In honor of St. Patrick’s day, I’m serving up some green to add to your plate!
We all know veggies are good for us. And you may have heard that dark green veggies pack an extra nutritional punch! They are high in many vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants that can help fight disease. Dark green leafy vegetables are great sources of nutrition; kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and broccoli, bok choy and mustard are also rich in many of the B-vitamins. These vegetables also contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants that protect cells and play roles in blocking the early stages of cancer. Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods. Studies have shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables per week may lower the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer. These same antioxidants have also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease
A lot of people tell me they don’t like veggies or they don’t like dark green veggies. I usually say “have you tried making them any other way?” Most of us grew up with our parents serving veggies the same way every time. Try some different ways of cooking and adding veggies to your plate. You may find a way that you actually LIKE to eat them! Even if you think you won’t like it, give it a try. What do you have to lose? If you like it, then you can add a wonderful healthy green to your diet and help prevent disease. If not, then at least you gave it a try! Just like mama says “If you never it try it, you’ll never know!”
Below are four ways to enjoy four different healthy greens. Which one are you going to try first?
Kale is a hardy, dark green, leafy vegetable. Kale is high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as antioxidants. Studies show that kale may support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. 1 cup (21 grams) of raw kale is loaded with potassium, calcium, copper, and vitamins A, B, C, and K.
- Cooked as a snack chip: Yes, you can make better-than-potato-chips-snack-chips out of kale that even kids love! Add a little salt and olive oil and cook in the oven and kale gets nice and crispy! Check out my recipe post here
- In a soup. Kale becomes soft when it’s boiled, so it’s perfect for adding to soups. I love kale, white bean and sausage soup.
- Paired with pasta. Kale is great with pasta. Its texture holds up and adds variety to your pasta dish. Try this easy budget recipe of garlic parmesan kale pasta.
- Raw in a salad. If you slice it into very, very fine ribbons it makes a great salad. Its rough texture and slightly bitter taste are the perfect match for lemon. Massaging the leaves with the dressing ahead of time helps soften them for easier eating. Try this kale salad paired with sweet apple.
Spinach has a nice soft texture which makes it easy to add to many different foods. It can easily be mixed in with your salad greens or added to cooked dishes. It blends well in smoothies and pairs well with egg dishes. Spinach provides several antioxidants and is especially rich in vitamin K. Dark leafy greens like spinach are high in beta carotene and lutein, two antioxidants that are associated with a decreased risk of cancer. 1 cup (30 grams) of raw spinach provides 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A plus 120% of the DV for vitamin K.
- Blended into a smoothie. Due to its soft texture and mild taste, spinach blends well in smoothies. If the green color of a smoothie bothers you, try mixing it in with blueberries to cover up the green color like in this blueberry spinach smoothie.
- With your eggs. Spinach pairs well with eggs—omelets, quiche, frittata, or just plain scrambled eggs. Try this easy scrambled egg and spinach breakfast dish.
- Rolled up in a wrap. Try this spin on the classic strawberry and spinach pairing. Add bacon and chicken and you have a sweet and savory lunch to go!
- As a filling in lasagna. Spinach pairs well with pasta and cheese, so naturally it tastes great in lasagna. Try these easy, vegetarian lasagna rolls that are quicker and easier than traditional lasagna, and they can be made ahead and frozen for later!
1 cup (130 grams) of cooked collard greens boasts about 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 25% of the DV for calcium. In fact, collard greens are one of the best plant sources of calcium, a mineral that plays a key role in muscle function, nerve transmission, hormone production, and bone health. Collard greens are also high in antioxidants and may reduce your risk of certain diseases.
- Used in place of a tortilla. These sturdy leaves can hold up to being stuffed and rolled. Check out this recipe for making a low carb sub sandwich in a collard leaf!
- Added to chili. Consider collards the leafy green that’s sturdy enough to pair with a hearty pot of chili. It adds a pop of freshness to rich, meaty chili and ups the ante on your favorite veggie version. Try this pinto bean and collard green chili.
- Mixed into a meaty braise. Ready to turn your next meaty braise into a one-pot meal? Go ahead and add a few handfuls of chopped collard greens to the pot. The fat from the meat combined with the lengthy cook time will leave these sturdy greens tender and full of flavor. Try this highly rated short ribs and collard greens.
- Simply Sautéed. Enjoy classic sautéed greens with this simple and quick recipe for sauteed collard greens. Seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes.
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound that may protect against cancer. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals. 1 cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli provides 77% of the DV for vitamin K, 90% of the DV for vitamin C, and a good amount of folate, manganese, and potassium.
- Roasted. If you haven’t tried roasted broccoli, you are missing out! It goes great with lemon and parmesan or garlic and parmesan. Check out this recipe for tips and tricks for roasting as well as different seasoning ideas.
- In a stir fry. Beef and broccoli stir fry anyone? Quick and easy to whip up on a week night.
- Paired with shrimp. Try this Mongolian shrimp and broccoli for an awesome healthy dinner.
- In a casserole. Broccoli goes great with creamy, cheesy sauces like in this cheesy chicken and broccoli bake. It’s like cheddar broccoli soup all grown up!
Do you want more ideas and tips for adding greens and vegetables to your plate? Feel free to email me with questions or to set up an appointment. lrobinson (at) clubworx.net
Lisa Robinson-Mihiar, RDN, LD
Dietitian at ClubWorx