The Art of a Winter Rhythm
A guide to family wellbeing during the short days and cold nights of our least popular season.
Working with lots of people, I come across my fair share of winter lurgies. After all, helping sick people feel better is what I do. It’s a hazard of the job! I can’t afford to pick everything up. So working on immunity every year is a big priority for me.
Since having a family, preventing colds has become even more important. A sick child is not only hard to watch (oh how I wish you could just blow your nose, little one!) it effects the entire family. Being kept up during the night with coughs, or trouble breathing, kids needing to stay home from day care or school and taking time off work all takes its toll on a family.
Each season has a rhythm and the art of thriving the Winter months comes down to getting the rhythm right. Your summer rhythm of early morning bootcamp and salad for lunch may not serve you well in Winter. But a restorative yoga class and soup for lunch might. It’s about assessing your habits and patterns then deciding if they still make sense in your current environment. Being flexible and bending with the seasons means you’re not fighting any resistance from mother nature.
Winter wellness starts in the kitchen
Despite being a self confessed ‘summer girl’ the Winter rhythm in the kitchen is one of my favourites. We want to focus on warming, grounding, densely nutritious foods cooked (for the most part) long and slow. I’m not a chef, so I keep things simple. I’m inspired by what’s in season, at the market or on special at the supermarket. Eating simply, particularly during the week saves my sanity, so I can enjoy more creative dishes on the weekend, if I so choose.
Dedicating time on a Sunday allows you to plan the week ahead, and also plant the seeds for a hassle free week of nurturing meals. Plan first, then shop, followed by a little bit of preparation.
Here’s what it might look like:
Sunday – Huge pan of roast vegetables and a roast chicken, salmon or lamb shanks etc. Also make a pot of your favourite soup and chop the veggies for a crockpot to store in the fridge (covered with water) for later in the week.
When I say HUGE I mean it. Make use of the oven while it’s on and roast big batches of carrots, cauliflower, potato, kumara, onions, zucchini, pumpkin, parsnip, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, garlic etc. All of these keep well for 4 days and will be great bases for dinners throughout the week. They also make a great alternative to your usual raw salad for lunch. Add some roasted garlic, lentils, a dollop of plain greek yoghurt and mint for a beautiful easy addition to the lunch box. Kids might like to simply munch on the plain roast veggies – they get sweeter with roasting. Calling any roast veg a ‘chip’ can really help get kids on board ; ) Kumara and parsnip chips are popular in our house, especially dipped in olive oil mayo.
Monday – leftovers
Tuesday – Mix some of your prepped roast veggies with some of your favourite pasta sauce and have with quinoa, rice or pasta. Top with rocket and parmesan for extra flavour.
Wednesday – Kumara/egg/chili patties (with mashed leftover roast kumara). And quickly steamed greens (beans, frozen peas, broccoli)
Thursday – Pop all the chopped veg in the crock pot before work/the day gets started for an easy dinner. Add stock and garlic, legumes, chicken or red meat. Nutmeg, chili, cumin or smoked paprika all add interest.
Friday – Pull the soup from the freezer for a lazy end to the week.
Saturday – A great day for a trip to the fish market and a fresh fish dinner.
Of course you may be vegetarian, or eating paleo……whatever your personal preference I can’t recommend more highly making a plan.
Here’s a few extra tips on the kitchen front:
Add a daily turmeric latte to your rhythm – here’s my simple recipe:
1 cup of milk of choice, I use 1/2coconut 1/2 Rice
1 tsp Turmeric grated fresh or powdered
1/4 tsp grated ginger or powdered
1 tsp honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup
Stir all the ingredients on a low heat till warm and combined, a whisk is best. Serve and drink immediately.
Regular sipping of turmeric and ginger will stimulate your circulation and provide a whopping dose of antioxidants – very important in winter. Use them in stir fry’s and curries as often as possible throughout winter.
- Make a bone broth
I know, I know! This takes time and look, if it’s not your thing I totally get it. If, however, you’ve been meaning to try it, or get back to making them, winter is the time! They make great stocks for soup or crock pots and even in mince dishes. The benefits are wide ranging but immune health is definitely one of them. Give it a try!
- Add garlic to everything!
Great things come in small packages and this little wonder herb is no exception. One of the phytochemical compounds found in garlic is responsible for boosting a certain white blood cells’ (T-cell) function which are the cells which fight viruses. Put it in soups, roasts and crockpots. It’s even more potent raw – search DIY Immune Tonic on my website for a great recipe to get your through winter.
- Reduce sugar – as much as possible
We know from studies that sugar inhibits white blood cell activity so eating it daily means we walk around at an immune disadvantage. When two people are equally exposed to a virus why does one become sick and the other not? It’s to do with that person’s ability to fight off the virus before it can manifest the symptoms of a ‘cold’. Sugar reduces your immune systems ability to ward off invaders. If you like to have desserts and treats (my hand’s raised!) aim for fruit crumbles, poached pears, stewed rhubarb etc.
- Switch your smoothie or juice for soup
Having an icy cold smoothie in the depths of winter feels odd but a lot of people still do it. A couple of winters ago I became one of those people, probably due to the baby bump hiking my resting temperature somewhat. If you really still enjoy that smoothie or green juice that’s fine. If you’re struggling with frequent colds or wet/damp conditions like sinusitis, candida or a cough it’s best to switch from smoothies to warming soups or herbal teas. I actually run a winter detox featuring green soups for breakfast. Delicious!
Embracing a Winter rhythm creates a flow to family life that supports our different needs through this wet, cold season. You may never love the muddy gumboots, the frozen toes or the spiders hiding in the firewood, but it’s the contrasts in life that make it all the more enjoyable. With a little bit of mindfulness I can see the beauty in the woollen socks, warm soups and the turmeric lattes. I hope you can too.