It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter, and I, for one, LOVE it! The Connecticut-born part of me loves almost all parts of Texas except the weather … I’ll take Northeast winters over Texas summers any day! Give me sweaters, blankets, soups and stews, hot tea, and runs in the snow flurries, and I’m a happy camper! As long as I don’t have to drive in icy conditions, I’m a diehard winter lover.
Preferences aside, though, winter is a time when people tend to eat fewer vegetables. The Farmer’s Markets aren’t booming, the tomatoes start tasting mealy instead of juicy, and the produce section of the grocery store somehow doesn’t look as exciting as it did just a few months ago. I want to help you prevent these obstacles from getting in the way of your health!
So, here are my top 10 ways to eat (and enjoy!) vegetables in the winter:
- Switch to heartier salad bases. The idea of a light salad of mixed greens might not sound as appealing, but heartier salad bases like cabbage, kale, and arugula can reach the goal of filling your plate with nutrients while still tasting winter-y. One of my favorite salads is a base of cabbage and kale, topped with roasted butternut squash cubes, beets, brussels sprouts, and asparagus. I like to add some baked chicken or grilled salmon for protein, and drizzle on Tessemae’s Honey Poppyseed dressing. It’s so tasty, filling, and the perfect balance of hearty and healthy to fuel a productive afternoon!
- Enjoy a satisfying bowl of (vegetable-based) pasta. This is a great time of year for zucchini noodles (or zoodles), butternut squash noodles, beet noodles, or even shirataki pasta (also called “miracle noodles”). Add on some protein, some extra veggies, and some delicious sauce, and call it healthy comfort food! Here are my favorite spiralized vegetable recipes.
- Enjoy soups and stews. Soups and stews just give you that comforting feeling, right? Well, they’re not only tasty, but also healthy, and can be a great way to sneak in some extra vegetables! Just like any meal, I aim for at least ½ the volume of my soups and stews to be vegetables; the rest can be broth, protein, or beans. If you don’t have a crockpot (here’s mine!) or Instant pot (here’s mine!), they would be wonderful additions to Santa’s list! And if you do, check out my favorite crockpot meals here and my favorite Instant Pot recipes here!
- Have them prepared in advance. I know, you’re tired, the days are shorter, you want to fill your time with Christmas movies instead of kitchen prep … but preparation still reigns when it comes to making our health goals easier. I don’t know about you, but the chances of me heading down to the kitchen, whipping out a cutting board, chopping up a bell pepper, and washing everything around 3pm when I want a snack … is about zero. But, if I have a veggie pack made up for me (I use Stasher bags), I’m very likely to grab it, and I always feel SO much more energized, stable, and satisfied when I do!
- Try new seasonal veggies (and fruits). I know it’s easy to get stuck in the rut of celery, tomatoes, and berries (or whatever your top choices might be), but winter is a great time to practice eating more seasonally! Winter fruits include clementines, grapefruits, oranges, pears, persimmons, and pomegranates. Winter vegetables include artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, parsnips, radishes, turnips, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. For more, check out this free seasonal produce guide!
- Remember their benefits. Eating an adequate variety and quantity of vegetables is one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation, fend off cravings, slow down aging, fend off chronic diseases, increase energy, and improve digestion. So basically, everything about your health gets better when you eat more vegetables! When we focus on the positives, it becomes a bit easier to prioritize and enjoy them!
- Be OK without fresh. Fresh, seasonal, local, organic, ripe, just-picked produce will always be the “best.” But, let’s face it, we don’t always live in a perfect world, and frozen vegetables are an amazing substitute! In fact, they’re frozen at the peak of their ripeness, which means most of the nutrients are still intact when you eat them. Contrast that to the average piece of “fresh” produce in the grocery store, which has been sitting in trucks or on shelves for weeks and has depleted a lot of its nutrient content! Feel fine about loading up on frozen veggies – they’re cheaper, often more readily available, and can be just as delicious if you prepare them right.
- Roast them up! Roasting makes almost every vegetable taste better! My easy-breezy formula is to preheat the oven 400-425 degrees, spray a baking sheet with avocado oil, place the bite-sized veggies on the baking sheet, spray them again, sprinkle with seasoning or salt & pepper, and roast for 20-25 minutes depending on the vegetable. Starchier ones like potatoes or parsnips will require more time; lighter ones like zucchini or asparagus will require less. Monitor the oven and take them out as soon as they start to get crispy!
- Play with seasonings. I’ll admit that I’m a fan of plain old salt & pepper or a basic seasoning salt blend from Kroger. I also love Penzeys spices or Primal Palate spices. Play with different flavor combinations to find out what you prefer!
- Celebrate each time you get them in. If you haven’t checked out last week’s blog post, remember that it’s always helpful to make our health goals FUN! Do so by celebrating (big time!) every time you fit in an extra serving of veggies. You are amazing! Put a smile on your face and a pep in your step … you’re treating your body well.
Now it’s your turn … How do you enjoy vegetables in the winter? Which of these tips do you want to try?