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6 in-season ingredients to elevate your holiday dishes

Including these seasonal fruits and vegetables in your holiday meals will make them nutritious and delicious! 

While many associate summer with an abundant harvest of fruits and vegetables, plenty of delicious ingredients are best enjoyed in the early weeks of winter. 

Using in-season ingredients in your holiday meals is a great way to ensure your food has the richest flavours and is full of nutrients. As a bonus, in-season produce is less expensive, so your expansive holiday menu won’t break the bank!

Make your holiday menu healthy and delicious by using these six in-season fruits and vegetables in side dishes, desserts, and, of course, as the main course.

Here are six of the best in-season fruits and vegetables to include on your holiday table this year.

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Brussels Sprouts

Winter is a wonderful time to harvest brussels sprouts, so look for them in your local markets—in abundance! Low in carbohydrates but high in fibre, this vegetable has made a popular resurgence lately due to its nutty flavour and versatility. Fresh brussels sprouts taste far superior to their frozen counterparts, so take advantage and include them in your holiday meals. As a side dish, this vegetable can be roasted or shredded raw, so you can include it in various forms on your holiday table.

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An often-overlooked vegetable in the same family as onions and garlic, leeks are a delicious and nutritious winter crop that can add a surprising twist to your holiday meals. Because they’re high in fibre, vitamin A, and antioxidants, leeks are an excellent choice for soups and side dishes that would otherwise be composed mainly of carbohydrates and refined ingredients. For example, this Leek Gratin recipe has all the flavours of the traditional potato dish but packs a better nutritional punch. If you like to serve a simple vegetable appetizer during the holidays, try this Parmesan Roasted Leek recipe for inspiration.

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Apples are a staple in holiday cooking, so it’s a bonus that you should be able to find a wide variety of types readily available this time of year. Full of flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) and fibre, apples can add sweetness to a dish without contributing to a sugar crash later. Use apples as a dessert ingredient (like in this low-calorie Cider-Sweetened Apple Pie) or harness their complex flavour in a savoury dish like this vegetarian Apple Quinoa Spoon Bread that could replace a typical holiday stuffing recipe.

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Cauliflower is a popular vegetable choice these days, and for good reason. Its high nutrient content (including vitamins C, E, and K, folate, fibre, lutein) and antioxidants make it a great choice for adding something healthy to a meal. This holiday season, use in-season cauliflower as a substitute for popular dishes like mashed potatoes and cheesy sides. You’ll get a similar texture and flavour profile with far more nutrients and fewer carbohydrates.

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Pears are a late fall/early winter fruit in many areas, so you can often find them in-season at your local market. High in vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, pears are a great ingredient to use in your holiday cooking to promote overall health. You can feature this ingredient alongside meat to add some natural sweetness to the dish. If you’re looking for a holiday recipe that doesn’t revolve around ham or turkey, try this roasted Pork Loin with Pears to wow your guests. As a dessert ingredient, pears bring moisture and sweetness to a dish, so you can choose recipes that are low in added sugar or oils like these Cranberry and Goat Cheese Stuffed Pears.

Photo by Laura Johnston on Unsplash

Leafy Greens (Kale, Chard, Etc.)

Leafy greens are a popular choice for healthy recipes year-round, but during winter months, these vegetables are in-season in many areas and thus less expensive. Adding leafy greens to your holiday recipes will infuse the meals with vitamin C, folate, calcium, and potassium, a key nutrient to combating bloating and water retention from high levels of sodium (a common occurrence during the holidays!). You can make leafy greens the star of your holiday side dish with an easy recipe like this Kale, Roasted Pepper, and Olive salad, or add greens to a soup to turn leftovers into a filling and delicious healthy meal in the days following a big celebration.

Including these seasonal fruits and vegetables in your holiday meals will make them nutritious and delicious!