Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun is a pharmacist and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete & 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels.
We recently caught up with Alex to find out how to best fuel your body in the late winter months. While December is full of delicious holiday decadence and January is typically a month we focus on cleaning up our diet, February and March can get a bit dull. After all, there is only so much roasted acorn squash you can eat. Luckily, Alex has several favorite winter foods that will enhance your dinner table and give you the energy and nourishment you need for those long runs and chilly swims.
Q. What kinds of food are best to eat in winter?
A. Mother Nature is very intelligent and generally, what is in season is always the best thing to eat. For example, in the winter, hearty root vegetables like beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes are full of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate. Fruit like apples, pears, kiwi, and clementines, are also in season now and provide the sweetness we crave.
Q. But winter vegetables are so boring, aren’t they?
A. The key to making winter delicious is really in the cooking. It’s true that in the spring we can go to the farmer’s market and eat baby lettuces and radishes without doing a thing to them, but a few simple cooking techniques can transform hearty winter vegetables into a gourmet meal.
For example, sautéing kale or broccoli with olive oil and garlic or ginger can elevate greens into a savory and tender dish with tons of vitamin C. You can roast sweet potatoes with cinnamon for a cozy breakfast or with rosemary and thyme for dinner.
Q. How can I get my family to eat more vegetables?
A. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are some of the best things to eat in the winter and also the most delicious. Sautéed Brussels sprouts with garlic, balsamic vinegar, and breadcrumbs will change your life. You can also add bacon or pancetta if you eat meat. And it’s so easy to sauté cauliflower in some coconut oil or olive oil with spices and add them to tacos with avocado, which your kids will love.
Cruciferous vegetables are wonder foods. They are five-times richer in vitamin C than citrus fruits and contain sulfur, which strengthens the immune and respiratory system; calcium for the bones; and antioxidants like choline, beta-carotene, lutein, andzeaxanthin.
Fermented vegetables like pickled carrots and kimchi are great for digestion and a delicious addition to a rice bowl with roasted vegetables and lentils. You can easily find it pre-made in most major grocery stores now too.
Q. What else can we eat with our veggies?
A. Oats, buckwheat, and rice are high in Vitamin B, which will strengthen the immune system. Lentils and chickpeas are easy to add to soups to turn them into a hearty meal with more vitamins and fiber. Almonds are also a good source of energy and give you the good fat needed for winter training. And to make everything taste great, most root vegetables go well with warm spices like rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, and red pepper.
Roasted Vegetable Bowl
Adapted from Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners by Laura Plumb
If you have a spiralizer, you can have fun making noodles out of root vegetables. Once roasted, the noodles also go well with salads or on sandwiches, on top of rice with lentils, tofu, or chicken, or eaten by themselves.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
3 root vegetables of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon of a mix of your favorite winter spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, turmeric, and fenugreek
Salt (pink, mineral, or sea) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Lightly scrub the vegetables. If you have a spiralizer, make noodles. Otherwise, thinly slice them into matchstick sized pieces. Put the vegetables in a large bowl.
Melt the butter or coconut oil over medium heat. Stir in the spices. Pour the spiced oil or butter over the vegetables and toss to combine.
Spread the vegetables in a single layer across the baking sheet. Roast until vegetables begin to brown – about 10 minutes.
Turn vegetables and roast for 3 more minutes or until they smell sweet.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Splash with lemon juice and enjoy.
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun