“Muffin Tops”, that perennial nemesis of the perfect beach body. The phrase in itself is beautifully descriptive in its depiction of those dimpled, dough-like slabs unfurling over our belts that your average gym operator loves. Summer may be over and your gym may no longer be ranking second only to Mecca in terms of popularity, but refrain from reaching for the extra double cream just yet.
Summer has passed in all its flesh-bearing glory and around me I hear an audible sigh of relief that Nepalese seaweed, cling film and a side order of military boot camp are no longer on the agenda. Instead we can swaddle ourselves in big knitted jumpers and oversized fur jackets. As Arctic winds encroach upon us, you may find your weekly fitness rapidly dwindling and convince yourself that gyms are only for sweaty narcissists.
While a change in exercise routine may herald the arrival of winter, we also tend to eat differently during these winter months, telling ourselves that we need the energy and fuel to survive the acrimonious British weather. Arctic explorers can get through 5,000-8,000 calories a day (a little over twice the average man’s 2500) and if you stay well wrapped up, warm and don’t do any activity, you may not burn off any extra energy at all.
A substantial layer of blubber may protect walruses from sub-zero conditions, but perhaps isn’t the example we should all be following (unless you’re training to be a sumo wrestler- in which case, carry on).
It may be time to go on a pre-emptive strike on your waistline but the good news is that winter comfort food doesn’t have to be stodgy or loaded with fats. We have listed some wonderful foods, which will sustain and nourish you through the bleak mid-winter and take you on to gustatory ecstasy.
1. Parsnips. While this British root vegetable may look like a souped-up version of a beige carrot, it certainly doesn’t scrimp on taste. Whether you roast, mash or crisp them, parsnips are loaded with potassium and vitamin A.
They also contain folic acid (brain fuel), B vitamins (good for your eyes, mouth, hair and liver), copper and magnesium. Surprisingly, given their sweetness, they are low in calories and high in soluble fibre, which aids digestion, keeps your blood sugar steady and lowers cholesterol.
2. Rhubarb. Rhubarb has an amazing flavour spectrum and does a fine job of tasting delicious, even when it’s blended into strange concoctions. Although it doesn’t arrive until February, it’s a great way to add a splash of pink colour to the winter months with their tart tangy flavour and fleshy stalks. Patrick, our chef, likes to eat this willowy fruit stewed with apples and sprinkled with cinnamon and ginger.
Rhubarb is an excellent source of Vitamin C, perfect for supporting a healthy immune system and staving off a runny nose. It has a hefty amount of dietary fibre, great for your digestive system and is high in Vitamin K, which is thought to help prevent diabetes
3. Celeriac. One of the first life lessons we learn is not to judge by appearances.
Yes, this may be knobbly, odd-shaped root-vegetable with a dirty outer layer that got hit with the ugly stick, but rather than veer towards its tanned leggy sister, the carrot, remember that it’s pretty on the inside (and isn’t that what counts, huh?!) and that it has a pleasant, celery-like flavour.
What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up in nutrients: high in potassium, phosphorous and Vitamin B6 and C it is loaded with bone-building vitamin K. Treat it like spuds- peel, boil, mash.
4. Beetroot. This versatile vegetable is a great way too pimp your plate and inject some colour you’re your food. Nutritious and largely calorie-free root veg can be roasted, mashed or shredded into a salad. If you’re still not sold, remember that beetroot contains betaine, a compound found to reduce inflammation and relax the mind. It also contains tryptophan, a similar “feel good” chemical found in chocolate.
A good all-rounder, it’s good for your cardiovascular health and brimming with vitamin C and contains antioxidants, which are great for beating the Sunday morning hangover (move over, bacon).
5. Cavolo nero. “What the heck is that”, you cry.
The literal meaning of this vitamin-packed green vegetable, hailing from Tuscany, is “black cabbage”. Unlike it’s brother, the green cabbage, it is made up of long, loose leaves which are fibrous and have a strong, robust flavour. It is lovely in soups, chucked into pasta or slow-cooked stews. Cavolo nero is a great source of lutein, vitamins K, A and C as well as significant amounts of manganese, copper, fibre, calcium, iron, the B vitamins and many other elements.
To take advantage of all the freshest seasonal veggies and to discover how best to use them get yourself a Hello Fresh box delivered each Tuesday. Choose your box on our website.