Most Americans get about two servings of vegetables per day. That pales in comparison to the five-to-seven servings per day that are recommended. Think about when you eat vegetables—as a side with dinner? Maybe a salad for lunch? Vegetables have many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs, as well as fiber for a happy, healthy digestive tract. Dark, leafy greens are particularly good for you and contain substances called phytonutrients that research has shown to have properties that may protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and possibly even cancer. They are also good sources of iron, folate, and vitamins A and C. In addition, managing weight is easier when you consume more vegetables because you can eat more of them to satisfy hunger without adding a lot of fat and calories. So how can you incorporate more greens in your diet? Read on for some tips.
Add greens to your breakfast! Don’t think of vegetables as only a side dish or only for lunch or dinner. To get the recommended number of servings, it’s a good idea to start adding greens to your breakfast. Do you like scrambled eggs or omelets? Sauté spinach or kale, along with other veggies if you wish, and toss them in with your eggs. You’ll get a serving or two of greens without thinking twice. Another option is to incorporate veggies from last night’s dinner into your breakfast. Almost any veggie tastes good in an omelet or scramble.
Like casseroles and quiches? Add greens. Give your favorite dishes a nutrient boost by including spinach, kale, beet greens, or Swiss chard in your favorite casseroles or quiches. The flavor won’t change much, but it will add an extra serving of veggies to your diet without you even having to think about it.
Try a salad before dinner each night. Take advantage of prepared salads. While most prepared foods are loaded with of sodium, added sugars, chemical preservatives, and things you can’t pronounce, bagged salads and chopped, prewashed greens make getting your veggies easy. Try one that comes with accompaniments such as croutons or dried cranberries, or add those yourself for an even healthier salad. There are plenty of options for other pre-cut vegetables to add as well!
Check out chard. Swiss chard can be cooked with the stems, stalks, and leaves. With a taste similar to beet greens and a soft texture, it is perfect for sautéing as a side. Or you can make a heartier dish by adding chopped chicken sausage, pancetta, or ham. Try sautéed chard and red onion with a can of rinsed, drained white beans or chickpeas; a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar before serving really adds zing. Or add raisins or dried cranberries and a little vinegar to bring out the flavor and add a little sweetness.
Have greens in your soup! Adding chopped kale or collard greens to any homemade soup or stew won’t affect the flavor very much but will get you those extra veggies. Add chopped greens while your soup is cooking or steam them for a couple of minutes until they’re tender, drain, and add to soup before serving. You can also puree greens for a thick, hearty soup. Sauté finely chopped onion in one tablespoon of olive oil, then combine it in a food processor with the cooked greens of your choice and puree until smooth (broccoli and spinach are great options). To thin it, return the soup to the pot and add broth or milk. Season to taste with with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices.
Make a pesto. Rinse your choice of greens and place in a large pot; add olive oil, salt and pepper, and cook just until the greens wilt. Transfer the wilted greens to a food processor with about half of the cooking liquid from the pot. Add fresh lemon juice to taste, minced garlic if you like it, pine nuts or walnuts, and puree until almost smooth. Top pasta with pesto instead of the usual tomato-based sauce for a refreshing spring pasta and another serving of greens.
Add greens to your morning or afternoon smoothie. But don’t overdo it, or you risk ending up with a not-so-tasty treat. Use 60 percent fruit to 40 percent greens as a general rule—a cup of greens, a cup of liquid (water, soy/almond/coconut milk, apple juice, etc.), and a cup and a half of fruit. Blend the greens and liquid together first, then add the fruit and blend again. Voila! Fruits and veggies in one quick, easy meal or snack.
How do you incorporate greens in your diet? Share your tips with us in the comments below!