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What to eat this winter

Medical & health articles 14 Jul 2021

If the colder weather has you thinking non-stop about food, why not focus on the seasonal foods that are actually good for you, instead of reaching for unhealthy choices?

Here, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella talks about her tips and winter-food winners, explaining how they can help you through the colder months and how to get more of these ingredients into your daily diet.

Change up to warm up

When winter hits and the outside temperature drops, it's a good idea to change your food choices to suit the season, explains Sandra. "Move away from the summery health foods of cold salads and smoothies, and warm up from the inside by eating more cooked and warm foods," she says.

Many of us do this automatically and start to crave winter-warming meals such as soups and stews in the colder months

Sandra Villella, Jean Hailes naturopath

You can also increase the warming power of food by adding certain herbs and spices. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes for an added kick of warmth. Add a pinch or two of your favourites as you cook your porridge, soup or roasted vegies.

Herbal teas close at hand

Instead of warming up with another tea or coffee, Sandra suggests having your favourite herbal teas close at hand, either at work or home.

Ginger tea has been traditionally used to boost circulation, it's anti-inflammatory and wonderfully calming to the digestive system. Real chai tea [not powdered] is another good option, it can be bought as a tea blend and is made with a combination of warming herbs and spices.

Sandra Villella, Jean Hailes naturopath

An added bonus of drinking herbal teas in winter is that they help you to stay hydrated if you don't feel like drinking water in the colder weather.

Pumpkin, sweet potato & carrots

To satisfy the 'carb' cravings that often come with winter, Sandra suggests including these orange-coloured options.

Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene, a nutrient that the body can convert to vitamin A and use to aid our immune system. It helps to form our body's first line of defence against the colds and flus that are common in the colder months.

Sweet potatoes can be used wherever you would use regular potatoes – mashed, roasted or steamed – and contain more beneficial nutrients than their paler cousins. Roasted carrots add a naturally sweet element to other vegetables or a roast.

These recipes from Sandra, which you can find in the Jean Hailes Kitchen, all boast the benefits of these wonderful vegies:

Start your dinner with soup

Having a small bowl of vegie soup before your main meal is a great way to boost your daily vegetable intake. It can also help to manage potential winter weight gain, by reducing the amount of food you eat in the meal overall.

Here is a basic recipe to follow: sauté some garlic and onion or leek, add all of your favourite soup vegetables and a good stock, simmer until done. Serve with an optional dollop of pesto.

Soups can also form the whole meal and makes excellent leftovers for lunch. Sandra's Cauliflower & cannellini bean soup is a delicious and extremely quick meal to prepare, especially suited for the winter months when cauliflower is in season. For soups that take a little longer to make, Sandra recommends making a big batch and freezing easy-portioned sizes for the weeks ahead.

Some of her other favourites soup recipes are:

Don't skip the protein

A key nutrient to pay attention to during winter is zinc. This mineral helps our immune system to recognise and destroy invading bacteria and viruses, so being low in zinc can make you more likely to pick up winter bugs.

But note – when we talk about the immune system fighting the winter bugs, we mean the regular cough and cold bugs, not the COVID virus. The only way we can protect ourselves from COVID is to be vaccinated.

Protein foods are the best sources of zinc, says Sandra.

"Always include a fist-sized portion of protein at every meal," she says. "Animal sources of protein are meats, eggs, fish and dairy. Lower amounts are found in vegetable sources such as pulses or legumes; for example beans, chickpeas and lentils, as well as seeds and nuts.

"The zinc in these vegetable sources is more available if they are sprouted, so soaking overnight in water starts this sprouting process."

Bonus recipe

Chermoula is a paste rich in warming spices and winter-winning nutrients. A recipe that originated in North Africa, it's often on standby in Sandra's fridge, ready to be whipped out and used in a variety of ways. Sandra's version below is variation of a recipe by Neil Perry.

Chermoula can be used as a marinade for meats (think lamb or chicken), as a sauce for fish, seafood or vegetarian dishes, or to spice up a winter soup – just add a generous drizzle/dollop to serve.

It packs a punch of flavour and is guaranteed to add some zing to a wintry day.

Sandra's winter-warming chermoula paste


  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch coriander (green tops and stems only)
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil


Place all ingredients except for the oil into a food processor, process ingredients and slowly add the oil until it forms a wet paste. Store in a jar in the fridge and use as a marinade, sauce or paste.

Find out more about healthy eating and access more recipes and quick tips by visiting the Jean Hailes Kitchen.

All rea­son­able steps have been tak­en to ensure the infor­ma­tion cre­at­ed by Jean Hailes Foun­da­tion, and pub­lished on this web­site is accu­rate as at the time of its creation. 

Last updated: 
17 January 2024
Last reviewed: 
26 May 2024