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How to Eat for the Season: Winter

To finish the year, skew your diet towards foods that stave off sickness and stoke your metabolism.

Why do we crave light, fresh salads in Springtime, refreshing fruits and high-energy carbs in Summer, and heartier, fattier fare in the Fall and Winter? There are greater things at work than the whims of appetite. In this series, we’ll look at the benefits of eating for each season.

We’re now in the final installment of our seasonal eating series. We’ve moved through the salad days of spring, burned through an energetic summer, and transitioned into fall with a diet that became slightly heavier as temperatures cooled. As the thermometer dips further, our food choices shift once again. 

“There’s a shedding aspect to summer, whereas with winter there’s a natural inclination—an almost primal instinct—to stock up. We want to be well-equipped to fend off the cold with heartier foods that are warming and more satisfying,” says chef Marissa Lippert, MS, RD, founder of Nourish Kitchen + Table

These choices also support the Ayurvedic leaning toward foods that help boost immunity during cold and flu season. “The air is colder and dryer and eating warm, moist food helps the body protect our mucous membranes, like the throat and lungs. If those membranes get dried out then we’re more susceptible to sore throats and upper respiratory infections,” says functional medicine specialist Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan

The harvest now: Proteins and healthy fats supplemented with grains, nuts, and hearty vegetables. Think moist foods like avocados, beets, winter squash, legumes like lentils, meats, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel with a good dose of the healthy fats found in hempseeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, olive and grapeseed oils, plus walnuts, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts. “With the faster-burning energy of summer, we relied on quick sources of fuel like sugar, but our metabolism naturally dips now and we need slower-to-burn energy sources that last longer,” adds Blum. Another seasonal bonus to foods rich in healthy omega-3 fat: Ingesting them helps to combat dry, wintery skin.

The recommend: We’re back to stovetop and oven cooking and staying warm by the fire. “Focus on foods that have a blanketing effect like the feeling of wrapping yourself up in a cozy sweater,” says Lippert. So get out your roasting pans and deep pots for oven-roasted chicken or brisket and stove-brewed chunky soups, lean beef stews, and veggie chilis. “These easy, one-dish wonders don’t require a lot of work and they provide leftovers,” says Lippert. Heavier, unrefined cooked grains like brown rice and wheat have a place on the menu too. Toss them with roasted root vegetables and they’ll help optimize performance as you amp up your colder-weather exercise routine, she notes.

Fend off the cold and boost your energy with these tips from Lippert:

Cook up a Thai-based coconut milk curry that’s heavy on the veggies. Use okra, winter squash, and carrots and notes of lemongrass or kefir lime, then spoon it over brown basmati rice.

Master a roast chicken and change up the flavor profile each time you cook it.
Rub with garlic and olive oil and add classic spices like rosemary and thyme one day, use a Moroccan spice blend another day, or make it sweet and savory by seasoning with star anise, cinnamon, and salt.

Jumpstart your immunity and release holiday water weight with citrus. Sip hot water with lemon to stay warm and hydrated and make a mixed citrus salad for lunch to offset heavier fare. Toss arugula or watercress with blood orange segments, toasted almonds, and a drizzle of honey-and-rosemary-steeped simple-syrup dressing.