Seasonal eating is an excellent way to keep a diverse diet, eat fresh foods, and engage with your local growers and economy. Winter seasonal eating also helps your body stay in sync with your environment. Just like the circadian rhythm—our daily internal clock that tells our body when to sleep and when to wake up—we have a circannual clock that is less well known.
Today, our modern lives may not change much throughout the year. However, our bodies are still designed to adapt to the changes in our environments each season. Eating food in season is one way to signal to our body what is going on in our environment, allowing us to be more in tune with its cycles.
But what about winter? How do you eat seasonally in winter?
You may be surprised by how much still grows in winter—depending on where you are located. Traditionally, winter is a time to lean into storage crops, preserved foods, and animal products.
Especially if you live farther north, winter is a time for more decadent, heavier foods. Our bodies want to stay warm in the cold weather. Eating more animal products such as organic, grass-fed meat and dairy, pastured eggs, seafood, and hearty vegetables is appropriate in the winter. It is okay to eat something other than a fresh salad every day! In fact, raw, fresh vegetables are generally better to eat in the spring and summer than in winter.
Our diets are meant to shift with the seasons; it keeps our foods diverse and usually matches what our bodies need.
Here are simple ways to help you continue to eat seasonally the winter.
1. Eat Seasonally in Winter: Keep Shopping Locally
Year round, the simplest way to eat in season is to buy from local growers and businesses. The best way to find out what produce is in season in your area is to check out the farmer’s market! Some small farms do a winter CSA depending on where you are. Winter seasonal eating will depend on what is in season in your area in particular.
Roots, squash, hardy greens, and tart fruits tend to flush the markets at this time of year. You can also selectively shop at the regular grocery store once you know what to look for. Here’s a short list of what fruits and vegetables are generally in season in winter:
- Sweet potatoes
- Celery root
- Winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, etc.)
- Mustard greens
- Napa cabbage
- Chicories (endive, radicchio, escarole)
- Citrus: oranges, lemons, grapefruits
- Apples (storage varieties)
Winter is an excellent time to get creative with roasted root vegetables, mashes, casseroles, and soups. Try mixing in some parsnips or turnips to a batch of mashed potatoes. Mix up the spices you use on a pan of roasted squash. Try curry powder, Italian seasoning, and Chinese five spice on your root veggies.
Hardy greens are awesome winter vegetables. We love kale, collards, mustard greens, and cabbage. Lean into braised, sauteed, and steamed greens. These are super easy to whip up for a nutrient-dense green side. Just toss the greens into a pan with a bit of grass-fed tallow or ghee and a splash of cider vinegar, or simply water and a pinch of salt, then cover and cook until the greens are soft.
2. Eat Seasonally in Winter: Eat High-Quality Preserved Fruits and Vegetables
Besides looking out for the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area, you can also look to preserved foods (frozen, canned, pickled, fermented, dehydrated/dried). If you’re inspired to preserve fruits and veggies yourself, go for it! Otherwise, look for trustworthy brands that don’t include lots of added sugars or artificial flavors.
Why choose frozen strawberries when there are fresh berries available? Well, fruit is usually preserved when it is abundant, ripe, and in season. On the other hand, fresh fruit out of season is often picked early so it will last longer and ship better. This means the fruit did not fully ripen and develop all the flavor and nutrients it could have. If you think ahead and have some room in the freezer, you can do this yourself in the summer! Buy a gallon or two of your favorite fruit when it is cheap, abundant, and ripe, and pack it away into the freezer to make cobblers or pies in the winter.
Fermented and pickled vegetables are a great choice in the winter, especially if you can find a local provider who buys from organic farms. Ferments and pickles are usually made in season when produce is at its peak and abundant. Many cultures around the world ferment and pickle vegetables for winter because they’re nutrient-dense and delicious. In the case of fermented veggies, you’ll enjoy the bonus of probiotics! If you buy fermented veggies, ensure they are “raw” or “unpasteurized” to get these foods’ probiotic benefits.
