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[ONE PAN RECIPE] Best Whole Foods for Winter Wellness

Try this easy winter recipe: Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs & Veggies. Makes 2 servings. Takes 30 minutes. Elizabeth Cancade, Culinary Nutrition Guide

Building Stamina for Spring. In these cold, dry months of winter, you likely find yourself turning to warming, rich dishes that just feel so right in this season. While it can be a trying time with shorter days, more coughs and colds, and dry skin, we can also look at winter as a time that our bodies build energy stores and stamina in preparation for Spring’s burst of growth. A variety of natural whole foods suited to winter’s chill can stoke healthy digestion and stronger immunity, as well as stabilize our energy and mood.

Try This Approach to Winter Eating. To eat optimally at this time of year, follow the pull to be warm and cozy, and emphasize supportive, whole foods that are hydrating and warming. Create meals with softer, cooked vegetables rather than raw or cold options like salad. Cooked veggies are grounding and hydrating - for instance, lightly sauté spinach into a warm meal rather than eating it raw or roast carrots, squash or tomatoes with lentils or roast chicken to create a cozy dish.

  • Use warming spices more, such as ginger, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, fennel, and black pepper in cooking, teas and lattes like Chai.

  • Winter is also a time that we can get much-needed energy from slow cooked dishes rich in grains, dense protein from meat or legumes, and dairy or nuts.

  • While all of these foods support your gut, it will also help to add in a probiotic-rich food everyday, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha.

  • And don’t forget the fat! Especially in winter, our bodies need daily doses of good, nourishing fats. Top your dinner with a drizzle of raw olive oil, add cashews to a soup or stew, or add avocado to your meal planning.

Some whole foods that specifically boost your immune system are

  • Sesame seeds, with warming, healthy fat and calcium, iron, copper and zinc. Garnish soups and entrees amply with them.

  • Steamed dark, leafy greens finished with a drizzle of olive oil or warmed butter.

  • Bell peppers, which are ultra rich in Vitamin C.

  • Vitamin-rich broccoli with it’s anti-oxidant power

  • Chicken soup made with black pepper, garlic, ginger and real bone broth, which will soothe inflammation, nourish with ample vitamins, minerals, fat and protein, and stave off cold or flu symptoms.

  • Green tea, another powerful anti-oxidant and immune boosting substance

Conversely, some of the snack food and treats we reach for directly suppress our immune response. When the need to snack hits, try to remember foods that will actually boost your immune system, like colourful fruits along with a handful of nuts or sweet treats made with natural sweeteners like dried fruit, honey or maple syrup.

Here is an easy recipe for an immune boosting meal. One pan cooking is one of my favourite cooking techniques year around because it takes little time and effort, and it’s easy to substitute with ingredients you have. The immune power of this dish comes from the nutrients in broccoli, bell pepper, tomatoes, and whole chicken pieces, which are rich in Vitamin B6 - an important nutrient in stress resilience, relaxation and immunity.

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