Winter for Vata
If, at this time of year, you feel more vata in your system, you may be less disturbed by the heavy, slow, cloudy, and damp aspects of winter, but aggravated by the cold, wind, and dryness that are part of vata's nature. Favorable to bringing balance to vata dosha is to focus on countering these qualities.
Foods to Favor
You will want to eat a heavier, oilier, more substantive diet in order to ground, lubricate, and nourish your system. Favor the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and warm, soft, foods that are well-cooked and well-spiced, but not fiery hot. Most sweet and heavy fruits, including avocado, will be well received by your body. Vegetables and legumes are a little trickier as most of them are quite drying. Cook them well, be generous with oil, and favor asparagus, beets, carrots, chilies, green beans, mustard greens, okra, olives, onion, parsnip, sweet potatoes, spinach, summer squash, zucchini, kidney beans, mung beans, well-spiced tofu, miso, tur dal, and urad dal. You can probably enjoy more dairy products than most during the winter and can eat any kind that you like, though hot milk, ghee, and cottage cheese will be the most supportive. You can freely partake of amaranth, cooked oats, quinoa, brown rice, basmati rice, wheat, most meats, all nuts and seeds, most oils, and all spices. You can use any natural sweeteners you like, though honey, molasses, and jaggary are especially nice in that they are heating.
Acceptable Seasonal Indulgences
The heaviness of the winter and the added strength of your digestive fire will probably allow you to indulge in some foods that you might not normally tolerate—an occasional bean soup, a caffeinated tea, a cup of coffee or espresso (with cream and sugar). Sweet, nourishing treats will also support your system in the winter months. Consider trying some Hot Spiced Chai or Warm Maple Tapioca (made with cow’s milk unless you’re experiencing a kapha imbalance).
Foods to Minimize
Avoid astringent fruits like apples (unless they are cooked and garnished with ghee), pears, pomegranate, or dried fruits. Also minimize your intake of barley, corn, millet, oat bran, dry oats, popcorn, rice cakes or crackers, rye, pork, rabbit, venison, and leftovers. Most beans (except those mentioned above) should also be reduced. If you can, avoid white sugar, raw vegetables, iced drinks, and frozen foods like ice cream altogether during the winter months.
One of the surest ways to keep vata happy this winter is to establish a predictable routine. Get up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Eat meals at regular intervals. Develop habitual patterns with work, exercise, and other obligations. Massage your skin with warm Vata Massage Oil or Sesame Oil every day, if you can. The winter months will allow you to push yourself physically more than you might be able to at other times of year, but you’ll still need to be careful not to overdo it. If you practice yoga, move mindfully and gracefully, include a couple of restorative postures, and wrap up your practice with a long Savasana (Corpse Pose). This is a critically restorative time of year for you so try to resist any temptation to overbook yourself. Instead, take advantage of the slow, quiet nature of the winter to replenish lost stores of energy and embrace a certain stillness in your life.