Put down that punnet of out-of-season strawberries and fill your trolley with fresh, seasonal foods this winter, says Angela Phillips.
During the cooler seasons, our typical meal patterns and food preferences change, which is a good thing, as we should change our eating according to the season. Typical winter fare consists of “hearty meals”, increased portions, and increased snacking. One common comment when it comes to winter is the lack in variety of fruits and vegetables available. While this may be the case, it is important to avoid taste fatigue during these months and aim to keep things interesting!
First and foremost, focus on providing your family with health-giving variety, as we get different benefits from different foods. Ensuring you have a variety of vegetable colours in each meal helps to achieve these diverse benefits, including the all-important boosted immune function required during winter. If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable garden, aim to keep up with fresh produce by planting Kiwi favourites such as beetroot, broccoli, the cabbage family, hardier lettuce types, kale, spinach, snow peas, shallots, radish, garlic, broad beans, and onions. These will be ideal to pick for soul-warming soups. If these are not in your garden already, they are in season at the moment, so head to the local farmers market for your supplies or these same vegetables can also be planted now for spring harvest.
Buying fruit and vegetables that are not in season results in produce having travelled in from overseas, clocking up significant “food miles” and polluting the environment. They have also sat for longer in fridges, losing some of their nutritional value. Always keep an eye on where your produce has come from, and aim to keep as many choices as possible from Aotearoa. Why eat oranges from overseas when our own orchards harvest such beautiful citrus fruits?
In addition to boosting your nutrition and health, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season helps to reduce your costs. Keep a list of in-season vegetables on your fridge, and try to plan your meals around these. Winter meals typically freeze and reheat well, so you can cook in bulk and save costs (and time) this way also.
Enjoy the comfort of heart-warming winter food while keeping good nutrition first in your mind. Take up the challenge to seek out new recipes that will add interest and nutrition value to winter meals.
winter meal creativity
Often people find they eat more during winter, and while your body does need slightly more food to help keep your body temperature up, it can lead to unwanted weight gain. There are so many tasty winter dishes you can make, packed with nutrients but not high in weight-gaining calories. Try this chicken chowder recipe, which is super-easy to cook, and even my little girls love it. If you can get your youngsters to eat soup, try sending them to school with a thermos of soup for lunch. If they have access to a fridge at school, leftover beef stew can be very tasty inside a wrap. Leftover roast vegetables make a great salad, or if they can heat their lunches at school, the world is your oyster for winter lunches, so pack those leftovers in!
1 swede, cut into small cubes
1-2 cups pumpkin, cut into small cubes
1-2 cups cauliflower, cut into small cubes
5 portobello mushrooms, sliced or cut into small cubes
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
1-2 kumara, cut into small cubes
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced
1-2 carrots, sliced
2-3 bay leaves
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
Reduced-salt chicken stock
1 tbsp oil
400g chicken, cut into small pieces
1 leek, sliced
1–1½ cups corn
Salt and pepper
> Place swede, pumpkin, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, kumara, celery, carrots, bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme in a pot, then cover with reduced-salt chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are cooked through.
> Meanwhile, heat oil in a frypan and cook chicken pieces and leek.
> 15 minutes prior to serving, add chicken and leek to soup pot, along with corn.
> Thicken soup with flour if needed, and season with salt
and pepper to taste.
Try this…Chicken and fennel bulb salad
1 large fennel bulb, finely sliced
½ cup walnuts
2 pears, finely sliced
Large handful of greens
Squeeze of lemon
¼ cup crumbled feta or haloumi
For the dressing
1 tbsp honey
1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
> Toss salad ingredients together.
Add shredded chicken.
> Combine dressing ingredients
and drizzle over salad to serve.
In season this winter
Keep an eye out for these fruits and vegetables that are in season during June and July.
Grapefruit • Kiwifruit • Lemons • Limes • Mandarins • Passionfruit • Rhubarb • Tamarillos
Buttercup squash • Butternut pumpkin • Aubergine • Fennel • Leek • Parsnip • Turnips • Swede • Watercress • Yams
Angela Phillips is a dietitian specialising in paediatrics, food intolerances, and weight management. Her practice, FoodSavvy (foodsavvy.co.nz) is based in Wellington and Nelson.