Winter: A Time of Hibernation

The past few weeks were a time of celebration, family, love, and fun! You can read about holiday eating here.

So now that another holiday season has come an end, what are we to do with ourselves until spring has sprung?

Seasonal Eating

Here in Calgary especially, we’re blessed with experiencing all four seasons. Although they may all happen in one month (Calgary is know for it’s odd weather shifts) all in all we experience spring rain, summer sun, fall leaves and fresh air, and winter snow and crisp winds. But how do the seasons affect our eating, behavior, and state of mind throughout the year?

You may already notice that in the summer you are attracted to salads, raw vegetables, and cool drinks, but in the winter you gravitate towards soups, stews, tea, and warm sandwiches. If this is the case, your body is already doing the shift for you. This shift is called seasonal eating. While a difficult task to embrace to its full extent, knowing the basics of seasonal eating and the benefits it can bring to your body, is just one extra tool for your tool kit of health.

Seasonal eating is about consuming the foods that Mother Nature provides in each season and using the nutrients in these foods as a way to maintain cyclical balance throughout the year. It brings with it variety to your diet and strength to your immune system. Why eat seasonally? Produce is at its peak nutritional value when it is ripe. However, fruits and vegetables that have to travel long distances to a shopping market are picked before ripeness.  The problem with this is that the nutritional value comes through the stem of the living plant. Once harvested, a vegetable or fruit is as nutritious as its going to get. Also, to top things off, the nutritional value decreases every day past harvest.

So, the closer you eat to the seasons, the more local your produce, the fresher the produce, the higher the nutrients, the stronger your immune… see the cycle here?

Winter: A Time of Hibernation

Winter is known as nature’s resting season. The climate is cold and wet so we naturally seek heating, grounding and oily foods and gravitate to the indoors to spend time with family and friends.

Tips on winter eating

  • Cooked and baked foods are preferred over raw and cold
  • Soup prepared in the crock-pot is a perfect way to spend a Tuesday night!
  • Sweet (meats and oils like coconut), salty (sea salt and sea vegetables) and sour foods (oranges and grapefruits) help pacify the cold and wet weather
  • We naturally eat a little bit more in the winter to create heat and converse our energy

Winter foods

(more detail to come in the following days)

  • Fats: olive oil, ghee or butter, sesame oil, coconut oil, avocado,
  • Nuts and seeds: almond, cashews, pecan, pistachio, walnut, pine nut, macadamia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
  • Herbs and spices: ginger, cayenne, garlic, cloves, mustard seed, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon
  • Proteins: red meats, dark poultry, wild game, lamb, fish (wild salmon, herring, sardines), shellfish
  • Grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, brown rice, rye, wheat, buckwheat
  • Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, bok choy, broccoli, carrot, celery, peas, zucchini, seaweed, root veggies (yam, sweet potato, beets, winter squash, onions, turnips, parsnips)
  • Fruits: pears, apples, cranberries, date, grapes, mango, papaya, grapefruit, banana

State of mind and body

As the title says, winter is a time of hibernation, reflection, and creativity. Do not feel guilty if all you want to do is go home and cuddle up to a good book, or take a long soak in the tub. Contemplation, writing, reading, painting, nurturing yourself, and your family, are the types of inward activities winter naturally supports.

Take time for you by committing to your yoga practice, signing up for a dance class, or stretching before you get ready in the morning. All of these activities will keep your energy moving and keep you grounded. Best of all – winter is a time to recharge by getting deep sleep, staying warm and relaxing. Give yourself a couple of extra hours in bed and set the intention to dream!

Meals to warm your heart

What better way to begin January, than with some warm-you-up dishes to keep with the theme of inward reflection, inspiration and thoughtfulness.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for a healthy (and dairy free) approach to tuna casserole, a hunters pie for all you wild-game meat lovers out there, a sweet and savory carrot and fennel soup, a chicken pot pie with a home made pastry (gluten free) crust, and more.

First up… Immune-zing Soup.

Do you experience cravings in the winter for any of the foods listed above? What are your favouite winter meals?

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