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There are so many great reasons to eat foods when they're in season. Fruits and vegetables are at their peak of freshness – and taste. Plus, when produce is in season, it's more plentiful and affordable than during other times of the year.
While eating seasonally in the spring and summer months may seem to make a lot of sense when the fresh strawberries are piling up at the local market and corn stands pop up on street corners, what about winter? During the colder months, you can still find fresh produce – especially if you know what you're looking for. Here, you'll find a list of seasonal produce for winter time, along with ideas about how to prepare them for your kids.
Good Body Benefits: Here's a superfood for you! Low in calories but high in nutrients, broccoli contains an alphabet of vitamins. It's known to aid in cancer prevention and to reduce cholesterol. It also seems to have another added benefit to your nervous system: The high potassium level keeps your brain going strong.
How to Prepare: Broccoli can be deceptively difficult to cook. Overcooking means mushy veggies. Undercook, and it becomes a bit too crunchy. But you can easily steam broccoli in the microwave. Cut into small pieces and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add in 1/4 cup water and cover the bowl with a plate. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes. Remove the plate carefully (it'll be hot!). Mudge likes to add broccoli to omelets.
Good Body Benefits: Move over oranges. Brussels sprouts are also a great source of vitamin C. These small vegetables that look like mini cabbages are also packed with vitamin K and other nutrients like fiber, which helps keep your digestive system in check.
How to Prepare: "If you serve them whole, you're probably going to get a grumpy face from your kids," says Shawn Loving, department chair for culinary arts at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. His suggestion is to use the sprouts in recipes where you might use cabbage. You can cut them up into thin strips to make coleslaw, use them in stir-fry recipes or even mix into chicken noodle soup (whether it's made from scratch or from a can).
Good Body Benefits: The orange color of carrots is courtesy of beta-carotene, which equals antioxidants. They happen to be chock-full of vitamin K, too. In fact, one serving of carrots contains almost 700 percent (yes, 700 percent) of the amount of vitamin K you need each day. And vitamin K keeps your eyes at their best.
How to Prepare: Whip them with potatoes, says chef Loving. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks before placing into boiling water with cut carrots. Once potatoes are mashable, drain the water. Whip chunks with a bit of low-fat milk until creamy using a hand blender.
Good Body Benefits: Small, juicy and the perfect on-the-go snack, grapes gush with vitamins C and K. That's not all: The nutrients in grapes have also been found to improve your heart health, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, help you live longer … and much more.
How to Prepare: Most kids don't need much coaxing to eat grapes. But for something a little different, chef Loving suggests that you put bunches in the freezer. "Kids love to bite into them when they're frozen," says the father of two.
Good Body Benefits: Mushrooms have long been considered a medicine. They contain a treasure trove of nutrients, including selenium. Haven't heard of it? Selenium boosts your body's immune system and is thought to protect its cells from certain chronic diseases.
How to Prepare: "You really can't disguise mushrooms in dishes," Loving points out. "They are what they are." His suggestion is to introduce kids to mushrooms by using them as a topping on pizza. You might also think about stirring them into quiches, scrambled eggs and pasta dishes like lasagna.
Good Body Benefits: It looks like a long yellow pumpkin. Inside are strands – like "spaghetti" – with omega-3 fatty acids, thought to cut your risk of heart disease and be good for overall health.
How to Prepare: Roast it, says Greg Mudge of Mudgie's Deli in Detroit. Cut in half, remove seeds, and brush with olive oil. Bake, cut-side up, for 45 minutes at 375 F on a big baking dish with a bit of water. Let cool; use fork to remove the insides. Serve plain or mix with regular spaghetti pasta.
Good Body Benefits: Like carrots, their orange color is a sign of beta-carotene – an antioxidant that builds up the cells in your body to help them fend off diseases.
How to Prepare: Roast peeled, chopped chunks in the oven at 375 F for 35 minutes (done when the inside is softened). Before roasting, toss in a bit of olive oil for a crispier exterior. Akua Woolbright, Ph.D., head of health/wellness at Whole Foods Market in Detroit, says to then dust them with sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Good Body Benefits: Add some color to your meals with Swiss chard. The long, thick green leaves have stalks in colors like vibrant pinks and yellows. This is another food that's great for eye health. In just one cup of Swiss chard, you'll top 300 percent of your daily value of vitamin K (and that's not including the other vitamins and minerals you'll find in these surprisingly tasty veggies).
How to Prepare: "Kids love mac 'n' cheese," Loving says. So make that dish healthier by mixing in thinly-sliced pieces of Swiss chard. The chef notes that you can tuck pieces into pot pies and casseroles, too.