by Sarah Albrecht
Not everyone has the time or energy to saunter out of an early Monday morning yoga class sipping a green smoothie; some of us need a little extra help including a healthy amount of nutritionally-packed leafy greens into our diet. Despite what you may be thinking, social media influencers don’t post pictures of themselves drinking green smoothies or eating huge salads in their glamorous white kitchens just to capture a good aesthetic photo (okay, maybe some of them do). Many of these people also understand the benefits of incorporating more greens into their diet and, in most cases, are trying to send a positive message to their audience. Living a healthy lifestyle while also eating greens in a tasty way is not as daunting as you may think.
Lettuce begin by understanding the nutritional value of greens. Why is eating them so important? What is so great about a leaf that grows from the ground? Let me explain. Some of the most common types of leafy greens are spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, bok choy, and lettuce. The dark leafy greens are most notably high in vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, and many antioxidants (1).
Consuming these vitamins will lead to a healthier immune system and could potentially help prevent certain diseases from developing. For college-aged students, the recommended intake for dark green vegetables is 1 1/2 to 2 cups per week (2). You read that right – per WEEK. So no, you do not need to drink a green smoothie everyday to receive any nutritional benefit from leafy greens. Though, the more you consume, the better!
Here are five tasty tips for getting more greens into your diet if green smoothies and big salads just aren’t your thing:
- Wrap it! Save on carbs, load up on micronutrients: take your favorite wrap recipe and replace the tortilla with a collard green warp. Check out this recipe for Hummus Collard Wraps.
- Kale chips. Don’t like the taste of plain old kale? Switch things up by chopping some kale leaves, rubbing them with olive oil, and adding some salt and pepper (or whatever spices you please!). Place them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crisp.
- Add to a stir-fry. Adding greens to a stir fry is a great way to pack in nutrients and create a colorful, healthy dish. This recipe for Stir-Fried Chicken with Greens is a great example.
- Make it a sauce. Ever have pesto? It’s insanely delicious and tastes good on almost anything, especially pasta. Most recipes call for basil, however, kale can be used in place of a portion of the basil or can replace it entirely. See this recipe for Kale Pesto.
- Try it in a soup. Soups are another great way to add in extra vitamins and minerals. This recipe uses bok choy to make a delicious Thai Curry Vegetable Soup. But don’t let your greens simmer in a soup for too long, otherwise you risk loosing a bunch of nutrients.
So the next time you see your favorite blogger or Instagram personality encouraging you to eat a big salad every day, remember there are tons of other healthy ways to eat your greens!
- United States Department of Agriculture. Dark green leafy vegetables. USDA website. www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/. Updated August 13, 2016. Accessed October 30, 2018.
- Choose MyPlate. All about the vegetable group. Choose MyPlate website.
www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables. Updated January 3, 2018. Accessed October 30, 2018.