Site search


Eating to keep out the cold

publication date: Jan 6, 2010
author/source: Fiona Beckett
Download Print

With much of the country shivering under a blanket of snow it’s not a great time to be going back to cold student flats and houses but you can do a lot to help keep yourself warm by eating the right foods. Both Chinese and ayurvedic medicine promote the consumption of particular foods in winter but a lot of the advice is basic common sense: hot or warm food and drinks are going to keep you warmer than cold ones.

Eat a hot breakfast
Even if you skip breakfast normally, don’t in this weather. And that doesn’t mean coffee and toast. Porridge is the easiest way to create some internal central heating - cheap and quick. Jazz it up with dried fruit like dates, raisins, dried apples and cinnamon if you don’t like it plain (though you can get fantastic flavoured porridges from companies like Rude Health). Sig’s got some good suggestions here.

Drink hot drinks
Not just tea and coffee. Hot Ribena (or any own brand blackcurrant drink) is great as is warmed apple juice spiked with cinnamon. Light soups like packet miso soup and Marigold vegetable bouillon powder are also good. And there’s always hot chocolate, not that I probably need to remind you about that.

Make - or even just reheat - soup
If you have normally a sandwich for lunch have a mug or bowl of soup with it. Chunky soupy stews make a great meal on their own. Don't chuck away chicken carcasses, make chicken stock and soup - great for boosting your immune system.

Subsitute noodles for pasta - occasionally at least
The liquid and spices (especially ginger, garlic and chilli) in ‘wet’ Asian noodle dishes (e.g. noodles in broth) will make you feel warmer than a plate of pasta with tomato sauce

Keep up your protein intake
If you don’t eat meat and fish make sure to include cheese, eggs and pulses like lentils and chickpeas in your diet. You need it for energy.

Eat root veg
According to Chinese medicine vegetables that take a long time to grow and which grow underground are best for winter eating. So cook up veggies like onions, carrots, parsnips, swedes and beetroot. And, of course, spuds.

Snack on nuts and dried fruits rather than crisps
Good advice at the best of times but they’ll give you added energy when it’s cold.

Spice up your food
Not vindaloo style - you don’t want to make yourself sweat which will make your body lose heat. Good spices to include are ginger, chilli, paprika, black pepper, mustard seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. And garlic which also helps ward off seasonal lurgies.

Go for warm colours
I can't find any basis for this but just know from personal observation that warming colours like orange and red make me feel warmer than pale colours at this time of year. So think warming squash and pumpkin soups, steaming hot tomato soup (Heinz at a pinch) and hearty stews like goulash (pork stew with paprika). And even beans on toast.

Cook fruit
Citrus apart it’s hard to eat cold fruit when it’s freezing outside but you still need to try and keep up your intake. Fry sliced apples, pears or plums in a little butter and a sprinkle of spice or make a batch of fruit compote with some frozen fruits. Baked apples are really simple to do too when you have the oven on.

Go easy on the alcohol
Again nothing specially seasonal about this advice but drinking a lot gives you a false sense of security. You may feel warm but if you’re out of it you may disregard outdoor temperatures and your body temperature can easily plummet dangerously. Nothing wrong with the occasional hot toddy though.

Avoid obviously summery foods
Like strawberries and melon, salad vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce and iced or chilled drinks. This is not the time of year to be living off salads.


If you've enjoyed this article why not visit the Beyond Baked Beans page on Facebook where you can contribute your own tips and recipes.