Seasonal Eating in Transition from Winter to Spring

by Lara Zakaria, RPh HHC

During the long, harsh winter, have you noticed you’ve been eating foods heavier than what you typically crave? Have you gained some extra winter weight?

You’re not alone. During winter, our bodies crave hearty meals and sedentary lifestyles. In fact, this response to cold temperatures and shorter days is rooted deeply into our DNA. Winter has traditionally been a time of little food and work. Our ancestors would spending all of fall preparing for the cold months: preserving food that could be eaten when no fruits or vegetables can grow.

Fermentation of foods like kimchi and sauerkraut was done to preserve vegetables through the winter months and became a common tradition in many cultures. Fermented food not only provided nutrition throughout the winter months, but also good bacteria to boost digestion and immunity. Plus the pleasant spice adds warmth. In fact, using spices has also been a long-standing winter tradition. Warming spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin and cayenne are great for helping boost body temperature.

Foods with creamy or fatty components are also useful for keeping warm in the winter. Root veggies like sweet potato, yams and carrots, more abundant in the winter, pair nicely with creamy soups/stews and fat-laden comfort foods. Unfortunately, these caloric foods may also make us gain weight.

In our ancestor’s time, extra weight would have benefited humans by helping them stay warm. Added weight actually increases metabolism and therefore your ability to generate heat. But now that winter is coming to a close, we should start thinking about transitioning to a more seasonally-appropriate diet so that we don’t continue to gain weight we don’t need.

As we approach warmer weather, our appetites aren’t as ravenous, and we might slowly start to add back smoothies and juice into our daily routines.To reset your body, add leafy greens back into your diet as they start to become more abundant. Also, start to move away from thick, cream-based meals, towards lighter vinegar- or lemon-based dressings. Many people also take advantage of spring to initiate a cleanse; even the simple act of adding more raw foods, leafy greens and juice will help stimulate this process.

Join me on March 22, at the Spring Cleanse Restore & Renew! workshop with Yoga in the Heights instructor Karen Mandell, who will be teaching a gentle spring cleanse practice. I’ll be there afterward to talk more about how to use food and juice to stimulate gentle cleansing. You won’t have to starve or deprive yourself – just use your body’s natural triggers to guide you into spring.