I don’t know about you, but for me, winter is a whirlwind season at home! Everyone is trying to settle into a nourishing routine to balance the demands of school and extracurriculars while remaining connected to family life. Just as the snow swirls outside, we seem to swirl a bit inside. Ayurvedically, winter is the season of vata dosha—when dry, cold, and variable qualities are more present. The vata outside impacts our minds and nervous systems, which can create more anxiety, depletion, reactivity, and restlessness for both you and your kids. Knowing how to ground ourselves and our families during this time can make all the difference. One way to do so is through food.
This year, I turned to my friend and colleague Sarah Guglielmi, an ayurvedic health counselor on faculty at the Himalayan Institute. Her advice is for people, especially those who are more vata in constitution, to avoid or minimize cold, dry foods (such as salads, crackers, smoothies, and raw vegetables) during winter and to focus on foods that will bring warmth and moisture to the body (such as cooked vegetables, whole grains, root vegetables, and soups). She also recommends adding sweet, salty, and sour tastes into your diet to pacify vata.
Ayurvedically, winter is the season of vata dosha—when dry, cold, and variable qualities are more present.
Together we came up with some simple, family-friendly after-school snacks that will balance vata. And they were kid-tested in my own kitchen: Each of my four boys gave them two thumbs up!
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
4 to 6 servings
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Gently wash 2 to 4 medium-size sweet potatoes.
Leave the skin on and cut the potatoes into french fry wedges.
Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil or ghee, plus a pinch each of pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to taste into a cast-iron skillet. Warm the oil or ghee over medium heat to infuse with the spices.
Add the potatoes and toss to coat them. Once they’re fully coated, place the skillet in the oven for 25 minutes. Check them occasionally and stir them if they start to stick.
Serve with ketchup or hot sauce.
Homemade Apple Sauce
4 to 6 servings
Gently wash 4 to 6 apples.
Leave the skin on and core the apples, slicing them into wedges.
Put 2 tablespoons of ghee in a cast-iron skillet, add 2 teaspoons each of cardamom and cinnamon, plus a dash (or more) of nutmeg to taste. Warm the ghee over medium heat to infuse the spices.
Add the apple wedges and 1½ cups of water and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the apples are soft and the liquid has been mostly absorbed, remove them to a bowl and mash. Serve the apple sauce warm.
Warm Apple Cider
4 to 6 servings
Pour 2 to 3 cups of apple cider into a crock-pot and turn the heat to low.
Add 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 to 3 cloves, and a dash of nutmeg.
Let the cider mull for 30 minutes, or as long as an hour. (And, if you time it properly, the aroma of the spices will waft through your house before the kids get home from school!)
Serve as is or add a slice of orange studded with a clove to the mug or use one of the cinnamon sticks as a straw.
Lastly, the best way to get more vata-pacifying foods into your kids is to send them to school with a thermos full of soup or a warming drink!