man and woman cheering wine glass over dinner table

Live Comfortably - November 25, 2019

As temperatures drop, we often turn to comfort foods and find it challenging to stick to a healthy diet. Yet with small shifts in focus and smart food choices, we can make fall and winter dishes as nutritious as they are delicious. To offset cravings for salt, fat and sugar, here are some cold-weather superfoods to energize your days. They’ll provide the nutrition you need to sleep better, boost your immune system and nurture the best health for you and your loved ones now and as the seasons change.

Healthy Holiday Tweaks

Holiday cookies, cakes, fried foods and rich gravies can torpedo even the healthiest diet. Consider a few additions or substitutions that will pack seasonal feasts with nutrients as well as flavor. 

For the traditional main attraction over the winter holidays, trade the salty, nitrate-laced ham for a roasted natural, fresh (or “heritage”) turkey that’s lower in fat as well as a great source of protein, B vitamins, potassium, iron and zinc.

Not everything has to go. Many traditional Thanksgiving ingredients are available throughout the cold season and are nutrient-dense and versatile. Pumpkin is a squash superstar, packed with the antioxidant beta-carotene, vitamin K and fiber. This can make classic pumpkin pie an easy and healthy dessert. Sweet potato is also high in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Winter acorn squash, butternut squash, kabocha and spaghetti squash are all low in calories and rich in vitamins A, B6, C and E; as well as potassium, magnesium and lutein—a plant compound beneficial to eye health.

Cranberries are packed with vitamin C, manganese and copper; they also can help prevent urinary tract infections. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare in a saucepan, so skip the can! Another ruby superfood of fall is pomegranate. This nutritious fruit offers vitamins C and K, folate and potassium. Pomegranate’s punicalagin compounds are said to have three times the antioxidant benefits of green tea.

Add a Cruciferous Crunch

Winter’s cruciferous veggies are true cold-weather superfoods. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy are among this extended cabbage family. Studies have shown they may lower cancer risk and boost health in many ways, thanks to phytochemicals that fight disease and help detoxify carcinogens.

Kale is also packed with vitamin A; broccoli with vitamin C; and Brussels sprouts with vitamin C, folic acid, and a whopping dose of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Kale salad has become a popular and ubiquitous menu item, and there’s no shame in grabbing a bagged variety! Cauliflower is sweet and tender when roasted and you can even toss it in buffalo sauce for a healthy game-day snack. 

Get Back to Your Roots

Our rural ancestors had root cellars for a reason—to preserve a season’s worth of nutritious food until spring. Root vegetables also form the root of health. Flavorful carrots are rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, which helps protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease, while their high levels of vitamin C helps boost the immune system.

The parsnip, a relative of the carrot that is high in vitamins, potassium and dietary fiber, is an ancient vegetable beloved by the Romans. Beets also have a long and popular history. Despite their sugar content, they are low in calories and fat and especially rich in minerals, including iron, manganese and potassium. Their natural dietary nitrates and betalain pigments may also help lower blood pressure, improve athletic performance and counter inflammation.

Eating healthy in the fall and winter simply involves mindfulness, taking care of ourselves and creating good habits. Once we discover how delicious the superfoods of fall and winter are, it’s easy to transform cozy meals into the ideal fuel for chilly days and nights to foster good health all year

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