While you may feel as though supermarket aisles are teeming with fruits and veggies in the summer, produce seems less appealing in the winter. Mixed berries and spinach salads hardly seem like January fare, which means you’re probably noshing on less produce when the chill creeps in.
However, you can absolutely still shop in-season foods like fruits and veggies this month — and get your healthy fix all winter long. Here, Barbara Linhardt, MS, RD, founder of Five Senses Nutrition, gives the lowdown on key produce items to fill up on in January and how to dish ‘em out, too.
Nutrition: 30 calories + 3 grams protein + vitamins C, A and K (in 1 cup)
Why it’s great: Filled with vitamins and cancer-fighting flavonoids, a serving of kale will give you a shot of antioxidants to fight inflammation in the body — a major key for disease prevention.
How to eat it: Raw or cooked, you can toss kale in just about anything. “With kale’s increasing popularity, there are so many varieties of kale available in the market like dinosaur kale, green or red kale,” Linhardt says. “Typically dinosaur kale, also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale lends itself well to raw dishes as it is a little less tough.”
Great recipe to try: Dark Chocolate Kale Brownies
Nutrition: 52 calories + lycopene + vitamins A and C (½ fruit)
Why it’s great: Grapefruit is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may lower risk of prostate cancer, in addition to being a great source of vitamin A and C to bolster the immune system during the cold-weather months. However, beware: grapefruit contains a compound that may interact with some drugs. If you’re on any medications, make sure to check with a doc before you nosh away.
How to eat it: Slice the fruit in half, and eat this one in its natural state, says Linhardt. “I am a big fan of eating raw grapefruit in its unadulterated form, especially in the winter when your energy levels might be low,” she says. “There is something about the refreshing taste of a citrus fruit, combined with the tartness found in grapefruits, that can just perk you right up. Grapefruit also tastes amazing with a little bit of brown sugar and Greek yogurt.”
Great recipe to try: Honeyed Grapefruit Yogurt Parfait
Nutrition: 30 calories + 2 grams protein + 2 grams fiber (in 1 cup chopped)
Why it’s great: You know how everyone always says to eat the most colorful produce? Linhardt says cauliflower is a key exception. As a member of the powerful cruciferous vegetable family (think Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, too), this veggie is rich in nutrients, high in filling fiber and has even been linked to cancer prevention.
How to eat it: The texture of cauliflower — raw, mashed, or otherwise — lends itself to replacing starchy foods. “Whether substituting cauliflower for potatoes in creamy mashed ‘potatoes’ or using cauliflower in place of a typical pizza crust, it works,” Linhardt says.
Great recipe to try: Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese Casserole
Nutrition: 50 calories + organosulfer compounds + vitamin K + manganese (in 1 cup chopped)
Why they’re great: The organosulfer compounds found in leeks and other members of the allium family (garlic, onion) have been linked to stomach and colon cancer prevention. They’re also an awesome source of key nutrients, like vitamin K and manganese to keep bones healthy and strong.
How to eat ‘em: Although garlic and onions get all the praise, leeks are really versatile, as well. “I often use leeks instead of onions when I want a milder onion taste in a recipe such with soups, pot pies, rice dishes and even scrambled eggs,” Linhardt says. “I also like to saute leeks and garlic with olive oil, saffron, chopped tomatoes, couscous, white wine and clams to make a flavorful seafood dish.”
Great recipe to try: Leeks Seafood Gratin
Nutrition: 30 calories + 3 grams fiber + flavonoids + vitamin C (in 1 cup sliced)
Why it’s great: If you’re not eating fennel — a crunchy plant species and a member of the celery family, in case you’re unfamiliar — you’re missing out. Not only is it packed with fiber and disease-fighting flavonoids, but you also get a one-of-a-kind taste and texture.
How to eat it: Linhardt likes to mix it up. “A great reason to gravitate toward fennel is its unique and mild licorice flavor, which imparts a subtle sweetness to a meal when cooked and a lovely crunch when served raw,” she explains. “I typically throw some raw chopped fennel into salads to give an extra flavor component. One of my favorite salads is a mixture of arugula, chopped fennel, a few shavings of pecorino romano and an olive-oil-based dressing.”
Great recipe to try: Celery and Fennel Salad