Cooking for winter wellness is about producing foods that tick all the “comfort” boxes while looking after your health and weight at the same time.
A diet high in plant foods helps boost immunity, strengthen heart and blood vessels and even fight damaging free radicals.
The following foods are particularly useful at this time of year:
GARLIC AND ONIONS
These contain sulphur compounds which are said to have anti-microbial and anti-fungal activity. They have long been regarded as immunity boosters.
- Include routinely in soups, casseroles and stir-fries
- Chop into meatballs, hamburgers and meatloaf
- Add crushed garlic to salad dressings or cloves into oils
- Add to savoury muffins, quiches and frittatas.
These are rich in vitamin C which is thought to protect against winter colds. They also contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. While canned varieties have less vitamin C, they are still a good choice in winter when fresh is less available and more expensive.
- Add to soups, casseroles and pasta dishes
- Add tomato pasta sauce to mince for an easy spaghetti Bolognese
- Add canned Indian-flavoured tomatoes to cooked lentils for a tasty dhal over rice
- Spread tomato paste over pita bread then top with vegetables, lean meat and cheese for an easy pizza.
CITRUS FRUITS AND GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES
Both provide vitamin C, which as well as supporting immunity also helps with iron absorption and prevention of anaemia.
- Start or end the day with a hot honey and lemon drink
- Pop a mandarin or sliced orange into the lunchbox
- Keep frozen spinach in the freezer and add to soups, casseroles or quiches. Alternatively, mix with cottage cheese and chopped spring onions for a delicious cannelloni filling.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Next time you reach for potato crisps, instead try a small handful of nuts or seeds. Although high in fat, the type of fats they contain are good for the heart and brain. Nuts are also high in protein and fibre which fill and sustain you.
- Sprinkle on cereal
- Add to cakes and muffins
- Add delicious crunch to salads.
GET INTO THE SOUP HABIT
There is nothing more satisfying in winter than homemade soup, which can be as simple as cooking vegetables in stock and pureeing. Remember to include immunity-boosting vegetables and hold off on cream or butter.
For a winter warmer everyone will love, try the delicious minestrone soup (below). It tastes great and ticks all the right nutritional boxes.
1 large onion, chopped
6 cups stock
500ml jar tomato pasta sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup diced pumpkin
1 large potato, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 x 440g can 4-bean mix
3/4 cup (135g) pasta spirals or shells
Chopped parsley and grated parmesan to serve
Combine onion, stock, pasta sauce, pasta, oregano, sugar, pumpkin, potato and carrot in a saucepan, boil uncovered for 15 minutes. Add peas and 4-bean mix and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve topped with parsley and parmesan.