll be gone in a flash.

Winter Greens – Nutrient-Packed Winter Goodness

In winter the cold-weather greens abound. Think cabbage and kale and Brussels sprouts. The cold weather keeps these greens sweet and tender and the greens help you to stay healthy and illness-free in the winter. These are nutritional powerhouses which are high in vitamins A, C, K and folate.  Also they have a good balance between complex carbs, fiber, protein and good fats. Also, Brussels sprouts cut in half and fried with bacon pieces is a treat beyond compare – seriously even non-veggie people love this.

Go For the Root Veggies

‘Tis the season for all the underground veggie goodness to get underway. Think beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes. A cubed root-veggie mix is perfect to drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 or so for a warming, nutrient-dense winter treat.  Roasted root veggies literally make you feel warm when you eat them and are also packed with the nutrients your body needs for the winter months.

Gorgeous root veggies - perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Gorgeous root veggies – perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Again these veggies are packed with vitamin A and other antioxidants, as well as the complex carbs needed to sustain warmth in the winter. Also high in fiber and highly filling.

Slow Cooked Soups and Stews – The Easiest Seasonal Eating for Winter Ever.

Of course the perfect food in the winter is slow-cooked.  Pot roast with root veggies, slow-cooked stew, veggie-rich chili, or homemade chicken soup.  These are the foods that warm and nourish you. The slow-cooking does all of the heavy digestive work for you and these foods are mostly broken-down and actually make you feel warm inside. In Traditional Chinese Medicine slow cooked foods are appropriate for winter when your body needs heat and easy nourishment and when warmth is a priority. Also the slow cooking releases all of the nutrients from root veggies and softens them up so a lovely roast surrounded by root veggies is the quintessential winter dish. Seasonal eating for winter makes sense on this level – you’re semi-hibernating and need easy nutrition that keeps you warm and cozy and is the food equivalent of fuzzy socks and a fireplace.  The fall-apart in your mouth meat of a pot-roast is just what you need to warm up. Also as long as you’re using grass fed, grass finished beef you’re getting a good dose of omega-3 fats, iron to build your blood and easy to digest protein.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. It’s exactly what you want on a cold day. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

Seasonal eating for winter sounds like it should be difficult, but just follow your gut. The squash heaped in gorgeous piles around the farmers market are begging to be eaten. All of those crisp winter greens are packed with nutrients and the colorful root veggies tempt your senses.  Best of all, the slow-cooked soups and stews that feel so good on a cold day are exactly what your body wants for health.

Why Should You Eat Seasonably?

Sure sure, you’ve probably heard that you should eat seasonably. It seems like there’s always a new trend with food – eat five colors a day, eat Dr. So-and-so’s diet, only ever eat grapefruits, etc…  Some of these trends just happen to be good advice that gets popular because it’s actually good advice  (some are just, well, trends).  When you see the grapefruit swap out for cabbage or soup  but everything else about the fad diet is the same you can bet it was probably a fad without a whole lot of anything to back it up. But what about eating seasonably?

Eat Seasonably!

Eat Seasonably Calendar from eatseasonably.co.uk. For the full size version, please click the link below.

Seasonal Eating Calendar from eatseasonably.co.uk

Eat Seasonably (The Basics):

This isn’t anything fancy – it’s literally just eating the foods that are in season in your area when they’re at their peak.  This means you’re eating a whole lot more Spring foods in Spring, like asparagus and early greens. More Summer foods in Summer like peaches and melons and you guessed it, more Fall foods in the Fall. Bring on the pumpkins!  This makes sense in a lot of ways:

  • You Get the Best Flavor Eating Seasonably. Eating the foods that are in season right now means that everything you eat is at it’s peak freshness and maximal nutrient value.  You are getting the best of everything as it’s ripening and NOT getting the limp produce that’s been shipped across the globe unripe and hung out in airplanes and trucks for days before getting to you.
  • You Help The Earth. Eating the foods that are in season in your area right now, means you’re more likely to be eating local produce that doesn’t have to be shipped and that’s grown by local farmers in your own community. Not only are you contributing to your local economy, but you’re also reducing the pounds and pounds of produce that are shipped all over the globe every day.
  • You Get the Best Nutrition. Produce that ripens fully before it’s picked has had the best opportunity to absorb as many nutrients as it can from the earth. It’s developed it’s antioxidants more fully and so is nutritionally a richer, more complete source of the things you need.
  • You Participate in the Great Mystery.  Here’s the thing – there is a design in this universe that is so much bigger than we are.  Some people say it’s coincidence, but I say it’s too good to be coincidence.  The foods that are ripening in the summer when it’s hottest also happen to be the foods that have the most cooling effects on your body (think watermelon and cucumber).  The root veggies that mature in the fall help your body to nourish itself deeply in preparation for the cold to come in Winter.  The garlic, onions, horseradish and spicy foods of Northern climates help to thicken your blood to prepare for cold winters while the Jalapenos and peppers of the Southern climates thin your blood to help you weather the overly-hot summers.  Coincidence? I think not. When you eat seasonably you allow this great mystery into your life.

Your environment is meant to nourish and sustain you and help you exist in that little piece of the world.  So sure, you could buy more frozen peas or frozen corn or grapes shipped from Chile (nothing against you folks in Chile), but what are you missing here at home? Is it possible that your next Texas summer might be easier because you’re eating your local Texas produce as it ripens through the year?  And think about the animals “ripening” as well.  There’s a reason that we eat turkey at Thanksgiving and it isn’t just tradition – this is the season where turkeys are in their prime and we can derive the most benefit from their addition to our table. Eat seasonably this year and see what changes for you.

This past year I’ve been experimenting with my body to truly follow my instincts for foods that are ripe right now.  I can tell you there was a good three weeks where all I really wanted was watermelon and water with cucumber slices in it and I let myself follow that urge.  It’s possible that it’s coincidence, or that this summer wasn’t a horrible one, but I genuinely feel like I was able to enjoy the summer more and get out an do more because my body was able to withstand the heat with more grace.  I wasn’t quite so close to my pass-out point all the time.

Now that we’re coming into fall I’m craving roasted root veggies and pumpkin smoothies and all the wonderful things that it doesn’t make sense to eat in the summer.  I’m craving FALL FOOD. There are so many ways to know what’s in season in your area, but by far the simplest and most pleasurable is to just visit the farmer’s market.  Your local farmer’s market will have fresh produce from farmers who probably picked or harvested it within the last 24 hours.  No sitting around in trucks or spoiling in the supermarket – this is fresh and seasonal and I think will help your body to live in the world a little bit more easily.

Seasonal Food in Texas Month-by-Month:

Here’s a great list from the National Resource Defense Council of Texas seasonal foods month by month which also has a farmer’s market finder.


Happy Eating Everyone!