Eating right in the offseason. Finding ways to incorporate fresh foods can be challenging during winter months

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During the summer, it is easy to find locally-grown produce at farmer’s markets and grocery stores; but as the warm weather wanes and frost begins to settle, our options for produce seem to dwindle even though the need to eat them remains.

“I tell my patients to follow the Weight Watchers policy when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables,” said Holly Bassler, D.O. “I treat them as a freebie, meaning you can eat as much as you want without counting it against your calories for the day. Use them as your snacks and fillers.”

Even though the freshly picked leafy greens and bright berries are harder to find, Dr. Bassler has some great suggestions for keeping a healthy mix of foods in your diet.

Staples like apples, carrots and celery are available year-round and are easy to cut down to snackable sizes.

“I like to keep baby carrots in snack-size containers so it’s in smaller portions,” she said. “These foods also tend to keep longer.”

Adding color to your meals makes them more appealing.

“Bright colors tend to make food look more appetizing,” Dr. Bassler explained. “Incorporate colorful vegetables into soups and sauces to make them more interesting and add that extra nutritional value.”

Make fruits and vegetables easily accessible.

Dr. Bassler said she always keeps a bowl of apples out on the counter to make the right decision also the easiest decision.

Avoid microwave dinners.

“Adding in frozen vegetables can be an easy way to include more produce in your diet, but try to avoid pre-packaged microwave meals,” she said.

Look for citrus.

Dr. Bassler said summer fruits are replaced with oranges, clementines and other citrus fruits in the winter. These fruits often contain high amounts of vitamin C which can help fight winter colds.

Watch for nutrient deficiencies.

“Vitamin D is the most common nutrient deficiency up here,” Dr. Bassler said. “Mushrooms contain a higher amount of vitamin D, but you may want to consider a supplement. If you start feeling low on energy, moody, or have trouble healing, these could be signs of a more severe deficiency and you may want to consider calling your doctor’s office.”

Want to find a primary care provider? Visit kh.org to search for a provider or visit kh.org/familymedicine.

--Written by Andrea Nagel, Kootenai Health

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