Create warmth in winter

When it’s cold outside, our bodies feel and function differently than when it’s warm. We are naturally drawn to different foods when it’s cold than when it’s hot. Our bodies are smart, our bodies know that winter and warmth go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, our heads get in the way. In this article, I’ll teach you how to create warmth in winter to support your digestion, metabolism, and overall health.

Let me give you an example. Recently, I met with a nutrition coaching client who was telling me that she doesn’t really like eating salads this time of year but she tries to eat them everyday for lunch. I listened, I acknowledged her intention to eat a healthy diet, and I pointed out on that particular day that it was 23 degrees F outside. Salads don’t grow in upstate NY under the snow. In order to grow lettuce in NY in the winter, it would have to be grown in a greenhouse where it’s warm. If you want greens in the winter, cook up some collard greens or kale or put the greens in a soup or stew. Salads are cooling, not warming. Her body was craving warmth and she was telling herself “salads are healthy so I should eat more salads”. This is true, but partial. Lettuce-based salads are healthy. . . and are great to incorporate in the spring, summer, and early fall.

Our cravings and desires for foods naturally follow the seasons, if we let them. If it’s winter time and you just don’t want salads (or smoothies or cucumbers or whatever) because they are cold, think about what your body is wanting. If you don’t want to eat salads in the winter when it’s cold, don’t! Most likely, the foods you’ll crave are warming. One thing I love about having a CSA (community supported agriculture) share year-round is that we get what’s seasonal, even in the winter.

In the ancient Indian tradition of Ayurveda, warmth in the vata season of winter helps counteract the coldness of the season. You can warm up your digestion and metabolism in the winter by eating certain foods and foods prepared in a certain way. Simply eating with the seasons also helps. You can ask- does this grow where I live now or could it be harvested and stored for the winter?

The most obvious warming foods are those that are physically warm to the touch, think:

  • Hot beverages like coffee, tea or hot cocoa
  • Soups
  • Stews and chili
  • Warm breakfasts like porridge or oatmeal
  • Casseroles
  • Roasts
  • Hot and spicy foods like Thai red curry

There are many other warming foods as well, like:

soup in bowl
  • Winter squash
  • Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Garlic and onions
  • Meat, poultry, fish, and bone broths
  • Nuts and seeds and nut butters
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, wheat (if you can tolerate it)
  • Ghee, extra virgin olive oil
  • Dried fruits like apricots, dates, figs
  • Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, tangerines
  • Cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir (if you can tolerate it)
  • Spices like ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, anise, fennel, cumin
  • Herbs like basil, bay, dill, thyme, peppermint
  • Teas like chai, cardamom, ginger, chamomile, clove, cinnamon, orange peel

Keep it simple. How could you incorporate more of these warming foods in your diet this winter?

Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

4 thoughts on “Create warmth in winter”

  1. Thanks Erin: so that I limit my daily cookie intake I have chosen cottage cheese to keep my blood sugar numbers in range. I usually exercise and try and get in a half hour walk with the dog. Thanks for the Christmas card. May you and the family have a wonderful Christmas. John and Judy

  2. Thank you for the warm winter advice!
    On the cold snowy day we have a snow day from school, made a hot bowl of soup with frozen and fresh veggies, grains, spices to warm the body and soul!!!👍😊

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