We have teamed up with Millie Padula – dietitian, nutritionist and founder of Dietitian Edition – to help you understand the nutritional value of seasonal produce this winter.
Read on for Millie’s tips to add more goodness to your meals.
By Millie Padula.
Filling our bodies with nutrient-dense foods and fluids helps to optimise our immune function, gut health and mood to guarantee a wholesome and healthy winter ahead.
As simple as it is, one of my biggest pieces of advice I can offer as a dietitian is to eat more wholefoods. Why? Just over four per cent of Australians eat enough vegetables which is quite alarming. With that in mind, here are my top seven tips on how to incorporate more wholefoods into your diet and how you can optimise the nutritional value of seasonal produce.
1. Eat seasonally
With today's fast-moving food industry, accelerated resources and our willingness to have boundless access to all foods at all times, we have become so spoiled for choice and as a result have lost sight (and the desire) to consume seasonally.
Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season not only ensures optimal nutrient retention and consumption, but is also more affordable. Purchasing seasonally and locally grown food also reduces our carbon footprint and is a great way to support the farmers.
Lastly, eating seasonally offers more variety within our diets, which according to research is beneficial for our gut health. Experts recommend consuming 30 or more plants per week to optimise the beneficial bacteria in your gut for greater health outcomes.
2. Leave the skin on where you can
As tempting as it is to reach for the peeler, I want to encourage you to leave the skin on your fruits and vegetables where possible. I’m not advising you to munch down on a banana peel, but for carrots, apples, pears, pumpkins, pears, zucchinis etc, it’s best to consume the outer layer if viable.
The skins hold a vast majority of the nutrients and are the most fibre-rich component of the food. Fibre is essential for our gut health, but it also helps to stabilise our appetite, keep us fuller for longer, and has proven to indirectly support our immune function and mood.
3. Choose smoothies over juices
If you are game enough to drink smoothies in the winter time, I commend your commitment. I personally prefer a warmer alternative, however smoothies can be a great way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables regardless of the time of year. Smoothies are superior to juices because the produce generally remains intact. As a result, more of the nutrients are retained and you get a more balanced and satisfying meal or snack.
4. Experiment with different cooking methods
Despite popular belief, fresh produce doesn’t actually lose a whole lot of nutrients during the cooking process. Sure, certain varieties of cooking reserve higher quantities of vitamins and minerals but the main point here is that you incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables and utilise a range of cooking methods as often as you can. For example, it’s more beneficial to boil five different vegetables than to roast the same vegetable day in and day out. Variety really is the spice of life.
My favourite ways to cook seasonal produce for maximum flavour and optimal nutrition is by roasting vegetables in olive oil, Italian herbs, paprika and garlic or by sautéing in sesame oil and a dash of soy. I also love adding chunks of starchy vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin and parsnip to soups or into frittata, pasta sauces and slow cooked dishes.
There is no right or wrong way to consume seasonal produce, as long as you're getting it in one way or another, that is the key.
5. Don’t shy away from condiments
Some condiments such as sauces and dressings sometimes get a bad rap for being high in fat or sugar, but they alone aren’t going to make or break the quality of your diet. If, however, you struggle to consume seasonal produce, adding a touch of flavour can help you to eat more of the good stuff.
For even more nutritional goodness, try making your own dressings. Homemade pesto is good source of zinc, while salsa can help add some spice. If you’re looking for something more convenient to pick up from the shops, mustard generally has low calories and kimchi is full of great probiotics.
6. Elevate your produce with herbs and spices
As consumers, we tend to reach for the salt grinder as a first point of call when it comes to adding flavour to our food. Salt can be consumed as part of a healthy and balanced diet, however Australians tend to consume far more than the recommended intake.
Herbs, especially those in season such as dill, parsley, rosemary, oregano, ginger, mint and coriander offer a nutritious and flavoursome alternative to salt. Herbs and spices are also rich in a compound called ‘polyphenols’, which are beneficial for our immune system and gut health. I add herbs and spices to the majority of savoury dishes I create, but also love adding cinnamon, nutmeg and spices alike to baked goods and breakfast meals.
7. Frozen foods are just as (if not more) nutritious than their fresh counterparts
Contrary to the general belief, frozen fruits and vegetables are incredibly nutritious. Despite what you’ve been told, frozen produce is snap frozen upon harvesting, which means the maximum amount of nutrients are maintained within the product. I always encourage my audience to keep frozen fruits and vegetables in their freezers to add to stir fries, sauces, soups and smoothies when needed.