This month, nutritionist Samantha Gemmell joins us to provide some quick tips on how to eat well year round - even when it's freezing cold and all you want is comfort food!
Every season has its ups and downs, and the same goes for how we eat during a season. In winter, it’s easy to rely on rich comfort foods. In summer, the constant partying and cocktails can take a toll. The good news is that you can eat well all year round, using these tips to guide you.
Stock up on seasonal produce
Spring is a fantastic time to get back into fruit and veggies, as many of them come back into season. So head down to your local farmers market and check out what is available. Why not use this opportunity to try something new? After all, a delicious recipe with a new piece of produce is just a Google away.
Skip the detox fads
Every other person will be jumping on a detox or cleanse bandwagon. Most of them have no evidence base whatsoever – they’re just there to sell you supplements. Some can even be downright dangerous, particularly for people with compromised health.
If you really want to give your health a reboot, seek advice from a qualified health practitioner. Their reboots will be based not on cleansing your system, but supporting your body to do what it already does using wholefoods.
Grow your own
Spring is the time to get growing, no matter where you live. If you want to bring more fresh, nutritious ingredients into your diet, try growing your own herbs or lettuce. Even an apartment can have its own little balcony pot plants or windowsill planter.
Not sure what to grow? Pop down to your local nursery and ask a staff member for some advice.
Spice it up
You might think that summer is the worst time for spicy foods. But the tropical countries are onto something with their burning hot dishes. Spicy foods make you sweat, which is the body’s natural cooling system. Spices are also packed full of antioxidants with a variety of health benefits – so it’s a two-for-one deal.
Eat water-rich foods
When the temperature rises, so does our need for hydration. But it can often be a struggle to drink as much as you need, especially if you don’t enjoy plain water. The good news is that summer is the best time to consume water-rich foods.
Fruit and veg are packed full of water – many contain 70% or more water. Think melons, tropical fruit, cucumber, lettuce and any other seasonal produce that strikes your fancy.
Make salads your base
Salad greens are in season over summer, so it’s the perfect time to make salads a base, rather than a side. Mix up your favourite greens and top with protein, low GI carbohydrate and/or healthy fats of choice.
One of my favourite dishes over summer is Thai Beef Salad. First, we make a base of salad leaves, carrot, capsicum and snowpeas. Then we’ll cook up some steak, slice it up, and serve it with a spicy peanut sauce. It only takes 20 minutes to prepare, and it is a family favourite.
Go for the roots
As the weather turns, it’s easy to sink into comfort eating. But instead of reaching for a packet of chips, why not make your own at home? Root veggies are full of fibre, antioxidants and minerals, and are easy to make into chips.
Simply slice them up, drizzle with a bit of oil, add seasoning of choice, and bake until crispy. When you know what’s going into your comfort food, it’s even more comforting!
Add some warming ingredients
As it gets closer to winter, you’ll start to get days that give you a chill right down to the bone. But luckily, you can use food to warm you back up again!
There are several healthy ingredients that can boost your circulation and keep you toasty. Some of my favourites include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and homemade broth.
The days are getting shorter, and you’re probably going to feel more tired. So autumn is a great time to start batch-cooking meals and storing leftovers. That way, you always have a healthy meal in the fridge or freezer if you come home too tired to cook from scratch.
As a bonus, you can also use the leftovers as a lunch option for the following day.
Sip warm drinks
Drinking water will often go out the window in winter. But thanks to the heating and dry air, we often need more water to be at our best. So what’s the best hack to get around this? Head for the warm drinks.
No, I don’t mean you can drink 8 cups of coffee in lieu of water! Instead, head for some herbal tea options. Some of my favourite herbal teas for the work day include green tea with ginkgo, cacao tea and elderberry tea.
Pack comfort food with veg
Warm stews, rich soups and big bowls of pasta are indulgent – right? Well you can keep them nutritious by packing them full of veggies. Seasonal choices like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and carrot are easy to add to any comfort food.
Not a veggie fan? Just blend them up before adding them to a flavour-packed sauce – you won’t even notice the difference, but your body will.
Munch on citrus
Winter is a citrus-rich season, and for good reason. These tangy fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidants needed to keep your body primed against invading germs. Munch on oranges, tangerines, mandarins, grapefruit and lemon.
Samantha is a qualified nutritionist (BHSc), health writer and speaker. Her passion lies in the power of food and the belief that there is no one perfect diet for everyone. Although she wears many hats within her industry, her end goal remains the same: making health simple, actionable and evidence-based. You can find more of her content over at samanthagemmell.com.