8 Things You Should Never Eat In The Winter

Plus, alternatives that you can feel good about.

February 11, 2016
tomatoes
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These days, you can eat almost any fresh fruit or vegetable year-round, but that doesn't mean you should. Some "fresh" produce could be making the trek all the way from China or South America, which isn't ideal for your carbon footprint, your taste buds, or your health. "The more time between harvesting and eating, the fewer nutrients," says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. So until your local farmers' market is adequately stocked, revise your winter grocery list with these superior picks (click through the slideshow to get the whole list).

begged lettuce
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Skip It: Bagged Greens

Sure, that pre-washed, pre-chopped stuff is convenient, but the same process that extends its shelf life could be zapping its content of vitamin C—one study found that bagged Swiss chard lost about 50 percent! 

Pick It: Fresh Kale
This sturdy and versatile winter green is a nutrient powerhouse. Packed with bone-building calcium and vitamin K, kale is also rich in iron, potassium, and vitamin A. (It can also help lower blood pressure.) For salads, try massaging kale leaves with lemon juice and sea salt to break down the cell walls, making it softer and sweeter.

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asparagus
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Skip it: Asparagus

Asparagus is available year-round, but it's at its best in spring when spears are firm and tasty. Winter asparagus shipped from Peru and China can be limp and woody in comparison.

Pick It: Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts don't get nearly the respect they deserve. The cold-weather crop is not only in the cancer-fighting cruciferous veggie family, but one cup also has 100 percent of your recommended daily intake of immune-boosting vitamin C and bone-building vitamin K.

Related: Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Apples + Bacon

peaches
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Skip It: Peaches

Peaches are at their prime—juicy and deliciously sweet—in summer, but they practically disappear after August. If you find the fuzzy fruit in winter, chances are it's shipped from South America.

Pick It: Persimmons
Consider persimmons the fuzzless peaches of winter. They deliver a similar sweet taste but with a nutrition profile all their own. Just one of these delightful orange orbs is loaded with antioxidant vitamins A and C, potassium, and 6 grams of filling fiber—almost triple that of peaches!

peas
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Skip It: Fresh Peas

Sweet and tender peas are a fleeting spring treat. If you do happen upon them in the winter months, chances are they're more starchy than sweet.

Pick It: Frozen Shelled Edamame
Frozen sweet peas aren't the only pod that can sub for fresh in winter recipes. Our pick: frozen shelled edamame, which adds a nutty taste along with a whopping 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per half cup. (It can also help lower cholesterol.) To avoid genetically modified soybeans, opt for organic.

Related: Is Soy Milk Wrecking Your Gut?

 
 
corn on the cob
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Skip It: Corn On The Cob

Sure, eating corn on the cob is better than crunching on corn chips, but you're not going to get the same sweet taste of in-season summer corn—the long haul from Mexico can turn cobs starchy. 

Pick It: Frozen Corn Kernels
"Frozen produce is a healthy alternative to fresh and may even be better than some fresh products consumed past their ideal period of freshness," says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor of nutrition science at Tufts University. You may not get to nibble it off the cob, but frozen corn is still a great source of eye-saving lutein and zeaxanthin. Just skip the salt-added stuff, and opt for organic if you want to avoid GMOs.

strawberries
Skip It: Strawberries

Winter strawberries pale in comparison to their scarlet-hued summer counterparts. "The more color, the higher the phytonutrient content," says Somer. Vitamin C is also lost in transit and storage. 

Pick It: Frozen Strawberries
Frozen berries are flash-frozen and packed at the peak of freshness (check out more clean foods found in the freezer aisle), locking in taste and vitamin C, notes Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, a Philadelphia-based family nutrition expert and coauthor of Nutrition for Life.

tomatoes
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Skip it: Tomatoes

Late summer tomatoes are the absolute best, practically exploding with juicy goodness. But the mushy, mealy texture of winter tomatoes can be a total turnoff for the taste buds.

Pick It: Jarred Or Canned Tomatoes
Fresh isn't always best: Lycopene, the cancer-fighting antioxidant responsible for tomatoes' red hue, is actually better absorbed by the body when you eat canned and jarred tomatoes. Skip added-salt varieties and opt for BPA-free cans.

Related: How To Save Tomato Seeds

 
 
blueberries
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Skip It: Blueberries

Not only does the price of fresh blueberries skyrocket in winter, but the long haul from farm to fridge degrades vitamin C and could mean moldy berries.

Pick It: Frozen Blueberries
"Frozen blueberries are just as healthy as fresh," says Somer. In fact, research from South Dakota State University found that frozen blueberries deliver even more disease-fighting antioxidants.

This article originally appeared on Prevention.