When choosing the best winter food to tide you over for the long winter, there are a few important criteria to look for. For one, the food should be in season, and if possible, locally grown, so it will be at its freshest and most delicious. Winter food should also keep you warm and give you energy to help you get through the darkest days and withstand the chilly temperatures. Finally, the best winter food will help you fight winter blues, illness, and weight gain. Make sure you include the following winter foods on your grocery list to keep you going strong until spring (finally!) arrives.
Nuts are typically harvested in the autumn and are at their best in the fall and winter months. Nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, and others are chock full of protein – which helps you feel warm and full – while also offering illness-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.
Walnuts are an especially good winter nut because they are high in omega-3 fats, which boost your mood and combat dry winter skin. Chestnuts, in season from October to March, are perhaps the quintessential winter nut. Providing B-vitamins and many essential minerals, chestnuts are also one of the only nuts that provide immunity-boosting vitamin C for the cold and flu season, and can help keep you warm when enjoyed freshly roasted on a cold winter’s day.
Oatmeal is warm, hearty, and filling, making it the perfect food to enjoy on a cold winter morning. With its excellent fiber profile – 4 grams per serving – oatmeal promotes weight control and can help you avoid blood sugar spikes and dips that will tempt you to start snacking before lunchtime rolls around.
Besides providing satiety and healthy energy, oatmeal can also act as a mood-booster due to its whole-grain carbohydrate content. One MIT study found that people who ate such healthy carbs had higher levels of serotonin (an important neurochemical that helps regulate moods) and reduced cravings for sweets throughout the day.
Winter is the peak season for root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, and others. Root vegetables are super healthy, as they are a great source of vitamins and fiber. These starchy veggies are also excellent for pre-workout nutrition and can be enjoyed in numerous ways – in salads and soups, as well as braised, grilled, braised, roasted, or mashed. Enjoy the following root vegetables in their prime season.
Potatoes – High in immunity-boosting vitamins C and B6 (with one potato providing 25 percent and 29 percent of daily needs, respectively). Choose purple potatoes for a higher antioxidant content.
Leeks – Low in calories and high in essential minerals, vitamin A, folic acid, and the antioxidant compound allicin, leeks are especially delicious when enjoyed in potato leek soup – a winter classic.
Sweet potatoes – Virtually fat-free and loaded with vitamins A, B6, and C, sweet potatoes are also sweet and flavorful, and can be enjoyed in a variety of tasty sweet potato recipes.
Beets – In season all the way through spring, beets are a great source of fiber, phytonutrients (natural antioxidant substances), and vitamin C. To cook them, wrap them in foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. They can then be cubed and tossed into a salad.
More healthy winter root vegetables – Carrots, horseradish, onions, rhubarb, parsnips, rutabagas, shallots, radishes, turnips
Heralded for centuries for its medicinal properties, garlic is a winter superfood that can help your immune system blast away cold and flu viruses before you ever see them coming. One British study recently found that people who took garlic supplements over 12 weeks got fewer colds than those who didn’t. Like leeks, garlic is high in the chemical allicin, which is thought to help fight infection by supporting white blood cells. Garlic is also known for its anti-heart disease, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. While you certainly don’t want to eat garlic cloves whole, garlic can be enjoyed in just about any savory dish or sauce, from meat and veggie dishes to salad dressings and dipping sauces.
Chili is one of the few guilt-free comfort foods, providing lots of fiber, protein, and antioxidants, while still being savory and filling. With whole-food ingredients like beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic, it is clear to see why chili is so healthy. Its hot serving temperature and spicy ingredients will also keep you your body and spirits warm, no matter how frightful the outside weather is. For the healthiest chili, ditch the high-fat meat or try one of these 10 healthy chili recipes.
Providing 9 grams of fiber per one-cup serving, winter squash crops peak from fall to late winter, allowing you to curb your appetite and prevent winter weight gain all season long. A single serving also provides a whopping 214 percent of recommended daily vitamin A intake and 33 percent of vitamin C needs, in addition to potassium, folate, and vitamins K and B – all for only about 80 calories. Choose from several varieties, including butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and delicata. Butternut squash is probably the most versatile and flavorful winter squash, and can be enjoyed mashed, pureed, roasted, or toasted. Butternut squash soup is also a fabulous winter recipe.
No list of winter food would be complete without a list of winter fruits. Winter fruits are a sweet and low-calorie source of source of fiber, carbohydrates, phytochemicals, and vitamins – particularly vitamin C for immunity. And because they are in season (depending on your climate and region), these winter fruits will also be especially sweet and delicious when snacked-on during the winter months.
Apples – High in pectin, a healthy fiber
Grapefruit – Great source of vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene
Kiwis – Vitamin C powerhouse (120 percent daily value per serving)
Oranges, tangerines, and clementines – Source of polyphenols which may lower stroke risk
Kumquats – Contains phytonutrients including carotenes, lutein, carotenes, tannin, and zeaxanthin
Pears – High in fiber and antioxidants like flavonols and carotenoids
Pomegranates – Has an especially rich antioxidant profile that includes cancer-fighting elegiac acid
Other healthy winter fruits – Cranberries, persimmons, lychees, longans, rambutans, pommelos, quinces, star fruit
Other winter veggies
In addition to squash and root vegetables, several other types of vegetables are harvested in the fall and winter months. These veggies offer fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, and can be enjoyed in many hot and cold dishes.
Kale – This folate-rich leafy green thrives in winter and is less bitter when enjoyed in season
Broccoli – Grows year-round, but tastes best when harvested in cool-weather months
Red cabbage – Contains glutamine, an amino acid with immune-boosting properties
Brussels sprouts – In season from September through February; contains 50 percent more vitamin C than oranges; provides nitrogen compounds called indoles, which are linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects
Artichokes – One of the top vegetable providers of antioxidants, according to an extensive USDA study
More healthy winter vegetables – Collards, chard, turnip greens, rapini, escarole, endives, cardoons, cauliflower, and celery
To find more winter foods specific to your region, refer to state-specific regional produce guides.