St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and green is popping up everywhere as spring starts to arrive. But even if you’re wearing green and your lawn is greening up for the season, lots of us aren’t seeing enough green on our plates.
Leafy greens are a good source of fiber, valuable nutrients like folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, iron and calcium. They also contain a range of potent natural plant substances called phytonutrients that can have beneficial health effects. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for 1 1/2 – 2 cups of dark green veggies per week. We are not eating enough veggies—especially dark green veggies—which is where greens come in. There is a wide selection of greens to choose from, so you’re sure to find at least a couple that you enjoy!
The most obvious way to get more greens in your diet is to eat more salads. That’s a good starting place and I love a good salad and eat them multiple times per week, but it’s not the only place you can get your green on. Some people advocate starting the day with a giant green smoothie or green juice to help remedy the lack of greens in their lives. I’m in awe of those folks because frankly, I don’t like green smoothies or green juice. Once in a while is fine of course, but a daily dose of green liquid will not happen for me. I’d much rather figure out ways to work greens into the foods I already typically eat; it just seems more practical to me. If smoothies are your thing, that’s great, feel free to keep it up, but if you’re like me, I hope this post will give you some ideas that will work in your diet and life.
Add greens to soup (it doesn’t even have to be homemade).
There’s something about adding greens to a soup that makes them much more acceptable to some people who would otherwise shun them. When my kids were little they loved tortellini soup to which I’d add plenty of spinach or escarole (chopping it up make it easier to work onto a spoon). Greens can be added to many soups without making the soup taste all “greeny.” It also is a great way to use greens that may be nearing their wilting death in the fridge drawer—get them into a soup (even a bowl of soup) pronto.
Sprinkle some on your pizza.
Yep, “salad” pizza is a thing. And it you haven’t tried it, you might want to because it’s super tasty! Basically you top the cooked pizza with a mini green salad. Baby greens or micro-greens are especially nice choices for this. Give it a try with baby arugula or baby kale for instance. If you don’t like greens sitting on your pizza all raw and salad-like, sauté them and add them to the pizza as a topping before baking. I happen to love spinach on pizza, but other greens would work, too.
Bulk up casseroles, pasta dishes, even eggs with chopped greens.
One of the easiest ways to add more greens to your diet is to simply mix them into things you are already cooking, such as scrambled eggs, pasta or mixed dishes like casseroles. A simple pasta toss with your favorite pasta, some protein (I like turkey sausage, leftover cooked meat or just canned beans), a couple handfuls of chopped greens and a sprinkle of cheese is delicious, fast, easy and economical. Again, you don’t need to have a recipe, and many times you can just toss the greens in while you are doing another step in your preparation. For example, while you are making mac-and-cheese, toss a couple handfuls of chopped greens into the water with the pasta near the end of cooking time, or add them to the skillet when sautéing the onion and garlic at the beginning of cooking a casserole (of course, a greens sauté is delish on its own, too). The point is, it doesn’t have to add a step or any real extra work to the cooking process.