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Healthy Winter Foods

Experts give advice on buying and preparing winter foods that are good for your health.
WebMD Feature

Pie, fudge, hot chocolate -- are there any winter foods out there that aren't loaded with calories and devoid of nutritional value? Look no further than your grocer's shelves, because tucked behind the box of discounted candy canes is a shopping list full of healthy and hearty winter delights.

"Winter is a terrific time to enjoy foods of fiber, color and flavor," says Roger Clemens, DrPH, a food science communicator for the Institute of Food Technology. "These foods are rich in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, and may contain good sources of protein."

Legumes, cranberries, and winter squash are just a few of the nutrition-packed must-haves for cold winter days.


"Legumes are a food that often we don't think of during summer, but they're a healthy and hearty ingredient for winter recipes," says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian in St. Paul, Minn.

Rich in important nutrients like fiber and protein, legumes, such as kidney, garbanzo, and pinto beans, lentils, and white and black beans, are a tasty addition to winter soups and stews.

"They have a hearty, meaty taste to them, which makes them great on a cold winter day in a soup or a stew," says Moores, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.


One of the first foods people think of when they think "winter" is a Thanksgiving tradition -- turkey.

"Turkey is a tremendous food for winter," says Moores. "It's lean, a great source of protein, and from a calorie standpoint, it's remarkably low."

Turkey soup, a turkey sandwich on a hearty whole-grain bread, as well as turkey on its own, is always a treat on a cold winter day.


"We have frozen cranberries year round, but in the fall and winter, we can get them fresh," says Elaine Magee, a register dietitian and the "Recipe Doctor" for WebMD. "So it's no surprise to see a lot of winter dishes loaded with cranberries."

Cranberries are not only delicious when they're fresh, they're low in calories.

"A cup is only 47 calories, with over 3 grams of fiber, and more than 20% of the daily allowance of vitamin C," says Magee.

Fresh whole cranberries add snap to salads, breads, and muffins, and for something different, try topping a turkey hot out of the oven with this tart winter berry.

Winter Squash

"Winter squashes are in abundance now," says Magee. "Acorn and butternut squash are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, and while you can buy them year round, we think about them in the fall and winter when people are more likely to prepare dishes that include them."

A cup of baked acorn squash cubes is packed with vitamins and minerals.

"A cup is only 115 calories, and contains 9 grams of fiber, 30% of your daily value of vitamin B-1, 25% daily value of B-6, 21% daily value of folic acid, 37% daily value of vitamin C, and 31% of your daily requirement of magnesium," says Magee.

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