8 Fresh and Healthy Winter Foods, Plus 20 Ways to Use Them

Summer and fall seem to steal the show when it comes to fun and fresh foods, but I think winter is where it’s at. Winter continues the fall trend of rich squashes and pumpkin, but adds in a surprising twist of citrus and other unique fruits. Yup, that’s right: winter brings us citrus aplenty! It also brings a wide abundance of dark, leafy greens like kale and collards, spinach and mustard greens. There are so many winter foods you can pick up at the grocery store that you can’t always get yet round. Better yet, they’re the kinds of foods you WANT to add to your cart (along with the cookies, peppermints, and pies of course).

 

  • Winter Superfoods 1 of 9
    winter foods

    Here are a few of my favorite winter foods that are becoming weekly staples as the cold rolls in.

  • Potatoes 2 of 9
    potatoes

    There might be a reason winter holiday meals tend to involve mashed potatoes: they're a winter crop for sure. If you subtract the butter and cream from the equation, potatoes are a great vegetable to include in your diet, despite their bad rap from French fries and potato chips. Potatoes can help with immunity thanks to vitamins C and B6.

     

     Recipes to try:

    Crispy Roasted Red Potatoes

    Pizza Potatoes

    Loaded Potato Soup

     

    Photo credit: Heather Neal

  • Kale 3 of 9
    kale

    While all dark green, leafy veggies are good for you, kale is my favorite because it's so versatile. Often left to sit sadly on your plate as a mere garnish, kale is actually quite delicious when it's prepared right. I love tossing it into soups, salads, and spaghetti sauce. Kale chips are a standard snack in our house: I rub olive oil and garlic salt onto torn pieces of kale leaves and pop them in the toaster oven for ten minutes or so. They're perfectly crunchy, salty, and almost melt away in your mouth. Packed with vitamins A, C, K, and folate, these are one kind of chip you can be proud to feed your kids. Folate (the natural form of folic acid) is a nutrient that helps prevent neural tube defects, one of the earliest features of human development. Since it happens so early in gestation, it's recommended that all women of child-bearing age get adequate folate.

     

     Recipes to try:

    Sun Dried Tomato and Crispy Kale Pasta

    Pumpkin Kale Lasagna

    Mushroom Rice Kale Bowl

     

    Photo credit: Heather Neal

  • Butternut Squash 4 of 9
    butternut-squash1

    The gallons of butternut squash soup in my fridge speak for themselves! This winter squash offers a great change from the sweet potatoes that are easier to find year round. Butternut squash may look intimidating to prepare, but it's not. Slice it in half, and pop it in the oven. Roast for  20-30 minutes at 400 degrees while you get the rest of dinner ready, and you're all set. You can also chop it up raw, and cook it on the stove top in soups and stews. The vibrant orange color adds warmth to any winter meal, plus it's rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6. Potassium is an important regulator of blood pressure; it counterbalances sodium. 

     

    Recipes to try:

    Warm Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

    Butternut Squash Spaghetti

    Butternut Squash Soup with Shrimp

     

    Photo credit: richard_north via Flickr

  • Leeks 5 of 9
    leeks1

    Ok, I'll admit it. Before I started cooking for myself, I had no idea what a leek was. Turns out it's a member of the onion family, and it looks kind of like the bulbous root of celery. Like their relatives onion and garlic, leeks are rich in flavonoids, folate, and polyphenols. Polyphenols help prevent our cells from oxidative damage. 

     

    Recipes to try:

    Cheesy Mushroom and Leek Quiche

    Quinoa Salad with Sauteed Leeks and Feta

     

    Photo credit: Sethoscope via Flickr

  • Brussels Sprouts 6 of 9
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    Ah, the veggie people love to hate: Brussels sprouts. I have to say despite my initial fear, I'm a sprouts convert, and my husband is too. You know it's serious when my husband requests a green vegetable. Roasting them brings out a sweetness you'd be surprised to find in something green. We love to serve them with caramelized onions or even cranberries. They're rich in vitamin K and folate. Vitamin K is an important nutrient in maintaining bone health.  

     

    Recipes to try:

    Brussels Sprout Slaw with Bacon & Blue Cheese

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Old Bay

    Brussels Sprouts with Avocado and Pecans

     

    Photo credit: Tobyotter via Flickr

  • Beets 7 of 9
    beets

    It's hard for me to put this one on the list, but for the greater good (and health) of everyone else, I'll include it. No matter how it's prepared, I just can't seem to make myself like beets. But they're a favorite of many, and that's a great thing. These deep purple-red root veggies are high in folate, manganese, and potassium. Manganese helps your body use other nutrients, promotes nerve health, and helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.

     

    Recipes to try:

    Balsamic Roasted Beets

    Sweet Deep Red Salad

     

    Photo credit: Flickr

  • Citrus 8 of 9
    citrus1

    Though citrus makes us think of sunshine and warm weather, citrus is actually quite plentiful in the winter. Not only is the vitamin C in citrus a great antioxidant, it may also improve cholesterol levels. Slices of citrus can take a winter salad from blah to bam with little to no effort. Need a twist from traditional citrus? Kiwi is abundant in the winter too — who knew?!

     

     Recipes to try: 

    Kale with Roasted Squash and Orange <-- that one has three winter winners!

    Burnt Orange Creme Brulee

     

    Photo credit: A. Barra via Wikimedia Commons

  • Pomegranate 9 of 9
    pomegranate

    Pomegranates might be one of my all-time favorite foods. Not only do they taste tart, tangy, and sweet; they're packed with antioxidants and may help improve blood flow. Despite my love for the rich red fruit, I used to dread the process of popping out the seeds and making a mess of myself. But there's an easy trick: slice the pomegranate open then put it in a bowl of water as you shake out the seeds — the seeds will float to the top where you can scoop them out.

     

    Recipes to try:

    Persimmon, Pomegranate, Tangerine Salad <-- persimmon is a great winter food too!

    Pomegranate Vinaigrette

     

    Photo credit: ahisgett via Flickr

 

More from Heather:

Could Needles Fix My Knee?

11 Gifts to Keep the Family Fit

8 Workouts to Keep the Winter Blues at Bay

What if a Bra Could Put an End to Emotional Eating?

 

The Kynado {aka my toddler}

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