Cold-Weather Vegetables: Why You Should Add These 4 Recipes To Your Diet

A diabetes-nutrition expert shares her favorite ways to eat more of winter's bounty.

fall veggies in a modern kitchenWinter squashes can easily be incorporated into a blood-sugar friendly diet. Colorful and delicious, these seasonal selections provide a good source of nutrients, too!

“Winter vegetables” almost seems like an oxymoron, since farmer’s markets obviously abound with more vegetables (and teem with more people) in the summer.

But some plants love cooler temperatures and, in fact, yield hearty, earthy vegetables that seem to pack extra sustenance to help us make it through winter. Of course, modern agriculture guarantees vegetables are available year-round regardless of the temperatures. 

But focusing on seasonal winter vegetables helps ensure a variety of nutrients. So, while you hunker down this fall and winter, think about broadening your winter vegetable horizons by preparing some of these seasonal, natural powerhouses!

#1. Miso-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means the flowers contain four leaves that resemble the shape of a cross. They are in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rutabagas and kale.  The sulfur-containing compounds in them that are helpful against cancer are responsible for their strong aroma and bitter flavor.

One cup of Brussels sprouts provides 100% of your daily needs for vitamin C and vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and heart health. They are also a good source of fiber (helps regulate blood sugar), folate (which promotes heart health), and potassium (an important nutrient for blood pressure as determined by the well-studied DASH diet).

Preparation: Brussels sprouts can be roasted, steamed or boiled. I prefer roasting, because it brings out their flavor, whereas steaming or boiling can water their flavor down and make them soggy. Red miso paste is a salty, fermented soybean paste made with a little barley. Fermented foods are good for the gut microbiome, contributing natural bacterial that are beneficial to our health. Using a tiny bit gives the Brussels sprouts umami, or a satisfying savory, flavor without increasing the sodium content too much.

#2. Sweet Potato and Kale Hash

Hash is usually made with white potatoes, but sweet potatoes contain more nutrients. A serving of sweet potato provides more than your daily needs for vitamin A (from beta carotene, which is responsible for the orange pigment). They are also a good source of vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium. 

Kale, also a cruciferous vegetable, provides some cancer-fighting compounds and a daily dose of vitamin K, as well as a pretty green color contrasting the orange. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6.

Preparation: Apples, onion, celery, sage, pecans and cranberries round out the flavors of this dish to invoke a harvest “stuffing” flavor, which is perfect for a stuffed squash, a side dish, or even a breakfast hash alongside eggs. Sweet potatoes can be baked, microwaved, cooked in an Instant Pot to be mashed, or added to stews and soups. It can also be sliced and baked to be used as a gluten-free “toast” or layered as a quiche “crust.” Kale can be eaten raw as a salad, stir-fried and wilted, added to smoothies, roasted with other vegetables or baked into crispy chips.

#3. Balsamic-Roasted Root Vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets, and turnips or rutabagas)

A serving of carrots is an excellent source of beta carotene. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Parsnips are sweeter than carrots so generally contain more carbohydrate. They are not a significant source of beta carotene (note parsnips are white, not orange), but they are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese, which is a mineral needed by the body in small amounts daily for the metabolism of carbohydrate and protein.

Beets are a very naturally sweet root vegetable. They are also high in fiber and manganese. Although I used rutabagas in this recipe, you could use turnips. In fact, most people mix up the names and use these two cruciferous vegetables interchangeably. A turnip is usually white with some purple-pigmented skin. A rutabaga is yellow, bigger and sweeter than a turnip.

Rutabagas are usually waxed and require peeling. Both are good sources of fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin B6. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C.

Preparation: All of these root vegetables can be roasted, or boiled, but only carrots are eaten raw. Roasting the root vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and rosemary and balsamic add an interesting blend of flavors and minimize the turnip or rutabaga’s slight bitterness.

#4. Spaghetti Squash Aglio e Olio (with garlic and olive oil)

Spaghetti squash is a squash unlike any other. When cooked, the pulp of this squash takes on a spaghetti-like texture, which makes it a great lower-carbohydrate, high-fiber alternative to pasta. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese, as well as some pantothenic acid (a B vitamin), calcium and magnesium.

Preparation: Spaghetti squash can be baked, microwaved, or steamed. I chose to use the Instant Pot to speed up the steaming process—9 minutes gives you an “al dente” texture that is remarkably like pasta, especially with the flavors of garlic and olive oil! If you don’t agree, you could always mix the squash with a couple of ounces of cooked spaghetti to make it more satisfying than the squash alone, yet not as high in carbohydrate as a whole plate of pasta.

More Winter Vegetables

Of course, there are many more winter vegetables you may want to try, including the following:

  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Delicata squash
  • Kobacha squash
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens
  • Leeks, and other onions

Trying some of these winter vegetables or preparing them in new ways will keep things fresh (literally) and interesting. It may even help your family adopt some new fall and winter food traditions.

Feel free to reach out to me via my website, The Wandering RD, if you would like suggestions on how to prepare any of the vegetables on the list above. In the meantime, happy eating!

Updated on: December 10, 2018
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