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You know I love my greens. I’ll use any excuse I can to work more chlorophyll into my diet. Smoothies? Check. Salads? Check. A new kale recipe a week? Check.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you know just how good greens are for us. I could write for hours on the benefits of eating more spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, and chard. But I’ll save you the textbook reading and highlight just a few of my favorites:
- Greens help hydrate our cells.
- They oxygenate our blood.
- Compounds in greens fight infections and boost our immune systems.
- Raw greens aid in digestion.
- Cruciferous greens (cabbage, kale, bok choy, etc.) fight cancer and other chronic diseases.
- They offer extreme nutrient density in a very calorie-light package.
I think it’s safe to say that all of us could stand to eat more greens, whether cooked or raw, all year round. Get a head-start on boosting your immune system before flu season and load up on the greens right now!
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with the 5 simple tips outlined below.
1. Add them to smoothies.
I know this seems like a no-brainer since green smoothies are all the rage these days, but seriously. If you still haven’t jumped on the smoothie or juice bandwagon, you must! “Spinach is very mild-tasting (as is lettuce) and can easily be disguised by fruit flavors,” says my friend Alta, the creator of Tasty Eats at Home. “With brightly colored fruit, you might even disguise the green color too!”
Try Alta’s Blueberry Spinach Mint Smoothie, or one of these:
- Blueberry Chocolate (Green) Protein Smoothie from Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free
- Mint Chip Smoothie from Daily Bites (pictured above)
- Mango Salsa Green Smoothie from Healthy Blender Recipes
2. Make one meal a day a big salad.
Your cells will thank you (and your waistline probably will, too). Emphasizing greens and non-starchy vegetables in at least one meal a day will guarantee that you’re getting in some great phytonutrients and cancer-kicking compounds. Load that salad bowl up with greens, shredded carrots, tomatoes, grated raw beets, cucumbers, bell peppers, peas, celery, lightly steamed broccoli florets—anything goes!
If a salad just won’t cut it for you for lunch, bulk it up with protein and healthy fats like olive oil-based dressing, diced avocado, or toasted nuts or seeds. Our bodies actually absorb many plant-based nutrients more effectively when they’re paired with a little fat.
One of my favorites is this Crunchy Vegetable & Avocado Toss (pictured above). A big bowl of that with some chicken or chickpeas on top makes for a satisfying mid-day meal.
3. Use greens to enhance convenience foods.
It’s no secret that we’re all busy. Even the healthiest of home cooks will admit to grabbing some convenience foods now and then. That’s perfectly okay once in a while, but instead of completely throwing in the towel and picking up fast food, opt for healthier at-home convenience options that you can enhance with fresh greens.
“One quick and easy tip is to use Amy’s canned soup or chili and add chopped greens,” says Ricki Heller, the voice behind Diet, Dessert & Dogs. You’ll have an “almost instant dinner with lots of greens!” Keep curly kale and collard greens on hand in the fridge. They’re super nutritious and have a longer shelf-life than more delicate greens like chard that need to be used within a day or two.
(photo courtesy Amy Green)
4. Branch out.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy for me to get stuck in the kale-and-spinach groove. Beat “green fatigue” by branching out and trying new options. A few to consider:
- Dandelion greens: bitter with a mind of their own, but excellent when paired with sweet raisins and balsamic vinegar.
- Rainbow chard: bright, colorful, and mild when sauteed with garlic and sweet onions.
- Mint and cilantro: add refreshing flavor to smoothies and salad dressings.
- Beet greens: stir-fry them with steamed beet slices, sesame seeds, and a little balsamic vinegar.
Try Amy’s recipe for Wilted Dandelion Greens with Onions, Raisins & Balsamic Vinegar for something unique and different (pictured above).
5. Keep it simple.
Don’t lose yourself in the world of braising and grilling if that’s just too complicated for you. It’s easiest to eat more of anything (whether it’s kale or cookies…) when they’re a snap to prepare. Thankfully, greens lend themselves to a variety of super simple preparation methods so you don’t have to get too fancy with them. Whether you steam, stir-fry, or simply eat them raw in salads, the point is to get more greens on your plate (or in your glass) with small steps in the right direction.
How do you make an effort to eat more greens? Have any easy tips to share?