My love for winter is simple. I like wearing boots (my havaianas are feeling jealous and displaced) and I like skiing. I like wearing scarves too. And the occasional rainy day (read: excuse to wear Ugg boots and watch DVDs all day without feeling guilty).
I also love winter foods (mmm… curry). There is something very nourishing about eating casseroles, soups, stews and roasts. And apple crumble. Oh yum… hang on, I’m having a moment.
Eat warm, stay slim
Winter is a time for nourishing foods; it’s when we should be eating the richest, warmest and heaviest meals and cooked meals are required to support the body’s need for protection in the colder weather. It’s also *gulp* a time when we tend to put on an extra kilo or two of “insulation”. Portion control is really important during this time, remembering that a salad is probably half the kilojoules compared to a casserole or stew of the same size. If you want to avoid putting on weight in winter, I strongly recommend you watch your portion sizes, eat slooooowwwwly and maintain a regular exercise program. Exercise is particularly important to keep the spine and joints flexible, but I digress…
The extent to which you follow winter eating principles really depends on your constitution. It’s pretty intuitive and you probably do it naturally - if you have a tendency to feel the cold, then you need to eat warming foods more than someone who can get away without wearing a jacket in winter. What’s particularly important, is that you listen to your body. Don’t eat salads and raw foods if you feel the cold. It’s common sense really, but it’s all too easy to grab a salad (and feel virtuous about it) when what you really need are cooked and warming foods.
Cooking methods and meals
The general rule for winter cooking is to cook foods for longer at lower temperature with less water. Warming cooking methods include grilling, frying, roasting, searing, baking, long simmering in liquid, slow cooking, cooking with alcohol, and using hot or warming spices. Think casserole, stew, roast, soup, bakes and curry. Invest in a slow cooker if you have the time (ha!).
My favourite winter breakfast is porridge. Plain porridge can be a little boring, but add stewed fruit, honey, roasted slivered almonds and cinnamon and it not only looks pretty, but tastes delicious.
Meat (if you’re so inclined) and eggs are very warming, so that’s good news for the meat-eaters. As far as vegetables go, a good rule of thumb for veggies is, the longer it takes to grow, the more warming it is. Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, beetroot, onions, garlic) are among the most warming. Avoid cold drinks and cold foods like icecream as they have a cooling affect on the body (I can hear you saying “duh”, but I thought I’d mention it anyway).
Here are some basic lists of warming foods.
Fruit (especially cooked): apple, cranberry, date, dried fruits, grape, kiwi, mandarin, orange, pear, tangerine, watermelon
Veggies: boy choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, kale, leek, onion, parsnip, potato, seaweed, spinach, sprouts, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, turnip
Nuts and seeds: almond, brazil, cashew, macadamia, pecan, pine nut, pistachio, walnut, linseed (flax), pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
Grains (cooked): barley, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, rice, rye, wheat
Beans: adzuki, black, kidney, lentil, lima, navy, soy
Warming herbs and spices
A great way to warm up a dish is to add warming spices and herbs in the cooking process. Cumin is excellent, as is turmeric, cayenne pepper, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Chai tea contains lots of these spices and is a yummy way to warm your body. Garlic and ginger (actually vegetables) are very warming too.
Add salt for extra warmth
Salt is very warming and has the most grounding action of food. Any dish can be made “warmer” by adding a little salt (I recommend sea salt, rather than table salt, which is far less good). Good sources of salt include sea salt, soy, miso and seaweed. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, salt is said to strengthen one’s energy. Do be cautious with the quantity that you add, particularly if you tend towards fluid retention (water weight) as I do.
Some local “fast food” recommendations
While healthy home cooking is best, you can still get food quickly and eat well, particularly in winter. Iku Wholefoods is definitely a firm favourite. As is About Life (formerly Macro Wholefoods) in Bondi Junction/Rozelle and The Health Emporium in Bondi. Iku does the most delicious porridge and tofu curry and About Life does yummy soups, casseroles and curries. I also really love Laurie’s Vegetarian Cafe in Bondi. Try the veggie burger or the lentil casserole. Yum and yum.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m putting on my Ugg boots, stretchy pants (my guilty pleasure) and a scarf.
Pitchford, P 2002, Healing with Wholefoods, North Atlantic Books, California
Haas, E M 2006, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Celestial Arts, California