If you are anything like me, a cold winter’s day almost seems to demand the consumption of large quantities of hearty stews or thick soups, whole loaves of bread and huge dishes of hot fruit crumble, served with thick custard, of course. Wholesome, warming, stodgy and full of carbohydrates and fats.
This is what our body demands. Back when our days were spent fending off sabre-toothed tigers, these sorts of cravings made sense. Anything that could be used for fuel to stay warm and stay fit was craved and was eaten whenever we could get hold of it. And people who didn’t have such cravings didn’t eat sufficient and consequently became the tiger’s next meal.
This of course is why a large majority of people today will, at some point in their lives, have similar winter cravings to those described above. They are an inherited trait intended to help survival.
Of course doctors have long told us that such a diet can cause a myriad of problems, including heart disease, diabetes and so on.
‘Have a nice salad’ they say.
In this weather??? Are you serious?
Salad is the last thing I want today. I took one look at the frost on the ground through the window a few minutes ago and made myself a huge bowl of porridge with stewed apple for my breakfast. A good helping of honey on the top made it delicious.
But it was my breakfast that made me think. If we have certain cravings to deal with, and doctor’s advice, and also awareness of our own health and our personal propensity to get colds, infections and low moods at this time of year, would there be any win-win diet options?
Lots of fruit and vegetables are obviously essential. But stewed fruit with honey (a natural antiseptic), and vegetable stews and casseroles are a good place to start.
If you want to thicken gravy without the ubiquitous white wheat flour, use fine oatmeal, or even porridge oats pulverised in a pestle & mortar.
Lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds and grains can add good fats, protein and fibre cheaply, especially if you get dry pulses and soak them.
Eat meat sparingly and watch for excessive fat in processed meat. If you cannot afford the posh cuts – like chops or roasts, and are left only with burgers or sausages or similar, eat less of them and drain the fat well.
Go for sweet fruit, like banana, or a tiny blob of honey with its antiseptic properties, instead of sugar in sweet dishes. If you like jam go for a home made hedgerow jelly full of local superfruit juices, rather than a bland commercial paste. (And there are still rosehips and hawthorn fruits on hedgerows and even some sloes if you want to make your own.) And for crumble topping combine oats, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds and brown sugar for a deliciously crunchy yet somewhat better for you topping.
Include foods that contain vitamin D in your diet, like oily fish, cheese and egg yolk. And get out in the daylight to supplement your diet.
And above all, relax. Spring, with its milder, longer days and fresh local salad crops isn’t that far away. Honest.