Happy First Day of Winter! Have you downloaded my FREE guide to Shopping Seasonally yet?
How to Shop Seasonally in Winter
FREE download 👇🏼
It’s officially the beginning of winter, which is exciting because each season has different foods that reach their peak ripeness. When you think of winter, something cold or frosty probably comes to mind, but for many parts of the world, plants and trees are in full fruition. I’ve always loved the citrus and different flavors and spices that are associated with winter holidays because they remind me that even in winter things can grow and flourish.
This post will contain some excerpts from How to Shop Seasonally in Fall since I think the information is worth repeating! I've tailored it with considerations for winter so that it stays relevant to the current season and can accurately help you make educated, budget-friendly choices when it comes to winter groceries. Shopping seasonally can help trim the budget while you trim the tree, and it can also expose you to the local flavors, unique blends, and hearty tastes of the winter season.
Why buy seasonal in the first place?
Seasonal produce has often been less processed (meaning less additives altering nutritional value negatively have been added), which helps to encourage both communities and the individuals that comprise them to eat more fresh produce and as a result a healthier diet. Buying seasonal also helps to support local economies and create connections with seasonal suppliers and consumers. Fruits and vegetables cost less when they are “in season” because the growing process and transport of these produce items occurs more naturally and according to regular harvest cycles. When someone says, “this food item is going to be expensive because it is not in season right now”, this is what they are referring to.
In other words, the short answer to this question is that seasonal produce purchase is not only more cost-effective, it also helps to connect individuals in a community to their best quality of life. Seasonal shopping also benefits the environment. Eating what is in season is more sustainable because the production of the food occurs within the natural production season. Some production seasons are local, and others are global (1). This means that some produce can be grown in one place and eaten anywhere around the world, and other produce is produced naturally in one season and eaten within that same climate zone. While many factor into costs taxing the environment, eating more seasonal food and being more aware of the production process going into our groceries is one way to add an element of sustainability to our diet-- while also benefiting our individual health. In essence, we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
How do I know what is in season right now (during winter)?
Popular holiday ingredients such as grapefruit, pears, sweet potatoes and yams, and winter squash are in season during winter. To find out what is in season, I generally recommend these five quick tips which can help you find out what to look for this season within MINUTES. Yup, that quick.
#1: Look for a sign
Supermarkets often highlight seasonal produce or offer special deals for bulk purchase of holiday ingredients. Look for signs or weekly deals to tell you what is in season and on sale.
#2: Use your resources
Sites such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Seasonal Produce Guide can help you explore what is in season and how to save on seasonal produce by utilizing nutritious options in delicious recipes.
#3: Think about your favorite winter and holiday dishes.
It’s not by accident that many popular holiday dishes have ingredients that peak in the winter season. For example, pomegranates and butternut squash are both in season in winter and are commonly utilized in dishes this time of year.
#4: Find a farmer’s market
Hit the farmer's market. Local markets often feature seasonal produce and it's at its freshest.
#5: Download my FREE guide & take it with you to the store.
Easy, breezy, lemon squeezy (spoiler alert -- lemons are in season, as you will see from the handout :) ).
How to Shop Seasonally in Winter
FREE download 👇🏼
Are there variations by location or other factors?
While there may be small variations in what is available based on location, climate, and other factors affecting your local community, for the most part suppliers work to make sure they supply what is seasonally in demand. In winter, weather warnings, high demand, and other factors may influence the accuracy of delivery time estimates.
Where can I find seasonal produce?
Seasonal produce can be found in a variety of places, including farmer’s markets, local farms, or as advertised during seasonal promotions at your local grocers, especially natural grocers. If you are having difficulty finding seasonal produce, consult a nutrition and dietitian technician, registered (NDTR) -I’m one and would be happy to help answer any questions you might have- or a registered dietitian (RD) for more information.
Are there health benefits to eating seasonally?
The benefits on your gut
Research shows that the human gut microbiome, or our intestinal environment, responds to many environmental factors. Two of these factors are diet (the food we choose to eat) and seasonal variations. A recent study found that while the gut can remain relatively stable throughout the year, there are significant shifts that happen seasonally. These changes include (2):
The abundance of bacteria
Correlations between typical foods consumed during a certain season and the rise or decline of bacteria
Image from Reference 2 (listed below). Produce consumption varies with the seasons. In summer months when fresh produce is available, consumption rises to a higher level than in winter. In winter, higher amounts of canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are consumed because fresh produce may not be as accessible as in the summer. Both fresh produce and canned or frozen produce can be nutritious options.
The benefits on your wallet
Produce is less expensive when it is in season. You can save money and eat nutritiously by using the guide I provided FREE with this post (3).
The benefits on your body
Shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables can having the following positive effects on your body (3,4):
Promotes healthy heart and memory
Lowers the risk of certain cancers
Promotes healthy vision, immune systems, and strong teeth and bones
Supports healthy eyes, skin, and digestion
Promotes healthy aging
Lowers the risk of stroke
Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Macdiarmid JI. Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2014;73(3):368-375. doi:10.1017/S0029665113003753
Davenport ER, Mizrahi-Man O, Michelini K, Barreiro LB, Ober C, et al. (2014) Seasonal Variation in Human Gut Microbiome Composition. PLOS ONE 9(3): e90731. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090731
UnidosUS. Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables and their Benefits. The Walmart Foundation. 2020 Accessed at http://vps6291.inmotionhosting.com/bitstream/handle/123456789/1580/8.5x11_seasonalfruits.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y.
Snap-Ed Connection. Seasonal Produce Guide, Fall. 2020. Accessed at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/fall.