Eating Well as Seasons Change

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by Stacey Faryna, RD, ACSM H/FS, Director of Client Services, Home Care Assistance 

Seniors often eat differently depending on seasonal changes, food availability and overall health conditions that change throughout the year. Seniors may tend to shop less in the Fall and Winter due to cold weather, bad driving conditions, or illnesses that impact their physical strength.

Healthful eating with fresh produce provides a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Produce also brings vibrant colors and different flavors which can be key to a positive outlook, staying emotionally balanced, and happiness at the dinner table.

Piles of ultra-ripe tomatoes and bushels of super sweet peaches make eating seasonal in the summer easy, but now that the dark cold days of winter are fast approaching, it is time to plan ahead. It can be tricky to keep eating all the fresh fruits and vegetables that we know are good for us, especially as our favorites fall out of season and consequently lose some of their flavor just as the availability may decrease.

Eight Steps to Keep Winter Eating Healthful:

1. Try New Recipes

The best way to keep your winter cooking interesting is to find new ways of preparing produce, so what better time to cook up those recipes you have been meaning to try? Even without recipes – expand your creativity and try one new fruit or vegetable each month. Remember frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh produce.

2. More Than Potatoes

Root vegetables are a staple of winter cooking. Cozy, filling, and smashing with just a pat of butter and sprinkle of salt on top, potatoes are the best known and most widely eaten root vegetable. Go beyond potatoes with turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, beets, daikon radishes, and celery root – all of which can be roasted until browned and tender, boiled and mashed along with potatoes, or sliced and fried like hash browns for a different take on potato-centric cooking.

3. Greens, Magical Greens

Cooking greens such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard (or any of the chards), mustard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, and spinach – are full of nutrients and fiber and grow well in temperate and warmer climates (as well as hot houses in colder climes) all through the winter. Greens are delicious simply sautéed. Topping them with some chopped nuts, a few gratings of cheese, a drizzle of flavorful oil (olive, avocado, walnut, sesame), or a squirt of lemon juice. Or, cut them into thin ribbons and stir them into soups or stews of all sorts.

4. Bright and Cheery Citrus

Most citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, and grapefruits in particular – are at their best in winter. They are sweeter, juicier, and less expensive than they are during the rest of the year. Look for citrus fruits that are small for their size for the juiciest specimens.

5. Frosted, Sweet Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale are all in the cruciferous family – a group of strong-tasting and anti-oxidant-rich vegetables that get sweeter after a kiss of frost, making them taste the best in colder weather. Their strong taste over-whelms many palates when served raw and they can get a bit stinky and unappetizing when overcooked. Steam, sauté, roast, or puree these lovelies to experience their full, sweet flavor and many healthful properties.

6. Think Beyond Produce

The range of fruits and vegetables may be more limited in the winter, but the things you cook them with can come in stunning varieties. Along the coasts, in particular, plenty of seafood – especially shellfish – is at their best. So as you enjoy another round of roast potatoes and sautéed kale, maybe try a few steamed mussels, a bit of cracked crab, or a bowl of oyster stew with them.

7. Break Out the Condiments

Whether you treat yourself to a jar of jalapeno-raspberry sauce at the gourmet food store or finally try pickled okra, take this time of the year to experiment with new flavors and dress up familiar dishes with new tastes. Jams, preserves, pickles, hot sauces, and more can add kick and fresh flavors to old favorites.

8. Keep a Kitchen Herb Garden

Fresh herbs brighten up any dish. By planting an indoor herb garden, you’ll be able to add quick notes of color and flavor to your winter cooking at a moment’s notice. Parsley, sage, thyme, dill, and chives are all easy to grow in small pots on a windowsill for a snip of fresh flavor in any recipe or a whiff of appetizing scent any time.

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