How to Survive the Winter Produce Season

The winter months can be quite humdrum when it comes to fresh produce. How many carrots, potatoes, apples and bananas can you eat without getting bored?

This winter, try some of Mother Nature's less-famous gems. You'll love the taste, and your body will reap the benefits of a vast array of vitamins and minerals. Below you'll find a list of some fabulous fruits and veggies to incorporate into your winter meal plan. You won't believe how many surprises are hiding in your grocer's produce aisle! 

Winter Vegetables

Here are four tasty vegetables to add to your lunch and dinner plates. These low-calorie nutritional powerhouses are sure to keep your food rut at bay while you melt the pounds away.

Winter Squash 

There are a few different winter squashes to choose from, and they are all delicious. Two of the most flavorful winter squashes are butternut squash and acorn squash. These satisfying vegetables are a rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

When purchasing squash, look for one that is heavy for its size and has thick, unblemished skin. You can store them in a cool, dry place for up to one month.

The easiest way to prepare these vegetables is to halve them, remove the seeds, and season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender.

Per cup of acorn squash:
114 calories
2.5 grams protein
30 grams carbohydrates
0 grams fat


This versatile vegetable isn’t always received with fanfare, but when prepared correctly it can please even the most finicky palates. Both red and white varieties of cabbage are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, and are miraculously low in calories.

When shopping for cabbage, look for crisp leaves that are tightly packed to the head and avoid heads of cabbage that have bruised or torn leaves. You may store cabbage in your refrigerator for up to one week. If it begins to wilt, tear back the top leaves, and you'll find crisper leaves underneath.

Cabbage can be cooked in a variety of ways. It can be shredded by hand or in a food processor and then added to salads and slaws. You can also roast it in the oven: slice it into wedges, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. And you can't go wrong by adding cabbage to your favorite chicken and vegetable soups.

Per cup of shredded cabbage:
16 calories
3.5 grams carbohydrates
0.8 grams protein
0 grams fat 


The hearts of these prehistoric looking vegetables are often hidden in salsas and other dips, but when prepared whole, their flavor will surprise you. And contrary to what you may think, they are easy to cook and can spruce up an otherwise boring meal. Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of magnesium, folate and potassium.

Select artichokes that feel heavy for their size and have tightly packed leaves. Avoid artichokes that have wilting or dried leaves. You can store artichokes in your refrigerator for two to three days, but you'll find that they last longer if you trim the stems and then submerge the stem ends in water.=

The easiest way to prepare artichokes is to steam them for 30-40 minutes. Serve with lemon juice or olive oil or a combination of both drizzled over top.

Per whole artichoke:
60 calories
13 grams carbohydrates
4 grams protein
0.2 grams fat

Broccoli Rabe

This cousin of broccoli has so much to offer! It is a wonderful departure when you've grown tired of plain old broccoli florets. This interesting-looking vegetable is a good source of vitamin C and iron, which isn't always easy to come by, especially when you are limiting your intake of red meat.

When shopping for broccoli rabe (pronounced broccoli "rob"), look for crisp leaves that are bright in color while avoiding faded looking leaves and flowers. To store your broccoli rabe, wrap it in slightly moist paper towels and then place in a plastic bag in the fridge to maintain the moisture. It will last for three to four days.

Before cooking, rinse the florets and leaves a few times to remove any sand and dirt, and cut away any tough, thick leaves. After cleaning, sauté in a nonstick skillet with a small amount of olive oil and sliced garlic and season with sea salt and pepper.

Per cup of chopped broccoli rabe:
20 calories
4 grams carbohydrates
2.5 grams protein
0 grams of fat


Winter Fruits

And for your sweet tooth, here are three fabulous winter fruits to tempt your taste buds.


Once sliced open, this beautiful fruit will wow you with its vibrant color and flavor. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fiber, especially if you are adventurous enough to eat the whole fruit; yes, the skin and seeds are edible as well.

A good kiwi yields to slight pressure but does not have soft spots. You can store your kiwi at room temperature to ripen — often two to three days — then refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to two weeks.

Kiwi can be sliced into a fruit salad with or without the skin. You can also easily enjoy them by slicing them in half, and scooping out the flesh with a spoon.

Per medium-sized kiwi:
46 calories
11 grams carbohydrates
0.7 grams protein
0.3 grams fat


For some reason, pears take a backseat in popularity to the ever present apple, but give them a try! They are super sweet, have a great consistency and can add lots of life to a green salad or a plate of gourmet cheese. Pears are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, and have a smaller core than apples, leaving more edible fruit.

When shopping for pears, look for ones that yield slightly to pressure and that are void of any thick cuts or bruises. A few scratches or blemishes to the skin are normal. Pears will most often need to ripen for two to five days at room temperature. Once soft and ripe they can be enjoyed immediately, or refrigerated for one to two days.

Pears can be enjoyed whole; sliced into green salads, fruit salad or salsas; made into soups; or cooked into cakes and fruit tarts. In order to prevent discoloration after cutting the pear, squeeze lemon juice over the flesh.

Per medium-sized pear:
97 calories
25 grams carbohydrates
0.6 grams protein
0.6 grams fat


Clementines are a true winter gem. They are most often void of seeds, and are much easier to peel than other citrus fruits. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fiber and folic acid.

