Seasonal nutrition with River Cottage

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
13 October, 2015

Struggling to stay on the healthy bandwagon now the nights are drawing in? We spoke to Naomi Devlin, nutrition guru and River Cottage cookery teacher, about eating well through the winter months.

Your body likes variety in all things and feels sluggish if you get stuck in any kind of rut – even a seemingly healthy one.

Eating with the seasons gives your body the variety it expects; more roots and dark greens in the winter and more raw food in the summer. Following seasonality also gets you in touch with your innate sense of what to eat because you respond to cues from the length of days and temperature, promoting more mindfulness about eating generally.

 

Want to avoid stodge? Eat more root vegetables.

They have a starchiness that appeals to us when the weather turns cold and are full of nutrients, even when slowly roasted to caramel sweetness. Adding butter, sour cream or a scattering of crispy bacon to your winter greens can make even the most virtuous of vegetables more comforting.

 

If you’re battling with your first cold of the season, then cook with orange and red vegetables.

They contain betacarotene, which the body converts into vitamin A and uses to support the immune system. Good choices are: carrots, sweet potato, beetroot and squash (not strictly rooty, but does the same job). Add some garlic, ginger, warming spices or parsley to add an extra immune boosting kick to your meals.

 

All vegetables contain fibre and are packed with nutrients – even humble cauliflower that seems too pale to be considered superfood and yet it contains anti-aging sulphur in abundance!

Alliums such as leeks, garlic and onions contain prebiotics to help improve bowel flora and act as natural blood thinners. Although root vegetables seem sweet and carby, they contain lots of fibre that helps to slow down the release into the blood stream; the exception being potatoes, which are very starchy and need to be enjoyed with a little more caution.

 

Making one or two seasonal switches in your shopping basket is a great way of upping your vitamin intake.

Swap your pre-washed bagged salad for one made with winter herbs and shaved root vegetables, or antipasti made with roast winter veg in a garlicky dressing instead of out-of-season summer veg. 

People tend to see winter vegetables as more time consuming to prepare, but that’s not the case.

Roasting or steaming veg such as carrots and beetroot whole in their skin cuts down on peeling and chopping time, but also preserves both flavour and nutrients. And if you do need to peel and chop, then involving the whole family makes it more of a joy and less of a chore. I’m also a big believer in batch cooking; by making big pots of soup or stew and wintery tray bakes, you can stock the fridge and freezer with a week’s worth of tasty meals. Put music on, invite some friends over and make it an event!

 

If you want to grow your own veg, there are three staples. 


           

1. Kale – this can see you right through the winter is great in soups, stir fries, or even raw in salads and balances out all that rooty starch brilliantly.

         2. Turnips – if you grow your own, you can pull them when they are still tiny, palest mauve tipped and sweet – before they turn into beasts.
         3. Parsnips – they roast up into gorgeous chips and make a soothing mash pillow for slow-cooked meaty dishes.

 

The most underrated winter vegetable? I’d say beetroot.  

It’s absolutely full of minerals and has a cleansing action on the liver – very important if you get merrier than you intended during the festive season. It’s ideal to buy fresh beets and roast or steam them yourself in their skins, or grate them raw into a winter slaw, but packets of pre-cooked beets will still have lots of minerals in them.
 

We tend to get low on vitamin D in the winter due to lack of sunshine, so including lots of oily fish in your diet – even things like tinned sardines, will help keep levels up until the spring.

Vitamin C is important to help fight off winter bugs and eating lots of cooked food will mean that levels could get low – parsley is a great source in the winter, so garnish everything with it! Our gut flora is a huge part of our immune system, so eating food rich in prebiotics such as onions, beans, preserved artichokes and root vegetables can help improve it – and avoiding sugary foods too. Antioxidants in fresh or fermented vegetables are important during the winter, so lightly steam or eat some raw and make or buy some real sauerkraut or kimchi to add to meals.


Check out Naomi's new nutrition course at River Cottage here

 

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