Everyone has their favourite comfort foods to look forward to at the end of a cold day. With the official start of winter fast approaching, it’s time to enjoy soups, stews, chillis, casseroles, savoury pies and other warm dishes requiring baking or stove-top cooking.
We have menu suggestions that use tasty everyday ingredients and add to your vitamin and mineral intake to keep you going strong all winter long, without sacrificing flavour, or prescribing a cold salad for dinner when the temperature dips below zero, of course.
Squash Your Hunger
Did you know that all varieties of winter squash pack a potent nutritional punch? Winter squash is an excellent source of fibre, minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as vitamins including folate (B9), vitamin C and beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. When it comes to the most nutrient-dense types of squash, acorn and butternut squash take first and second place, meaning these ingredients are an excellent jumping-off point for healthy winter meal inspiration.
You can pair acorn and butternut squash with a wide variety of proteins including, meats, cheeses, veggies and legumes, for a warm and well-rounded winter meal.
- Turkey mushroom apple stuffed acorn squash
- Stuffed acorn squash with curried lentils
- Sheet pan maple-dijon chicken with butternut squash and brussels sprouts
- Cheesy butternut squash quinoa casserole
Are you looking for an easy way to cook kale and add more vitamin K to your diet? Try cooking up this 1-pot butternut squash quinoa chilli from Minimalist Baker.
This recipe for Jamaican peanut stew uses acorn or butternut squash, yellow squash, and zucchini, which is also a member of the squash family.
While including superfood squash varieties in your diet is excellent, your body still loves to get nutrition from a healthy array of fruits and veggies. Your “tomatoes are a fruit,” pointing out friends will note that squash is technically a fruit – so you can add even more fruit to your diet by mastering the preparation of spaghetti squash.
Dish Out Another Serving of Beta-Carotene With Sweet Potatoes
The orange colour of common sweet potato varieties hints that they are also good sources of the vitamin A producing antioxidant beta-carotene. While they have similar nutrient profiles, butternut squash is lower in calories, carbs and sugar than sweet potatoes. However, sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of protein and fibre. In contrast, butternuts offer additional vitamin E and calcium. Most importantly, though, like squash, sweet potatoes are good for you and have the versatility to be used in so many satisfying warm meals, for example:
- Sweet potato shepherd’s pie
- Moroccan stuffed sweet potatoes
- Chilli lime sweet potato and chicken skillet
- Chipotle sweet potato chilli with black beans
- Buffalo chickpea stuffed sweet potatoes and buffalo chicken sweet potatoes
While sweet potatoes get a lot of praise for their nutritional value, a humble baked-potato contains more potassium than a sweet potato or even a banana. Furthermore, red, white, and russet potatoes are more nutrient-dense than their distant orange relatives. More proof that foods don’t have to be labelled “super” to be part of a healthy home-cooked meal! Go ahead and add some delicious red potato recipes to your holiday dinners.
Add the benefits of sunshine to your diet with vitamin D rich foods
Vitamin D plays an essential role in maintaining bone, teeth, and muscle health. It’s a well-known nutrition fact that as Canadians living far away from the equator, our bodies absorb insufficient amounts of vitamin D from sunlight in the winter. As a result, bone loss can occur faster during the colder, darker months, so we need to ensure we’re eating enough of this nutrient. Many Canadian food products like orange juice, cereals, dairy and dairy alternatives are fortified with vitamin D to help us get enough. However, it’s also a good idea to add naturally vitamin D rich foods to our winter meal plans.
Salmon & Tuna
A 100-gram serving of salmon contains about 66% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin D in addition to a heart-healthy helping of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Get more than half of your daily vitamin D requirement, squash, veggies and delicious zesty herbs with crispy salmon bowls with pesto spaghetti squash.
- Combine two sources of healthy fats with this grilled salmon and avocado salsa recipe.
- Get a dose of vitamin D and your greens with easy salmon florentine or salmon asparagus dill casserole.
Canned tuna is another accessible vitamin D3 source, with 34% of your daily recommended value for every 100-gram serving. Time to whip out your family’s signature recipe for tuna noodle casserole, or try this healthy tuna noodle casserole made with sustainably caught albacore tuna.
UV Exposed Mushrooms
Mushrooms are the only naturally-occurring vitamin D source (vitamin D2, to be exact) that doesn’t come from an animal product. Mushrooms exposed to adequate UV light during growing or even post-harvesting contain high sunshine vitamin levels because mushrooms can absorb vitamin D much like our skin. You can also place mushrooms in the sun before consumption, but, also like your skin, edible fungi will absorb less vitamin D from the weaker winter sun. A good workaround is to make homemade batches of dried mushrooms in the spring, summer, and fall or purchase dried wild mushrooms that absorbed sunlight outside during the growing process.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are a staple of Asian cuisine that add signature umami flavour to scrumptious warm and hearty dishes like hot and sour soup and brown rice congee. Of course, mushrooms are the star of many nutritious hot meals, from soups and risottos to chillis and casseroles.
- Leek, mushroom, and chicken soup
- Cheesy miso mushroom rice
- Baked barley risotto with mushrooms and carrots
- Cremini mushroom, black bean, and corn chilli
- Cheesy keto mushroom casserole
While some choose to skip yolks to lower their cholesterol intake, egg yolks are among the best naturally occurring vitamin D sources, making having eggs for dinner a healthy option in the winter. Eggs also pair well with mushrooms, cheese and virtually any vegetable.
- Loaded vegetable egg casserole
- Portobello Eggs
- Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata with Goat Cheese
- One-Pan Curried Shakshuka
- Vitamin K is also an essential nutrient for bone health. Leafy greens are a good vitamin K source, making this crustless spinach and mushroom quiche a bone-strengthening powerhouse!
- Get your vitamins A, K, and D plus calcium with this cheesy, spinach loaded sweet potato egg casserole, or keep it simple with individually portioned shredded sweet potato baked egg nests.
Now that you’ve filled up on suggestions for getting your vitamins A through K this winter, we hope you feel inspired with fresh ideas to cook up healthy meals that your family will enjoy. Many of our favourite winter dishes like roasted potatoes and tuna casseroles are already non-fussy sources of nutrients. The addition of colourful produce and a few extra sources of vitamin D can turn a regular wintertime dinner into a bone fortifying, antioxidant boosting, super nutrition feast!