When picking out clementines, choose ones that are heavy for their size and are slightly soft. They may be stored in your refrigerator for up to one month.

Simply peel the skin and eat the segments of the clementine, or toss them into a green salad.

Per small clementine:
30 calories
8 grams carbohydrates
0.4 grams protein
0.1 grams fat

The Firm

Sara Ryba is a registered dietitian, certified dietary nutritionist and a contributor to The FIRM Believers Club website, an online community that helps you reach your fitness, health and weight loss goals. With maximum-efficiency home workouts, support and motivation from The FIRM Master Instructors, daily tips, personalized workout rotation calendars, and access to other members through discussion boards, The Club provides all the tools you need to get in the shape you want.




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Post-Detox Dilemma: Breaking the Cleanse

End your detox the right way

There’s a lot of planning that goes into a detox. Which program will you follow? When will you start? How long will you go for? There are groceries to buy and temptations to hide (lock up the cookies!). But if the only thing you’re planning post-detox is how you’ll indulge once you’re done, you could be undoing all that work.

A bounty of benefits

“After a detoxification, most people feel better than they’ve ever felt before,” says holistic chef Adina Niemerow, author of Super Cleanse: Detox Your Body for Long-Lasting Health and Beauty. “It’s like a rebirth of sorts,” she says.

Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, author of The Fast Track Detox Diet, agrees: “If a detox is done properly, you should feel lighter and cleaner.” Many people report having more energy, and Gittleman says detoxing can even help with sinus problems and congestion. Other physical benefits may include clearer skin and better digestion.

You may also feel a renewed sense of drive and focus after a whole body cleanse. “Cleanses can be a real journey — you get a lot of mental clarity,” says Niemerow. “There’s definitely a spiritual side to it.”

Breaking your cleanse

But you won’t keep your post-detox glow by jumping back into a diet filled with heavy, fried or fatty foods. “Breaking a cleanse correctly is almost as important as the cleanse itself,” says Niemerow. She explains that it’s important to end your detox gradually, slowly incorporating your regular foods back into your diet.

“It might sound like the cleanse after the cleanse, but it’s important if you want to maintain those detox benefits,” Niemerow says.

The most important rule for weaning yourself off your detox diet is to keep it simple. “I always find it helpful to break a cleanse with easy-to-digest foods,” Gittleman says. These can include steamed or puréed vegetables or lightly sautéed greens, as well as proteins such as nuts, legumes, whey and eggs. One of her favorite post-cleanse recipes is a green soup made from puréed string beans, zucchini and celery, which nourishes the body with natural sodium, potassium and electrolytes. Add cooked carrot to the blend for an extra boost.

If you plan to re-introduce meat into your diet, Niemerow recommends doing so slowly. Gittleman suggests starting with organic poultry rather than beef or fish, which can contain mercury.

Whatever you eat, make sure you don’t eat too much of it. “During a detox people often realize that they don’t need to eat as much as they think they do,” says Niemerow. “When you eat slowly and eat smaller portions, you’ll discover how much food you really need to feel full,” echoes Gittleman. “Take time to really appreciate how good food tastes when you haven’t eaten a lot in a while.”

When to re-detox

So how will you know when you need to detox again? “Your body will tell you,” Gittleman says.

Some signs include poor elimination, sinus congestion, coughing, fatigue, trouble sleeping, skin problems, cravings for sugar or rich foods, and anxiety. “Also when you become sensitive to fluctuations in weather conditions, that’s a good indicator that you may need to cleanse,” Gittleman adds.

Niemerow says that she likes to detox seasonally as a way of transitioning into a new time of the year. “You can also use detox as a way to get yourself back on track with healthy eating and to give your body a rest from any junk you’ve been putting in it,” she says.

Everyday detox tips

Here's more advice from Gittleman and Niemerow on how to break your cleanse the right way and how to make detox part of your daily routine:

•    Drink more water. It’s the best way to flush toxins out of the body.

•    Chew slowly. Digestion begins in the mouth.

•    Avoid overeating. Less is more, especially when breaking a cleanse.

•    Keep it simple. Avoid eating too many different foods in one meal to ease digestion.

•    Find a good probiotic. Good bacteria keep your digestive tract healthy.

•    Pay attention to your elimination habits.

•    Eat organic and avoid processed foods. Cleaner food means fewer toxins.

•    Avoid alcohol. It’s toxic.

•    Exercise. You’ll sweat out toxins as you move. Seane Corn’s Detox Flow Yoga is a great choice!

•    Take time to meditate. Deep breathing helps cleanse the body.

•    Get plenty of sleep. Your body heals itself as you rest.

Everyday detox foods

Detoxifying foods that you can add to any diet:

•    Hot water with lemon

•    Dandelion root tea

•    Cranberry juice and water

•    Ground flax and chia seeds

•    Unsweetened yogurt

•    Raw sauerkraut

•    Whey protein

•    Artichokes

•    Beets

•    Celery

•    Asparagus

•    Leafy greens

•    Daikon radishes

•    Onions

•    Garlic

•    Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage)

•    Broccoli sprouts

For more information, check out our comprehensive Detox Guide and shop Gaiam’s detox essentials. You can also learn more about how to detox with Dr. John Douillar’s Ayurveda for Detox video on

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