A Guide to Eating Seasonally In Winter
Hi friends! I wanted to chat about what it means to eat seasonally and how to eat seasonally in winter- probably the hardest season to do so! When I think of eating seasonally, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder comes to mind. They truly only ate potatoes, homemade bread, butter, and meat for the entire winter. That is truly eating seasonally. Life isn’t like that anymore, which makes me sad but also happy in a way. I’m grateful for our modern advances which have allowed me to taste avocados and bananas and other amazing produce that I otherwise would never have the opportunity to try living in Ohio, as well as the resources to eat a plant based diet without harming animals. But I’m also saddened by our complete disconnect from nature and where our food comes from.
Although eating seasonally now a days may not need to be as extreme as The Long Winter, it is something that is important and so desperately needs to be brought back into the rhythm of our lives. We have access to strawberries all year round. We can go to the grocery store and get corn on the cob in the middle of January. We truly are living in luxury, but like most things, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily what’s best for us or the planet.
Our disconnect from the food system is leading to a lack of nutrition and a reliance on convenience. It’s time to get back to the roots of local and sustainable eating, connecting with our food and its sources. I have found eating seasonally to be the best way to do this. And it’s not as hard or expensive as it sounds. It’s actually easy, healthier, cheaper, and more sustainable. Let’s dive in and see what it means to eat seasonally in the season of winter.
WHAT DOES EATING SEASONALLY MEAN?
Just because something is available in the grocery store doesn’t mean it’s in season.
God created certain fruits and vegetables to naturally flourish at a certain time of the year. Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Eating seasonally means fully embracing the current season and the earth’s offerings during that time. Simply put, eating seasonally means eating the fruits and vegetables that naturally grow in abundance and organically during specific times of the year.
We aren’t used to eating this way. Like I said above, we have access to anything we want at any time of the year. I find this to fall in the same category of consumerism as purchasing a tee shirt from an unethical big name brand—it should be avoided.
Once you begin eating seasonally, you will feel more in tune with your body and the nutrients that it needs. You will be able to feel your body’s natural cravings transition with each season, which will in turn bring health and alignment.
WHY IS EATING SEASONALLY IMPORTANT?
IT ALIGNS OUR BODY WITH NATURE
Eating food that is not in season can go as far as throwing your mind and body out of alignment. You know that antsy, frantic, agonizing feeling of wishing-it-was-summer alllll winter long? By fully syncing not only your day-to-day habits with the current season, but also your eating habits, you will find it easier to enjoy the current season, no matter the weather or hardships.
Aligning our eating habits with this truth will lead to better nutrition, increased energy, mindfulness, and peace.
Produce that is out of season is firstly, forced to grow when it’s not its natural time to grow. This often times means more chemicals are used, as well as more energy and resources. Secondly, the out of season produce is shipped very far distances to reach our grocery store shelves. For example, strawberries can’t grow in Northern America in the winter, so in order to get them to our grocery stores we have to source them from Chile or Mexico. That’s a far trip that uses a lot of resources and creates lots of greenhouse gas emissions.
Like we mentioned above, because out of season produce is shipped from far away, the produce has to be prematurely picked before it’s ripe. Studies show that prematurely picked produce lacks nutrients compared to in season produce that is grown naturally and allowed to ripen on the plant. Not only is in-season produce healthier but it tastes better too. If you’ve ever tasted a winter strawberry, you know what I mean. It only makes sense that God’s way of doing things results in a healthier, tastier, more sustaining outcome.
Foods that are in season contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body specifically needs for that current season. For example, in the winter, we lack Vitamin D due to the increased time spent indoors and gloomy weather. Mushrooms, which are in season in the colder months, are an excellent source of Vitamin D!
In winter we also need extra Vitamin C to boost our immune system and keep winter sickness away. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits, which are in season in the winter, are extremely high in Vitamin C and antioxidants that keep your immune system strong!
In winter, we need foods that “stick to our ribs”. Being cold burns more calories than being hot, which is why we find ourselves craving heartier, warmer meals in the winter like soups and stews, and lighter foods like fruits and salads in the summer. Potatoes and carrots, which are in season in the winter, are high in fiber and carbs which keep you full and satisfied in the long winter months!
The list goes on.
Produce that is in season is in abundance and local, therefore prices are often cheaper. Price is a good indicator of whether or not something is in season when you’re at the grocery store. For example, you may notice that when it’s strawberry season in the summer, the strawberries will most likely be sourced from somewhere nearby therefore having to travel less of a distance. This makes them cheaper. But when you see a tiny pack of strawberries for $6 in the middle of January, that’s because they are not in season, therefore it took a lot of energy and resources to grow them and to ship them, which is why they’re so expensive. Produce that’s not in season is not in abundance because it’s not their natural growing season and environment, which all leads to increased price. Not only will sticking to seasonal foods help your health, but it will save you money as well!
HOW DO I EAT SEASONALLY IN WINTER?
In winter, it’s important to pay attention to what produce should be purchased fresh, and what should be bought frozen or canned. Although fresh is usually always best, this only goes for when the produce is in season. Things like berries, tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers that you see in the grocery stores in the middle of winter should be avoided.
Summer foods like berries, corn and tomatoes should not be the base of your meals in winter like they may be in the summer. Instead, potatoes, garlic, onions, and carrots should be the base of your winter meals. If produce like berries or tomatoes are needed for a recipe, in the winter it’s best to purchase them frozen, canned, or preserved. Frozen and canned veggies from trustworthy brands are usually picked and preserved at the peak of their season and ripeness, so they are packed with their natural nutrients, unlike out-of-season fresh produce that we mentioned above, which is lacking. Even better yet, you can freeze, can, and preserve fresh produce from your garden or local farmers markets in the spring and summer, to use in the winter.
WHAT’S IN SEASON IN WINTER?
I created a video showing what’s in season in the winter along with a few winter meal ideas.
WINTER RECIPE IDEAS
Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry (omit fresh tomatoes)
Do you have to be absolutely perfect with this? Of course not! Sometimes I’ll eat a fresh pepper in winter *gasp* or order something at a restaurant that comes with fresh tomatoes when it’s not tomato season. Because my rabbit needs 1-2 cups of fresh greens each day, I have to purchase greens from the grocery store during the months that our garden doesn’t grow, even though they’re not necessarily in season. Please don’t go all “The Long Winter” on me, it’s just not necessary! Start by focusing on what’s in season in winter, purchase those things, base your meals around them, and then fill in the gaps from there. I know this can be quite confusing or overwhelming if you’re new to the idea, so please feel free to comment below if you have any questions!