Looking for a way to nourish yourself in a tasty way this winter? While salads typically scream summer, you can easily winterize the healthy diet staple with a few simple tweaks — and be better equipped to stay on track with those health goals. Give these six delicious ideas a try.
Cold temps offer so many tempting fruit offerings, including winter citrus like oranges and tangerines, as well as apples and delectably crunchy pomegranate arils. Citrus is packed with immunity-helping vitamin C, truly essential this time of year. It has the added benefit of helping you absorb plant-based iron from the veggies in your salad, too. And the beautiful red of pomegranate arils? You have health-helping antioxidants to thank for that rich color. Top a Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with pomegranate arils, mix apples into a Sweet Cranberry and Apple Lentil Salad, or add tangerines and grapefruit to a Winter Citrus Fruit Salad. If you’re feeling adventurous, sprinkle on a little citrus zest for added flavor.
“When it comes to winterizing a salad, I think of combining ingredients that are in season like pomegranates, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash — and adding warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger that are reminiscent of the holidays and colder weather,” says Kara Lydon, RD, a dietitian and yoga teacher in Boston. “Wintery spices have a warm element to them, which in turn makes us perceive the food as grounding, cozy and comforting.” Roast sweet potatoes or winter squash with cinnamon, or simply season a finished salad with a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. “Cinnamon is one of the most antioxidant-packed spices in your cabinet, and it contains antimicrobial properties that may help ward off that pesky winter cold,” says Lydon. Whip up a Turkey Wild Rice Salad, a Black Rice and Purple Brussels Sprout Salad, or a Moroccan Chickpea Salad.
Instead of pairing a salad with whole-grain bread, why not add the whole grains directly to the salad? Any grain will work, but picks with a particularly chewy texture like farro and barley work particularly well. Plus, grains add filling fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals. “Shake up your usual summer salad by putting your indoor grill to work!” suggests Catherine Brown, a plant-based chef in Errol, New Hampshire. “Grill peppers, squash, onions and eggplant. Then dice them, add a cooked whole grain, some fresh herbs, olives, nuts or seeds, and a flavorful vinaigrette. You'll be transported back to warm summer nights!” Or combine roasted winter veggies — think parsnips, carrots and winter squash — and pair with a black or red rice, as well as orange slices. “Choose an assortment of deep colors to get a wide variety of antioxidants,” advises Brown. Embrace the season with a Kale Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash, Farro, Pistachios, and Apricots or a Grilled Summer Veg and Kamut Salad.
Nothing winterizes a salad quite like roasted sweet potatoes or steamed beets. And you don’t have to serve the veggies warm. “I love adding chunky cooked veggies to salads because they offer heartiness, texture and flavor,” says Edwina Clark, RD, a dietitian in San Francisco. “They provide an additional level of complexity that's hard to achieve with raw foods alone, and they make a salad more satisfying.” When roasted, sweet potatoes offer up a sweet flavor, plus they provide bulk (think plenty of fiber!), allowing you to forgo adding grains to your salad. “Complex carbohydrates in your salad provide energy to last you until your next meal,” says Cassidy Reeser, RD, a dietitian in Athens, Georgia. As for steamed beets, “they’re an easy way to bump up the volume without adding many calories,” notes Clark. “Beets are loaded with betalain, a group of phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They also offer nitrates, which have been shown to assist with blood vessel health and endurance.” Enjoy sweet potatoes in an Autumn Salad with Roasted Chicken and beets in a Beet, Orange, and Feta Salad with Creamy Mint Dressing.
“When it's frigid outside, a cold salad doesn't seem quite so refreshing,” says Rebecca Clyde, RDN, a dietitian in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Adding a heated component to your salad is a great way to warm up and also reduce food waste. You may not want to eat starting-to-wilt greens raw — but heat them up, and they're perfect.” Charred romaine and sautéed kale or spinach are all yummy additions. But the options don’t stop there. Add dried fruit like raisins or cranberries to your sauté pan, along with low-sodium broth — the fruit will plump up with moisture and deliciousness. Warm up with a Simple Sautéed Kale Salad or a Maple Roasted Squash and Seared Halloumi Cheese Salad.
You’ll find nuts like pistachios, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts in your favorite wintery baked-good recipes. So why not toss the crunchy goodness to a winter salad, as well? “I love adding nuts to my winter salads to give them additional protein and texture,” says Andrea Mathis, RDN, a dietitian in Birmingham, Alabama. “Nuts have been linked with lowering LDL cholesterol, as well as inflammation associated with heart disease.” Go for the crunch with an Orange Pomegranate and Walnut Salad, an Italian Lupini Bean Salad with Crushed Pistachios, or a Kale and Chickpea Salad.