Being vegetarian or vegan in winter might seem like a sad prospect for anyone unfamiliar with the plethora of delicious and versatile foods that can be harvested December through March. These months of the year offer much more than soggy, overboiled cabbage; it’s easier than you may think to keep your intake of fruits and vegetables high and healthy.
It’s been over a decade that I have been a vegan and I can say with confidence that I truly appreciate the benefits of eating seasonally. For those wondering how to maintain a healthy and varied vegetarian diet in Winter, here are a few tips:
Get to Know Your Winter Crops
Find out if there’s a winter farmers market near you and prepare to be amazed at the bounty, even in these chilly months. You might even want to consider planning a winter food garden, complete with beets and carrots that can be stored in the ground until you need them! Or, set up an indoor garden in front of a large window with lots of light, and sow fast-growing crops like radishes, chives, lettuce and spinach, along with parsley and cilantro.
In the Pacific Northwest between December and February, there are delicious local apples and pears to be harvested, along with cabbage, turnips, winter squash, and the last of the season’s Brussels sprouts. Fresh rosemary and sage are also great at this time of year, and garlic tastes even better after the first frost.
Winter crops are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and have phytonutrients.
Get Creative With Your Fruits and Veggies
If you think winter veggies consist of eating the same old potatoes and beets, think again. There are plenty of ways to add flavour and variety to your vegetarian winter diet – you just have to get a little creative in the kitchen! For example:
Mashed Potatoes: Try adding a few mashed turnips and some minced garlic to this winter staple to lower the glycemic index and bump up the nutrient value.
Cabbage: Make a rice vinegar and sesame oil coleslaw using shredded cabbage, carrots and minced garlic to keep your intake of fibre, enzymes and antioxidants high.
Squash: Try roasting slices of winter squash with a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkling of coconut sugar for a decadent side dish that’s perfect for warming up after snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Brussels Sprouts: Whip up these tasty leafy green buds by flash-frying them with Brazil nuts and olive oil – yum!
Apples: Consider stocking your freezer with diced apples, perfect for baking a quick and easy crumble!
Pears: Try poaching fresh pears in antioxidant black tea, then drizzle them with a dark chocolate, black tea sauce.
Get Your Vitamin D
The shorter days and the low-lying sun mean it is harder for Canadians to synthesise sufficient vitamin D from the sun between October and April. Make sure you’re including healthy fortified foods in your diet or taking a vitamin D supplement during these winter months. The same goes for non-vegetarians at this latitude!