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The Healthiest Diet Swaps You Can Make During The Winter, According To A Nutritionist

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What makes a winter meal yummy, nutritious, and also Insta-perfect? We’ve raided the kitchen of Shonali Sabherwal (@soulfoodshonali), a macrobiotic nutritionist, gut health expert and author to know exactly what we need to add to our shopping lists. We’re focussing on colourful foods rich in nutrients and cooking styles that will keep you warm and healthy this season.

Read on to know her favourite meals, the ingredients you need to load up on in the cold weather, and some great tips to try this season.

Beauty Book: What’s the first thing you eat/drink on winter mornings?

Shonali: Warm water

Beauty Book: What are your go-to meals when the weather is cool?

Shonali: Soups, stews, slow-cooked foods, and solar-cooked meals.

Beauty Book: What ingredients are always stocked in your kitchen during the winter months and why?

Shonali: All warming whole spices like cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, black peppercorns, ginger, fennel, nigella sativa (kalonji), etc. I always have something black like black sesame seeds or black beans in my kitchen. Winter is the time to nourish the kidneys (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine), so I focus on black soybeans, mung beans, brown and black rice, and millets in this weather. Cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, turnips, yams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and root vegetables like radish, carrots, lotus root, etc are my winter fridge staples. I love to eat steamed winter greens like mustard, chenopodium album or taro (bathua) all cooked as ‘sabjis’ or ‘saags’; they have good fibre and water content. Watermelon, melons, and dried fruits nurture kidney energy in these months. Eating potassium-rich foods like avocados, bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, edamame, red pumpkin (squash), beetroot, and pomegranate also keeps me healthy and active.

Beauty Book: Is there a cooking secret that allows you to stay energised and active during winter?

Shonali: I focus on cooked foods, as raw ingredients will cool the body down further in the winter months. I follow the Traditional Chinese Medicine system (TCM), and to bring balance between the yin and yang during the cold months, I focus on internally healing with introspection, storage centred body mechanisms and nourishing our kidneys. I also focus on cooking styles that provide warming energy like stews, soups, baking, deep-frying, dehydrating fruits and vegetables, long boiling, pickling and pressure cooking to prepare one meal or dish. For instance, I steam some vegetables and then use them in a lightly sautéed poha. Also, I tend to use lesser spices and more herbs during the colder months as too many spices initially heat up your body but quickly cool it down.

Beauty Book: Detox is also essential during winters with the holiday season tagging along. What are your detoxing methods?

Shonali: All my meals are detoxifying. I do not eat sugar, dairy, refined flour, animal foods, processed or refined foods as they tend to damage the heart, change the insulin content in our bloodstream and slowly affect various body parts with excess consumption.  I focus on leafy greens a lot too.

Beauty Book: How do you reduce sugar consumption during the holiday season?

Shonali: If you include whole grains (in the right proportions) in two of your meals,  your cravings for refined sugar will go down.

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