5 Foods to Stock Up On in January, According to a Dietitian
The motivation to eat well come January 1st is not a new phenomenon. The start of the new year seems to be our signal for reflection and new beginnings. Even dietitians get excited by the motivation in the air! But you don't need to go to drastic measures, like cutting out certain foods, to reach your health goals. Rather, focus on filling your plate with more good-for-you foods that will help you feel your best and reach your health goals. As a dietitian, these are 5 of my favorite foods that I stock up on every January to help me do just that. Read on to learn more, plus what to make with these delicious ingredients.
There's a reason registered dietitians recommend eating seasonally. It's because freshly-harvested food is at its peak when it comes to nutrition and flavor. In the winter months, citrus fruit, like oranges, are readily available and incredibly delicious.
That bright burst of sweet orange tastes just like warm sunshine! That's enough to brighten your mood, even according to studies. Plus, oranges boast an impressive nutrition profile. They're "a natural source of folate and thiamin," says Charleston-based registered dietitian. Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD, CLEC. "And citrus foods, like oranges, have a unique plant compound called hesperidin, which has been shown to support blood pressure health, among other positive outcomes."
It's also a great way to get vitamin C, a key nutrient that promotes a healthy immune system. And since winter is cold and flu season, grabbing an orange is a delicious way to get a little extra immune support.
I also love that oranges can last up to 10 days on your countertop (if you see it, you're more likely to eat it!) and up to 21 days in the crisper drawer of your fridge, according to Foodkeeper, a program developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to help answer consumer's questions about food safety and storage. That means you can buy a big bag on your next shopping trip and enjoy the fruit all month long.
There are hundreds of studies that point to the health benefits of eating seafood, but Americans often struggle to make it a regular part of their diet. That's where convenient and often more affordable canned and frozen varieties come into play.
Pre-cooked, canned seafood is a great staple to keep in your pantry. Jessica Miller, RDN, CDE, Nutrition Communications Manager for Seafood Nutrition Partnership, agrees that canned seafood can be a great option. "Canned seafood such as canned tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, crab, and clams," she says, "are excellent sources of omega-3s. They're also a source of selenium, iron, vitamin B-6 and B-12, and protein, which are vital nutrients that promote optimal overall health and wellness." Canned seafood can easily be used to create delicious meals from tacos, salads, wraps and even pizza! If you're someone who needs to watch your sodium intake, choose options labeled "low in sodium" to help keep salt in check.
Nutritional guidelines recommend consuming seafood at least two times a week. Stocking up on frozen seafood means you'll always have something to pull for lunch or dinner. Most frozen seafood can be thawed overnight or follow package directions for day-of thawing. Drain your seafood and pat it dry before adding seasonings of your choice and roasting or sautéing. This Rosemary Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Potatoes is a tasty and uncomplicated way to enjoy heart-healthy salmon.
Spinach made the list and for good reason. I love that spinach is a nutrition powerhouse and also love that it's such a versatile ingredient. Fresh or frozen, spinach makes a great addition to almost any meal. Throw it in soups, stews, salads, pasta dishes and sandwiches.
Of course this boosts the nutrition of the dish, but it also "bulks" up the meal, making it more satisfying and enjoyable. Culinary dietitian, Marisa Moore, M.B.A., RDN, LD, agrees! "I keep both fresh and frozen spinach on-hand throughout the winter. Spinach is versatile in the kitchen. And just one cup of spinach delivers more than 100% of the daily value for vitamin K—a key nutrient for maintaining strong bones."
Seaweed also makes the cut as an item to stock up on in January. It's flavorful, nutritious and versatile—there are so many ways to enjoy this delicious ingredient.
In the U.S., you'll most often find seaweed in stores in the form of nori sheets. Nori comes in both larger sheet, which are typically used to make sushi, or smaller sheets, sometimes flavored with sesame or wasabi, which are perfect for snacking. You can add torn nori sheets to soups to add savory flavor, or use the smaller sheets to scoop up the contents of this tasty Salmon Rice Bowl recipe.
According to EatingWell's top food and nutrition trend predictions for 2023, you can expect to see other sea plants on menus and store shelves in the U.S., particularly kelp-based products, from kelp chips to kelp noodles.
Seaweed's nutrition profile includes B vitamins, iron and zinc. Not to mention the myriad of helpful antioxidants found in seaweed that help ward off cell-damaging free radicals.
Chef Tessa Nguyen, M.Ed., RD, LDN says that nori is just one variety of seaweed that she has on hand in her pantry at all times. "It's full of vitamins and minerals that support overall health and nutrition, including fiber and antioxidants. I also love that it's a culturally diverse ingredient to be worked into so many sweet and savory dishes across the board."
Fungi are your friends! Whether you're roasting them with balsamic and Parmesan cheese, baking them in a savory casserole or stirring them into a comforting pasta dinner, you can't go wrong with this delicious ingredient.
Mushrooms are a great source of beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber, says registered dietitian, Krystal George, RDN, AMFT. "This type of fiber has been shown to help decrease LDL cholesterol and total blood cholesterol levels, making them a great food for those who struggle with managing certain health conditions such as heart disease and hyperlipidemia."
Plus, some mushrooms are also sources of valuable vitamin D. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin, as we get the majority of this nutrient from exposure to sunlight. But it can also be found in food, but only a few select sources, like egg yolks, fatty fish (like salmon or sardines) plus dairy and dairy alternatives or juices fortified with Vitamin D. Wild mushrooms tend to be good sources of vitamin D, but also search the supermarket for packaged mushrooms with labels that indicate they've been exposed to UV light, which means they're a decent source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important because it can help with everything from absorbing calcium and phosphorus for bone health to supporting a healthy mood. And during the winter, when sunshine is fleeting, it's not a bad idea to find supplemental food sources of vitamin D to help meet your needs.
Don't be afraid to branch out when you're stocking up at the store! Button and cremini mushrooms are often what you find front and center in the produce section of most U.S. grocery stores, but varieties like shiitakes, portobellos, maitakes and oyster mushrooms make for delicious additions to meals.
Use January as your motivation to stock your kitchen with more good-for-you foods to help you feel your best. Add oranges for fresh flavor and vitamins D and C. Grab some seafood for omega-3's fats and protein. And don't forget spinach, seaweed and mushrooms! These veggies boast an array of vitamins and minerals, while also packing fiber and flavor to fuel any chilly January day.