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Seasonal eating: Winter foods that nourish mind and body

No season should be an excuse for poor eating habits. This winter, avoid traditional comfort foods like mac and cheese and cozy up to filling, nutritious foods.

February 15, 2024

Winter doesn’t have to mean fattening foods and weight gain. While it is tempting to whip up a big bowl of creamy mac and cheese to warm up on a snowy day, there are plenty of comfort foods that are both nourishing and nutritious. Try recipes that include these hearty foods to keep you feeling full and satisfied:

Soups and chili

Avoid cream-based soups and opt for those with a low-sodium vegetable broth base. Adding beans and/or lean meat, like chicken or turkey, is a great way to fill up while also getting a boost of fiber and protein. Be wary of using too many toppings—cheese, sour cream, and cracker calories quickly add up.

Scroll down to the bottom of this blog for some of our favorite winter soup recipes.

Whole grains

Whole grains are high in fiber and other nutrients, while lower in calories than refined grains. Whole grain pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, farro, bulgur, and buckwheat are delicious and easy ways to add high value nutrition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And, studies show that adding more whole grains to your diet can help lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and weight gain.

Scroll down to the bottom of this blog for our quinoa and chickpea salad recipe.


Common legumes include kidney beans, chickpeas, peanuts, cannellini beans, black beans, and lentils. They are highly nutritious and often recommended for those following the Mediterranean, DASH, or vegetarian and vegan diets. Legumes contain plant-based protein that makes them filling on their own or a quick addition to many other types of dishes.

Root vegetables

Beets, carrots, turnips, and parsnips are a tasty way to add nutritional value to your winter meals. Simply eat raw or roast in the oven to eat as a side dish or add to soup, pasta, other whole grains, or salad for a full meal.

Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables

If fresh produce is hard to come by, try keeping frozen varieties on hand. As a rich source of vitamin C, these fruits and vegetables also provide an immunity boost in a time of year when sickness abounds: spinach, kale, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, oranges, mangos, kiwi, and strawberries. Most nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables are found in equal measure with their frozen counterparts.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps manage weight gain, reduce the risk of certain diseases, and improves overall mood. Foods that are packed with vitamin D include salmon, tuna fish, eggs, shitake mushrooms, milk, and fortified orange juice. Eat them alone or incorporate into pastas, soups, or other whole grains for a fulfilling winter meal.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium, and contains probiotics that help regulate overall gut health. It also contains more protein, and often less sugar, than regular yogurt. Choose plain Greek yogurt and add fruit, nuts, and cinnamon for a delicious and healthy treat.


Snacks have an inherently bad rap, but there are lots of choices that both taste good and are healthy for you. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are high in fiber and antioxidants, and add a sweet touch to other foods. Try them as a quick snack or add to yogurt or oatmeal for a heartier bite to eat. Nuts also make a great snack option. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios contain disease-fighting antioxidants. Just be sure to eat them in moderation and choose unsalted or low-salt varieties.

Healthy winter recipes

Quinoa and chickpea salad

Quinoa and chickpea salad
Quinoa chickpea salad

Submitted by: Keisha Carter

Keisha is a colleague in Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center who submitted this delicious quinoa and chickpea salad recipe that’s not only healthy but also looks beautiful on your plate. This recipe will keep you full and is filled with healthy fats and antioxidants. It’s also heart-healthy and great for digestion and energy! Whip this up for an easy and nutrition-packed meal or side dish.


  • Cooked quinoa (white or multicolored)
  • Spinach
  • Shredded carrots
  • Red onion
  • Peppers (any color)
  • Avocado
  • Hemp seeds
  • Tahini dressing
  • Roasted chickpeas


Cook quinoa in salted water or veggie broth. Season chickpeas to your liking and toss in olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees until crispy. Add quinoa to large bowl, and let cool. Add chopped onions and peppers, raw spinach, and shredded carrots. Mix well until incorporated, then add to plate. Add roasted chickpeas and sliced avocado to top and sprinkle hemp seeds. Then, drizzle tahini dressing. Enjoy!

Turkey and veggie chili

Who doesn't love an easy family favorite? This gluten-free and high-fiber chili recipe from the American Diabetes Association can be thrown together into a single pot and ready to serve in a half-hour. A rich assortment of veggies — including tomatoes and carrots — give this bowl its color, and they also deliver immunity-supporting vitamins A and C. Turkey and beans contribute a savory warmth many crave during wintertime, as well as the protein power you might need to get through those bitterly cold days.

Butternut squash soup

Make the most of seasonal powerhouse butternut squash with this cozy-colored bowl. Coming from the American Heart Association, this soup features 2 grams each of fiber and protein and can be made even faster by buying precut and packaged squash from the store. Not only does it go down smooth and easy, but it's also a good source of vitamins A, C and copper — which all help the immune system function as it should. Consider freezing in smaller one-serving containers to make reheated meals in a flash.

The bottom line? No season should be an excuse for poor eating habits. Avoid traditional comfort foods like mac and cheese and cozy up to filling, nutritious foods that will feed both your body and mind.

February 15, 2024