There are other sources for fresh stuff but you have to choose carefully. “The many natural-food stores and supermarkets in our area have a lot of very fresh produce,” says Shelowitz. “Let your eyes do the decision-making as you walk down the produce aisle. If the greens look limp and slightly yellow, keep walking. If the beets are soft to the touch, move on.” She advises steering clear of waxed vegetables, a sign of too-long storage which is all too common.
Another source for out-of-season produce from local farms is Winter Sun at wintersunfarms.com. It’s a CSA for frozen food with pick-ups in Poughkeepsie, New Paltz and Kingston (where there is currently a waiting list).
If you get your vegetables from other sources, choose frozen over canned. Many veggies are frozen right after harvesting, flash-blanched and frozen immediately. The canning process involves more cooking and usually more salt, so is generally less healthful. I buy frozen bagged kale, soybeans, peas, corn and spinach, which can be thrown into a soup in a second or simmered as a simple side when time is short. Bagged frozen berries — I like wild blueberries — can be tossed still frozen into cereal or in yogurt.
While hearty meat braises and stews are delicious and often frugal because they use the less expensive tasty cuts, they are rich and shouldn’t be a daily thing. Use meats from the above sources, as naturally raised meats are often leaner because of the way they are fed, plus free of chemicals and hormones.
Fish is available throughout the winter, fresh or frozen, and a great source of lean protein. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, look at alternative sources of protein like the complete protein you get by combining legumes and grains, like in black beans and rice, nut butter on whole grain bread, or hummus, which combines a legume and a seed.
Nuts and dried fruits are keepers that don’t have a short season. They’re very nutritious, and versatile for snacking or adding to dishes. And you can find fruits like pomegranates, apples, and citrus to add color and nutrition to your daily intake. Look for probiotics in the form of yogurt.
Boost serotonin with healthy carbs like sweet yellow or orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and winter squash. Get your vitamin D levels up with sun exposure whenever you can find it, and with supplements, fortified dairy products, egg yolks, mushrooms (especially dried shiitakes) and fatty fish like sardines, salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel. Find vitamin C in leafy greens, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, potato skins, peppers and tomatoes. Whole grains are good keepers and a source of vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and fiber. Try barley, bulgur, oats, whole wheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice.
Winter presents some serous challenges to staying healthy. Remember, a strong immune system starts at the table, and with a bit of effort you can stay well-nourished and healthy until the green stuff pops up in spring!