In addition to being “very cold, wear your coat” season, January is also the season for citrus. And with tropical vacations currently on hold, this is an excellent time to explore new flavors — especially ones we might associate with warmer climates.

Citrus fruits are a source of vitamin C, so it’s timely that they’re in season in January to help boost the immune system and promote wellness. (Getty Images)
Citrus fruits are a source of vitamin C, so it’s timely that they’re in season in January to help boost the immune system and promote wellness. (Getty Images)

What comes to mind first when you think of citrus? Many people would respond with “oranges.” But oranges don’t fully represent the broad range of delicious citrus options available. Other citrus relatives (and specific types of oranges) include:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Clementines
  • Grapefruit
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Pomelos
  • Tangerines
  • Cara Cara oranges
  • Blood oranges
  • Navel oranges

What are the benefits of eating citrus while it’s in season? Pricing is one of the most significant factors; when citrus is in season, the price is typically lower. You’ll also likely notice an amplified taste profile, and sometimes more vibrant colors. Citrus fruits are a source of vitamin C, so it’s timely that they’re in season in January to help boost the immune system and promote wellness.

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There are a variety of types of citrus fruits and, similarly, a variety of ways to prepare and enjoy citrus this season. One of those ways includes using citrus as a “seasoning”! Here are some ideas:

Snacking. Pair a sweeter citrus fruit, such as a Cara Cara orange (my favorite!), with a handful of almonds or cashews for a balanced snack. You can also make a citrus energy bite with lemon zest and nuts (see recipe below).

Salad toppers. Citrus fruits go well with greens as a side dish. Citrus offers vitamin C, and spinach offers a source of plant-based iron. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, so this can be a simultaneously beneficial and colorful combo.

Salad dressings. Add a hint of citrus to your salad dressings. For a super simple mixture, consider a drizzle of olive oil plus lemon juice (which works great for salad dressings or over fish).

Seasonings. Try using lemon peel and/or orange peel to add citrus flavor to your meal. Using it as a seasoning gives a great taste without increasing the sodium content. This is slightly different than zesting, as that calls for the whole peel and usually involves shredding the peel.

Simple zest. This is one way to add a “wow” factor for taste that will also help reduce food waste. If you’re zesting, be sure to wash the fruit before zesting, and stop zesting when the color “runs out.” (The white part is typically bitter.)

Sipping. Try adding citrus fruits to your water for enhanced flavor and an added antioxidant boost.

Serving style/garnish. If you’re baking chicken, turkey or fish in the oven, adding sliced citrus fruits to the top can offer flavor and “plate appeal” to an entrée.

I hope you enjoy these Citrus-Infused Aloha Bites. I developed the recipe below with the help of a dietetics student, now a fellow dietitian, a few years ago. I’ll credit several years of Minnesota winters as the inspiration for craving a convenient, Hawaiian-themed snack. Ironically, it is freezer-friendly. (Or put them in a container in your garage so they freeze.)

Citrus-Infused Aloha Bites

All you need:

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

16 drops NuNaturals Alcohol Free NuStevia or other liquid stevia

1 cup macadamia nuts

½ cup dried blueberries

½ scoop Vega (plant-based) vanilla smoothie protein powder

All you do:

If desired, place oats in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and process for about 1 minute or until finely chopped. Remove oats and place to the side in a bowl.

Combine lemon juice and NuStevia in food processor.

Add macadamia nuts and lemon zest. Pulse until nuts are finely chopped.

Add blueberries and protein powder. Pulse until combined. Transfer to bowl with the oats.

Combine until even and cohesive. Roll into 16 bites or 32 mini bites. For best results, refrigerate.

100 calories per 1 bite or per 2 mini bites

Recipe from Amanda Moder

Amanda Moder is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.