Don’t let winter put a chill on your vegetable intake

Rustic vegetable and ham broth in stainless steel saucepan isolated on white.

In the summer, vegetables are plentiful. The supermarket shelves — and maybe even your own garden — are overflowing with zucchini and squash, tomatoes and asparagus. But as we head into the colder winter months, the offerings may be a little less inspiring.

“With summer vegetables becoming more expensive in the winter, people’s eating variety may shrink,” says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And when variety shrinks, often quantity shrinks as well.”

While times are changing, and more summer vegetables are available today year-round without a major price hike, it can still be a little more of a challenge to sneak in the recommended daily servings in the winter months.

A recipe for health

Ideally, most adult women should eat about two-and-a-half cups of vegetables each day, according to government guidelines. (You can get away with a little less — about two cups a day — if you’re over age 51.)

But most Americans aren’t getting enough. A 2017 report by the CDC showed that less than 11% of women were getting the recommended daily amount of vegetables in 2015.

A diet rich in vegetables can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as well as certain cancers, so it’s definitely worth making the extra effort to fill your plate.

Curried Leek-Vegetable Soup

1 cup tomato sauce1 medium leek, chopped (green and white parts)1 medium carrot, sliced2 stalks celery, sliced2 medium zucchinis, sliced2 teaspoons curry powder1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)Pinch kosher salt (optional)

Place all ingredients together into a large pot with 3 cups water. Stir well, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender. If needed, add water to replace liquid lost in evaporation.

Servings: Makes 8

Nutritional information per serving: 41 calories, 1 g protein, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 28 mg sodium.

Filling your plate

Below are some tips to help you avoid the vegetable doldrums this winter and to give yourself some added incentive to get in those two-and-a-half cups a day.

Be adventurous. Look around the supermarket for new vegetables you haven’t tried. “Try different vegetables or different varieties of the same type of vegetables, for example, savoy cabbage or green cabbage,” says Fung. “A lot of times we are stuck in the habit of buying the same varieties, such as orange carrots. But carrots come in different colors.” So, try a new variation on an old favorite.

Shop in season. Not a fan of those anemic-looking hothouse tomatoes? Shift from your summer staples to new cold-weather favorites.

“Winter vegetables are mostly the cruciferous,” says Fung. Think big heads of broccoli, crispy cabbage, and crunchy cauliflower. Brussels sprouts are another nutrition-packed and versatile option that can be cooked in various combinations to provide interest to your meals.

“Other winter vegetables include parsnips, rutabagas, different varieties of squash, celeriac, turnips, and beets,” says Fung.

Try, try again. “There are always vegetables in the grocery store that we don’t buy because they didn’t taste good the last time we had them,” says Fung. But a new way of preparing a vegetable might inspire your palate. “Just looking at a dish that is different could be enough to make the food interesting,” says Fung.

Look for recipes online starring some of your new finds and add them to your weekly rotation. Fresh ingredients and unique spices could turn a bad memory into a new favorite.

Don’t be afraid of the cold. The freezer section can be a great place to shop in the winter. Take advantage of frozen vegetables.

“Nutritionally speaking, frozen is excellent,” says Fung. Grab frozen packs of single vegetables or mixed options. But read the ingredients carefully. Vegetables packaged with sauces or toppings may be high in sodium and other unhealthy ingredients. If you want to spice up your vegetables, it’s often better to add your own flavorings or toppings, so you have more control over what’s included.

Rustic vegetable and ham broth in stainless steel saucepan isolated on white.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11 NIV

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 NIV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NIV

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:114 NIV

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NIV

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