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Winter Vegetables

Salads made with fresh vegetables can be enjoyed all year, but when the weather turns colder cooked vegetables are often more appealing. Include a variety of delicious and nutrition-packed winter vegetables that taste great roasted, steamed, as part of casseroles or featured in hot soups as part of your weekly meal planning. Branch out from the familiar potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots and try  these great-tasting, nutritious  vegetables this winter:

Brussels sprouts are native to Belgium in an area near Brussels, which gives them their name. Often called ‘little cabbages’ because of their shape and taste, Brussels sprouts are packed with a wide variety of nutrients:  vitamins C, K, A, B1, B6 and B2 plus manganese, choline, copper, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and zinc. One-half cup Brussels sprouts contains 32 calories, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, and only 6 grams of carbohydrate. Brussels sprouts are an important source of glucosinolates that help protect against cancer, and the antioxidants in Brussels sprouts help reduce inflammation. When we eat Brussels sprouts, the fiber binds with some of the bile acids in our digestive tract so that they pass out of our body rather than being absorbed. When this happens, our liver replaces the lost bile acids by using cholesterol in our body, and as a result, our cholesterol level decreases.1,2 

Keep fresh, unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Wash in cool water to remove any dirt. Cut fresh Brussels sprouts into quarters and steam for 5 -6 minutes. Or toss cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. Microwave frozen Brussels sprouts per package directions. To avoid the unpleasant sulfur smell often associated with Brussels sprouts, avoid overcooking.1

There are several varieties of winter squash:  buttercup, delicata, Hubbard, spaghetti, banana, Turk’s turban and acorn. These types of squash are called winter squash because they are harvested at the end of summer and their hard shells allow them to be stored up to 6 months, or through the winter. Winter squash is a very good source of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, and copper as well as a good source of potassium, vitamin B2, folate, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and niacin. The carotenoids and pectins in winter squash contain antioxidants that help protect against inflammation and some types of cancer. 1 cup of baked winter squash contains 115 calories, zero fat or cholesterol, 8mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 9g fiber and 2g protein. It also provides 33% of the daily value for vitamin C and 340 milligrams of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While this is about one-third the amount of ALA in walnuts, it’s a valuable amount for a low-fat, low-calorie food. Less than 15% of the calories in winter squash come from fat, compared with almost 90% of the calories from walnuts.3,4

To bake winter squash, cut in half down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Or purchase frozen cubes of winter squash to use in soups, or mash instead of potatoes.

Leeks are a member of the allium family that includes onions and garlic. Leeks look like a giant scallion or green onion, yet have a mild, more delicate flavor. Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, and vitamin C. One-half cup of leeks contains 16 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 6m sodium and 4g carbohydrate. Leeks contain high amounts of folate that supports our cardiovascular system, as well as antioxidants that protect blood vessel linings from damage and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.5,6

Wash leeks thoroughly as soil is often trapped between the many layers of leaves. First, trim off the base and cut away the top leaves. If you want to keep the leek whole, use a knife to make a slit from the top to the point where the green meets the white, cutting to the middle of the leek. Rinse well under running water, pulling back the layers so that any dirt at the base is removed. Or slice the leeks, put them in a colander, and rinse under running water. Use leeks in stir-fries, soups, or casseroles.5

Turnips are a cruciferous vegetable used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a primary source of food for poor country people. Because they store well over the winter, turnips are a popular food in many colder parts of the world including Canada, northern Europe, and the northern parts of the United States7. One medium turnip has 34 calories, no fat, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrate; and contains over 50% of daily vitamin C needs, along with manganese, potassium, folate and copper.8 Choose small turnips for a milder flavor and better texture. Boil or steam turnips, then mash or puree. Or cut into cubes to add to a stir-fry or with roast beef. Substitute mashed turnips for mashed potatoes to reduce calories and carbohydrate.7

Rutabagas are a larger, sweeter relative of turnips, and like turnips are low in calories and contain no fat9. One-half cup cooked rutabagas contain only 33 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 17 mg sodium, 1.5 gm fiber, 1 gm protein and over 50% of your daily Vitamin C needs. Rutabagas are a good source of several minerals, including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and manganese and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce risk of chronic disease.9,10 Choose medium-size, firm, solid, smooth rutabagas for the best flavor and texture. Peel the skin and then bake, roast, boil, steam, stir-fry or microwave in place of potatoes or carrots.9

Kohlrabi looks similar to a cabbage with a turnip-like stem and contains antioxidants and phytochemicals that help protect against some types of cancer.11 One-half cup cooked kohlrabi contains only 24 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 13 mg sodium, 6 gm carbohydrate, 1 gm fiber, and 1 gram protein and provides over 70% of daily vitamin C needs. Kohlrabi is a good source of potassium, copper, B6, and manganese.12 The mild flavor and crisp texture make it a perfect addition to wintertime meals. Choose small kohlrabi for the best flavor and texture. Peel the bulb before roasting, steaming, or mashing.


  1. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Brussels sprouts. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10 Accessed 12-17-15.
  2. SelfNutrition Data. Brussels sprouts. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2363/2 Accessed 12-23-15
  3. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Squash, winter. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63 Accessed 12-17-15
  4. SelfNutrition Data. Squash, winter. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2751/2 Accessed 12-23-15
  5. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Leeks. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26 Accessed 12-18-15
  6. SelfNutrition Data. Leeks. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2471/2 Accessed 12-23-15
  7. Food Encyclopedia. Turnip. http://www.foodterms.com/encyclopedia/turnip/index.html?oc=linkback Accessed 12-18-15.
  8. SelfNutrition Data. Turnip. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2700/2 Accessed 12-23-15
  9. Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health. Cooperative Extension Service. University of the District of Columbia. Rutabaga. http://www.udc.edu/docs/causes/online/Rutabaga%2012.pdf  Accessed 12-18-15.
  10. SelfNutrition Data. Rutabaga. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2611/2  Accessed 12-27-15
  11. Anti-Diabetic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Green and Red Kohlrabi Cultivars (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes). Hyun Ah Jung et al. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2014 Dec; 19(4): 281–290.
  12. SelfNutrition Data. Kohlrabi. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2868/2 Accessed 12-27-15.

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