Veggie intake drops during winter

We all learned at mother’s knee that we should eat our veggies and the evidence has never been stronger for the benefits of a diet rich in all the good things that come from the garden.

So why do British Columbians find it so hard to keep up the necessary intake of vegetables in the winter?

The reasons why are varied. According to an Ipsos Reid Canada survey, 61 per cent say lower availability is the problem, 43 per cent point to lack of variety and 62 per cent cite higher cost as the reason for ignoring mom’s long-standing advice.

We do find it easier here, perhaps because of the milder climate and longer growing season.

Just over half of British Columbians say they find it harder to eat enough vegetables during the colder months than in the summer.

That compares to 56 per cent of Canadians overall who are veggie challenged when the snow is on the ground.

But 26 per cent of British Columbians admit the real reason for ignoring the recently updated Canada Food Guide is that they simply prefer “comfort food” during the winter months.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to a couple of local chefs who say winter should be viewed as a time for experimentation, rather than turning to comfort food.

“People are just using winter as an excuse to eat fatty foods,” says Travis Hackl, co-owner of Okanagan’s Finest Foods and proprietor of the seasonal Ridge Restaurant with his partner Ryan Smid.

Smid says that making vegetables convenient in the winter means you’re more likely to eat them.

“Braise some vegetables and keep them in a container,” advises Smid.

“During the week, throw some in the blender with a little cream and some spices, heat it up and you’ve got a great cream of vegetable soup. Now that’s comfort food.”

Hackl tells people to incorporate root vegetables when roasting meat for an easy meal.

“When you’re making that pot roast, which is the ultimate comfort food, why not throw in a big chunk of turnip and some whole carrots,” he says.

“You don’t have to use a separate pot and those big chunks will hold their nutrients better than if you cut them up into small pieces.”

The two chefs fully embrace all the hard-rock veggies that Canada is famous for like turnips, beets and cabbage.

“Everybody knows coleslaw but how about changing it up using turnip, carrot and fennel,” offers Hackl, who points out that root veggies stand up way better in the fridge than their summer counterparts.

“A turnip will last three months in the fridge. Or beets. You can make a great beet salad by grating it up, adding some dill and grainy mustard with a little sour cream and honey. It would go good with a nice piece of fish like barbecued salmon.”

Smid says a vegetable lasagna or chili will last all week in the fridge and goes great as a side dish to most meat and fish cuts.

“It’s better when it sits for a day or so,” he adds. “Planning your menu out for the week will make it easier to go out and buy some veggies. If you don’t have it on hand, you won’t use it but if you know ahead of time what you’re going to do with them, they won’t wilt away in the fridge.”

As for the increased cost of many vegetables in the winter, Hackl says suck it up for the sake of your health.

“People pay almost $40 a kilo for tenderloin,” he says. “Why balk at paying $2.99 a pound for some decent veggies. It all averages out over the year anyway.”

Locally, he likes places like Quality Greens for buying winter produce but says the bigger chains are worth a look as well. “IGA has really expanded their selection of vegetables,” says Hackl. “Save-On-Foods also has a pretty good selection.”

For those who must have a recipe to venture into the kitchen, he points to friends, relatives and coworkers.

“Everybody’s got some great recipe that’s been handed down the family line,” Hackl adds. “Food magazines are also a good source of easy recipes.”

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