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Winter can seem like a real downer after the beginning of the new year; there are no major holidays around the corner, the weather is bleak, and hearty stews have started to feel a bit boring. It can be tempting to try to cure your cold-weather blues by stocking up on bright, cheerful vegetables at the supermarket, but most chefs and dieticians will warn that buying out-of-season produce is usually a waste of money.

Out-of-season produce is shipped over long distances from farms in different climates with different growing seasons. As the fruits and vegetables make their long journey, their natural sugars begin to break down, sacrificing flavor. Vitamins and minerals also disappear in the process of shipping, so your out-of-season produce is actually less nutritious than its in-season counterparts.

So what should you do? Chow down on cheese and dump hot sauce on your canned greens to add flavor? Well, no, actually. Many spicy, sugary, and dairy-heavy foods can be contributing factors to the illnesses we’re more susceptible to during winter, like cold and flu.

You may be thinking that the best solution to winter food woes is to hide under your covers nibbling waffles until April. That’s simply not true, says Trishna Joshi, lead nutritionist on The Fresh Diet. “The most common food mistake we make in the winter is running straight for high-fat, high-sugar, and high-carb foods when we should be doing the opposite,” says Joshi. “Mother nature provides us with ample produce during this season. By consuming foods in season, we get better flavor, seasonal health benefits, more nutrients, and cheaper prices.”

We’ve listed the top foods you should avoid during the winter months to give you a better idea of what to look for (and what to walk right past) in the grocery store.

 

  • 1. Asparagus

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    Some foods are best left to the spring, and fresh asparagus is one of them, according to Suzanne Lehrer, culinary manager at Plated. “Anything light green in the store is special to spring,” says Lehrer. “Pick up anything dark green instead for winter — kale, Swiss chard, and escarole.”

  • 2. Cayenne Pepper

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    Reaching for the spicy stuff might help clear your stuffy sinuses, but it will wreak havoc on your stomach. Avoid hot foods if you have a cold or the flu.

  • 3. Corn on the Cob

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    Unless you live in Florida, where it starts coming in by late January, that corn on the cob you find in the supermarket in mid-February won’t be as young as you think. According to Jackie Keller, founder of Nutrifit, “This plant simply doesn't produce in winter months,” says Keller. “What you'll be buying, if you do find it anywhere, will be frozen or even leftover from the previous season.”

  • 4. Dairy

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    Milk, cream, and cheese can be your worst nightmare if you’re fighting a bug. “If you feel you're on the cusp of a cold and feeling congested, dairy will only make it worse," says Lehrer.

  • 5. Halibut

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    Believe it or not, fish are seasonal, too. “Halibut is out of season in winter months,” says Keller. “This doesn't apply to farmed fish, but I encourage people to buy wild when possible. Avoid halibut until late spring.” 

    See more foods that really shouldn't be consumed during the winter.

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