For fermented veggies, we like:
Or see if any local businesses are creating fermented products near you!
3. Eat Seasonally in Winter: Embrace Grass-Fed Meats and Dairy, Other Healthy Fats
Late fall and winter is traditionally the time to harvest animals. It is cold enough for butchering work, and it is a time when fewer plants are available for eating. It makes sense to allow these foods to take up a slightly more significant portion of our diets in the winter.
If you have any smaller organic, grass-fed livestock farmers in your area, you can ask them about purchasing in bulk. Buying in bulk reduces the cost per pound for both you and the farmer. You can also look around to see if anyone is providing a meat CSA.
Grass-fed and organic cheese, yogurt, and whole milk are also great foods for the winter. When made with milk from grass-fed, well-raised animals, these foods have myriad benefits for our bodies.
Healthy fats are essential this time of year. Fats contain crucial nutrients that help our bodies absorb vitamins, regulate internal body temperature and blood pressure, provide energy, promote brain and nerve health, and more!
Look for ways to add healthy fats to your family’s meals and bring in more foods with healthy fats. Top your oatmeal with some yogurt and grass-fed butter or coconut oil. Roast your potatoes in a generous layer of grass-fed tallow or ghee. Make some bone broth to sip on as an afternoon snack.
Pro Tip: Remember to choose grass-fed meat and dairy products. Grass-fed meat and dairy have nutrients far superior to conventional products.
4. Eat Seasonally in Winter: Make Your Own Broth for Soups
Soups and stews are abundant in winter, and the best way to level up a soup is to make your own broth. Broth is super simple to make, and homemade broth is so much tastier and more nutrient-dense than what is available at the store. Most broth at the store is mostly water, and it doesn’t have the richness of the homemade stuff.
Plus, making broth is inexpensive. Cheaper cuts of meat like chicken backs, chicken feet, and bones are exactly what you want. Simply put the bones (roast them first for extra flavor) in a large pot, cover with water, add a splash of vinegar and simmer for 8-48 hours or put it in your slow cooker. Vinegar helps to pull the minerals out of the bones. The longer it goes, the richer it will be! But make sure you keep an eye on the water level so it doesn’t all evaporate out as it cooks.
You can flavor your broth with onions, apples, seaweed, whole spices, and more. I like to keep a bag in the freezer and collect the ends of onions, carrots, and celery stalks I would otherwise toss until I have enough to make broth. Be aware: you’ll want to add in veggies later so they only cook for a few hours; otherwise the veggies may fall apart or turn bitter.
Homemade broth is a great base for any soup, but we also like to sip on bone broth alone as a snack. Well-cooked, soupy foods are easier on our digestive system, which might feel slightly sluggish in winter.
5. Eat Seasonally in Winter: Grow Sprouts or Mushrooms at Home
Mushroom grow kits are a fun way to get into winter seasonal eating. These kits are super easy and kids will love watching the mushrooms grow. Plus, they aren’t much more expensive than buying the mushrooms outright.
Sprouts are another easy one to grow inside during the winter months. There are kits that will get you started easily, or you can make your own sprouting jar lid by using a scrap of clean cheesecloth fitted under a mason jar band. The porous lid lets you rinse and drain the seeds and allows airflow.
Growing sprouts at home takes less than a week. Alfalfa seeds are some of the easiest to start with. You can buy a sprouting kit to make it a bit easier, but it’s super simple with just a mason jar and some cheese cloth. Sprouts are full of nutrients and a fun topping on soups or on sandwiches.
Warm and well-cooked is the mood for winter. Prioritize broths, soups, roasted root vegetables, slow-cooked meats, and cooked fruits. There is a reason we have so many feasts during the wintertime! Hearty food helps keep our bodies warm and is most natural for the cold winter. Try out making your own broth, sprouting some seeds at home, and check to see if any farmers markets are still open in your area.
Winter seasonal eating is a great way to focus on specific vitamins and nutrients you may ignore for the rest of the year. By engaging with food when it’s in season, you’re doing your body a favor and helping your family develop healthy, natural eating habits.