Winter offers many seasonal vegetables that they can easily turn into satisfying meals that the whole family will enjoy. 5+ A Day recommends buying in-season, with root vegetables, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and pumpkin all being particularly abundant at this time of year.
These vegetables are not only full of flavour, they are also packed with nutrients, minerals and vitamins that help you to fight winter ills, says 5+ A Day nutritionist, Bronwen Anderson. “The winter months can bring health challenges, with prevalence of seasonal colds and flu,” she says. “However, eating a rainbow of different coloured vegetables and fruit every day will help your body build its defences against the bugs.”
Sue Pollard, CEO of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation says the cold winter weather is time for comfort food and winter soups. “Preparing meals using lots of seasonal vegetables is a great way to improve your nutrition while you save money,” she says.
Here are some tips on how to enjoy winter vegetables and why they are good for you.
Did you know that the carrot is a member of the parsley family and is related to parsnip, celery and fennel? Earliest records show carrots were originally purple, with orange carrots becoming more common from the 16th century.
Why eat carrots? Adding carrots to your diet helps to ensure that you get your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Carrots are also a source of dietary fibre, which satisfies hunger without the calories.
Easy ways to include carrots in your meals: Roasting brings out the sweetness in carrots, which works well with savoury flavours. Cut carrots into large chunks and roast with olive oil, cumin and cinnamon. Once cooked, toss them with raisins and parsley. Grate and add them to stir-fries, bolognese sauce or pasta bake. Steam carrots and mix them through mashed potato. Transform carrots into an exotic, boldly flavoured Moroccan side dish by braising them with mint, cinnamon, garlic, red pepper, coriander, honey and lemon.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that comes from the same family as cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts. The leaves are dark green with a strong, distinct flavour. Kale comes in two forms: green and red.
Why eat kale? Because kale is a good source of vitamin A, which plays a role in healthy skin and vision, and vitamin C, which supports healthy immunity. Kale is also an excellent source of fibre, and a good source of vitamin K, which helps to build strong bones.
Easy ways to include kale in your meals: You don’t need to cook kale to enjoy it. Slice it into fine ribbons and add to salads for a nutrient boost. Its sturdy texture makes kale the perfect green to throw into a pot of soup, or add to a pot of just-cooked pasta. For a quick, healthy alternative to chips, lay washed and de-stemmed kale leaves on a baking tray, spray with olive oil and sprinkle over a little salt. Bake them on a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until crisp.
Packed with goodness, spinach takes only minutes to cook and adds a vibrant burst of colour to a variety of dishes. Baby spinach is smaller and more delicate than standard spinach, with a milder flavour.
Why eat spinach? This dark, leafy green is a good source of vitamins B6, A and folate, as well as a host of other good-for-you nutrients.
Easy ways to include spinach in your meals: For a boost of flavour and nutrition, add a handful or more of baby spinach leaves to soup. To avoid overcooking the spinach, add it just a few minutes before the soup is done. Spinach is delicious in any egg dish, such as quiche, omelettes and scrambled eggs. Try chopping the baby spinach leaves before adding them to your dish so they mix through evenly. Add baby spinach to winter casserole dishes. About two handfuls make a good, tasty green addition.
The kumara has a long history of cultivation in New Zealand. Brought here by the early Maori settlers over 1000 years ago from the Pacific Islands, they were widely grown, especially in the semi-tropical regions of the North Island.
Why eat kumara? Three different types of kumara are widely available: red, gold and orange. Nutritionally speaking they are on equal terms, with all three varieties being a good source of fibre and a rich source of antioxidants.
Easy ways to include kumara in your meals: For a twist on shepherd’s or cottage pie, replace the traditional mashed potato topping with mashed kumara. For extra flavouring add crushed citrus rind, herbs, or finely chopped ginger. Kumara adds sweetness and bulk to soups and curries, and works especially well with Thai and Indian flavours. Make a creamy soup in a flash by cooking a chopped onion in a pot with a little olive oil. Add chopped kumara, carrot and ginger. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until cooked. Puree with a stick blender. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
Members of the carrot family, parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavour, making them a delicious addition to hearty winter roasts, soups and stews. Pick small to medium parsnips, as larger ones can be fibrous.
Why eat parsnip? Parsnips contain a variety of nutrients, including niacin and potassium, which supports a healthy nervous system, as well as dietary fibre.
Easy ways to include parsnip in your meals: Bold and fragrant rosemary is a winning match for the spicy-sweet flavour of roasted parsnips. Peel and chop parsnips into chunks and toss with olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. Spread on a lined baking sheet and roast until tender. As a classic winter combination, you can’t go past roast vegetables. Mix together chopped parsnips, potatoes, kumara and carrot. Add unpeeled cloves of garlic, drizzle over olive oil and cook until golden. Before serving, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves and mix through the vegetables for a sweet flavour.
Here’s an easy winter vege soup recipe for your customers, or to try out at home.
Carrot, kumara and potato soup
Serves: 6 to 8
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 6 to 8 hours (slow cooker)
6 carrots, roughly chopped
4 kumara, roughly chopped
5 Agria potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 leeks, sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 litre (4 cups) salt-reduced chicken stock
2 cups (500ml) water
Low-fat Greek yoghurt and fresh herbs to serve
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Soften leeks with a little olive oil in your slow cooker. Place the remaining ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours. Once soup is cooked, blend for desired consistency and serve with a dollop of yoghurt, fresh herbs and grainy bread. You can freeze this soup.
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