Best, easy winter foods to keep your family healthy

butternut soup

The winter months often conjure up images of warm soups and hearty casseroles. Though it may be the perfect time to eat these meals, they can serve another purpose as well.

No matter where you are in South Africa, by now you’ll have noticed the chilly mornings and freezing evenings. The cold weather brings with it many changes in lifestyle and more importantly your diet as well. Gone are the days of lapping ice creams to keep cool or consuming long braais with your friends. Now, it’s not just about keeping warm, but at least trying to stave off flu, colds, and whatever else is going around this year. Trying to protect yourself and your family from the bad winter bugs is no small feat so taking every precaution isn’t overkill.

What you eat during the cold winter months is important

‘Tis the season to be pumped up on vitamins and eating nourishing food that will protect and heal you from the inside out. While there are many foods that are out of season during winter, there are a lot of ‘superfoods’ that come into season as well.

You should harness these ‘uber-healthy’ foods to help you fend off sickness. Consider the delectables that offer immune support such as, pure yoghurt, oats, fish, garlic, and mushrooms. Include them in your meals as often as possible, or as often as your budget allows for them.

Cold weather doesn’t mean a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables

After all, many nutrients are lost in the cooking process. Fresh fruit and veg won’t warm you up and may not even fill you sufficiently, so consider including them in your accompaniments and desserts as well.

For instance, dark green leafy vegetables, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds topped with some feta is an excellent pairing. This will go well with a piece of tender steak or fruity chicken kebabs. Plus, the leaves, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds are full of antioxidants.

Make your kitchen a space you would like to spend time in

To get your fill of good food, you need to embrace your kitchen a little more than in the warmer months. Of course, this doesn’t mean slaving away over a hot stove all afternoon, but it does mean prepping your meals and making an effort to cook simple but nutritious meals.

Before winter really gets going, check if your kitchen needs a little update. For instance, a high-quality slow cooker is ideal for those rich stews, a goulash, hearty soups, and curries. Also upgrading your stove to a gas stove is an option. It’ll help you save on your electricity bill, it’s safer, and once you’ve switched it off the heat is gone – unlike electric stove tops which take a while to cool down.

Once you’re satisfied with the kitchen, it’s time to get cooking! If you don’t know where to start, turn to the internet or even one of your parents. Both may offer a range of time-tested and easy to create dishes that are perfect for beginners and pros alike.

Here are three easy to prepare and cook old favourites that you might consider this winter.

Butternut soup

Soups are very popular in the winter time, because of course they are. But people are fussy about the kind of soup they enjoy. Some want it in the form of a chunky broth and some would like it smooth and thick. But butternut is a popular ingredient in soups with the majority of food’s lovers lovers and kids alike.What’s more, butternut soup can be easily infused with beautiful flavours. You might consider spicing things up with paprika and some chilli flakes, or perhaps some orange zest. Alternatively you could add a dollop of thick cream or you could turn it into a curried soup. Another option is a bit of feta on top once it’s served. However you like it, it’s certain to warm you up and keep you going.

Boeuf Bourguignon

This French dish is an old favourite due to its epitome of a “hearty meal”. We’re talking stewed or braised beef that cooks away in a red wine sauce with added onions and mushrooms. And it tastes rich and powerful. It’s the type of dish you make and will munch on for a couple of days – this makes itt a particularly convenient meal for cold rainy evenings.

Chicken curry

Chicken curry takes a bit of prep work if you want to include a collection of fresh vegetables. But you can keep it simple by just including peas and potatoes. Everyone’s chicken curry tends to be a bit different as most people cook their curry to their preferred taste.

However, if you’re armed with a can of coconut milk and some bananas, everyone should be able to handle a little heat – otherwise keep a glass of milk on hand. Curry also warms you up and keeps you full for a long while. The leftovers may taste even better the day after as the flavour settles in overnight so don’t be afraid to eat your pot of curry over two days.

What are your favourite winter meals to prepare? Let us know in the comments below.