WITS Winter Wellness Wisdom


On Tuesday, January 3, 2022, our WITS Chefs Rebecca Johnson and Brianna Giannizzero visited PS75M on the first day back to school from the holiday break. PTA member Jamie Harris led her from her classroom to another to meet Julie Karlin, the PTA member and educator. Julie was not in her classroom but seconds later they saw her coming around the corner with a student in tow. When she saw the WITS Chefs standing outside her door in their whites, she yelped “WITS” and did a dance. Chef Rebecca just HAD to capture this moment (see photo)!

It’s this kind of enthusiasm for wellness efforts in schools that makes the difference in quality programming and children’s lives. Having educators and parents who are familiar with the WITS program advances the mission of healthy habits, positively impacting the educational, emotional, mental, and physical lives of NYC’s school children at a time when it could not be more needed. Yay PS75M!

As we enter a new year, it’s likely that you may know someone who has made his or her New Year’s Resolution to adhere to a new diet. With the holiday season and all of its food-filled celebrations only just behind us, WITS Chef and Nutritionist Ricardo Diaz recommends lifestyle changes versus “diets”.

While the majority of New Year’s Resolutions tend to stick for only a few weeks, we invite you to try a resolution that might prove to be easier than a complete diet overhaul, something that can turn into a lifestyle change and make a colorful fruit or vegetable part of every meal, as often as possible. Any vegetable or fruit will do, preferably your favorite ones, but eating a mix of different fruits and veggies is even better! 

We consume a diverse array of antioxidants when we eat fruits or vegetables —it’s what makes them colorful. Additionally, the vitamins and minerals present in fruits and vegetables provide our bodies (and immune systems) with the raw materials needed to maintain good health. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also indirectly support immune health by providing nourishment (in the form of dietary fiber) to the “good” bacteria that make up our microbiome, leaving less of a foothold for harmful germs to find shelter in our guts. 

In our elementary school nutrition curriculum, we call this “Eating a Rainbow” and it’s really as simple as that! 

Depending on where you live, some fruits and vegetables will be actively growing and available at stores — recommend seasonal produce as your first stop for Eating a Rainbow. But if it’s hard to find fresh vegetables or fruits in your supermarkets, frozen vegetables or fruits offer similar nutritional benefits as fresh produce. In some cases, the processing of some canned foods (like tomatoes) could make them even healthier than their fresh counterparts. 

Whenever you start feeling under the weather, you may want to consider the following; most of these pair well with a variety of foods across different cultures. 

  • Garlic – excellent antibacterial/antiviral agent
  • Ginger – anti-inflammatory, can improve digestive function
  • Turmeric – anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant
  • Citrus – good source of Vitamin C (healthy immunity), and they’re currently in-season
  • Mushrooms – across the board, they are a good source of B vitamins and selenium (supports healthy immunity)
  • Elderberry – good source of antioxidants, may relieve symptoms of flu and other upper-respiratory ailments

As we continue to navigate the challenges of staying healthy during the winter months (COVID-19 notwithstanding), it goes without saying that Eating the Rainbow, consuming more nourishing foods, and getting more movement are essential to self-care. But the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to listen to our bodies — while it’s easy to ignore or treat symptoms of exhaustion or illness, it could be our body’s way of telling us that we need to slow down, rest and recover. 

If you’re looking for a way to Eat a Rainbow using some winter seasonal produce, check out our Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. Loaded with Vitamin A (healthy cells, healthy eyes, healthy skin), Vitamin C (healthy skin, healthy immunity), and dietary fiber (healthy guts), butternut squash becomes even sweeter when roasted. It’s equal parts nutritious and delicious!