Although I can really appreciate its sheer beauty, winter for me is actually very much of a struggle. The cold temperatures, the long hours I spend indoor because of the rain or snow, the heavy jackets and boots and, the most important, the lack of sunlight and fresh food – they all contribute to a general state of non-wellness, if I can call it this way.
One I have to make big efforts to improve – from prolonged yoga sessions and long walks, to constantly searching alternatives to the winter food I tend to cook the most (soups and stews). A diet lacking fresh ingredients can lead to acidity, reduced microbiome diversity, weak activity of the immune system and constant cravings.
Giving my body a large variety of nutrients is the number one objective year-round, but in winter it becomes an adventure when fresh seasonal produce is actually not available. This winter bowl illustrates the ideal meal our body would love to be daily nurtured with, in winter.
The ideal plate of a winter meal should contain colourful ingredients in season, dark leafy greens, fibre and protein, healthy fats and fermented foods. Here are my reasons:
- Colourful Ingredients – colours announce the presence of powerful nutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. Pink and orange ingredients are the highlight of the cold season – pomegranate, beet, grapefruit, apple, orange, pumpkin, persimmon. In winter we need extra antioxidants to boost our immune system and liver function. Citrus fruits, pomegranate and pumpkin are my choice for the seasonal produce in my winter bowl.
- Dark Leafy Greens – are the ones we should have on our plate daily, because of their detoxifying action. Baby spinach and parsley are widely available in winter.
- Fibre – in winter we tend to eat more and mostly cooked food, which burdens our digestive system. The microbiome needs fibre to fabric the byproducts that nurture our colon wall cells and maintain its health. The fibre is also needed for reducing the amount of time the food spends in our system. I’ve chosen chickpeas and broccoli for their high fibre content.
- Protein – the hormone production is supported by the presence of certain amino-acids, and keeping a constant quality protein intake is a must for balanced hormone activity. Plant based protein is preferred over the animal one because of the effects on the estrogen production of the latter. Combining legumes with seeds and nuts is the best way to get all the amino-acids necessary for building the protein blocks, and also keep you satiated. Roasted chickpeas, walnuts and millet made a delicious protein-packed combo.
- Healthy Fats – are essential for the hormone production. Avocado and walnuts are my main winter fat choice.
- Fermented Foods – our microbiome is a fascinating world, especially after reading about its connection with the neurotransmitters and mental health. If fibre nourishes them, fermented foods ensures the diversity of good bacteria. Think yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi. A happy microbiome means a super-active immune system, which is the key for staying away from colds and flu in winter. Homemade cabbage and beet sauerkraut is my favourite fermented food in winter.
How To Build a Complete Winter Buddha Bowl
- 1/3 cup millet uncooked
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 small bunch parsley chopped
- 1 small red onion finely diced
- 1/2 medium butternut squash peeled, cubed
- 1/2 small broccoli head diced
- 2 tbsp sauerkraut
- 1/2 pomegranate seeds only
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/2 pink grapefruit peeled and cut into slices
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- For the dressing
- 1/2 avocado peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsp soy yogurt
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp Dijon
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt
- Preheat the oven to 175C / 346F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the chickpeas on a half of the baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tsp coconut oil, season with cumin, turmeric and black pepper and toss to coat evenly.
- On the other half of the baking sheet add the butternut squash, drizzle with coconut oil, toss to combine and arrange in a single layer.
- Roast for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare the millet according to the package instructions (I usually simmer it over low heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes).
- Add the dressing ingredients into the blender and process to obtain a creamy liquid.
- To assemble the meal, divide the spinach, parsley and onion into the serving bowls. Top with the cooked millet, roasted squash and chickpeas, broccoli, grapefruit slices and sauerkraut.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds and walnuts, and drizzle the avocado dressing on top.