3 Ways to Eat Leafy Greens (Besides Salad)
Once upon a time, Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s not easy being green.”
For many of us, it’s not easy eating green. For the record, we mean vegetables, not frogs.
We hear vegetables are good for us and perhaps you’ve heard that leafy greens in particular are a powerhouse of benefits. But what makes them so special?
And if typical leafy salads aren’t your thing, how can you get more green in your life without it feeling like a chore?
Read on and hopefully we can make it a little easier to be green.
What are leafy greens?
You can stick to the classic greens and also try some new ones for different benefits. Maybe you think you don’t like greens but perhaps there’s a green out there you haven’t tried that could be your new favorite. You never know!
Why are greens good?
Prominent registered dietitian nutritionist Joy Bauer shares several benefits of leafy greens:
Rich in fiber
This is an important nutrient for weight loss and maintenance because it keeps you feeling full and helps control your hunger. Fiber can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help to temper blood-sugar swings by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream after meals. This lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens also contain a lot of water, which helps keep you hydrated and contributes to beautiful skin and hair.
Rich in calcium
Some leafy greens, like collards and kale, are particularly rich in calcium, which helps keep your teeth and bones strong and reduces your overall risk for osteoporosis. Calcium also contributes to muscle function and blood-pressure management.
Vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin contained in leafy greens may help reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen too; collagen is a major component of cartilage that aids in joint flexibility, may reduce your risk of arthritis, and keeps your skin and hair healthy and beautiful. Research shows vitamin C may also slow bone loss and decrease the risk of fractures.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss. And since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may help ward off depression and improve mood.
See more greens benefits on Joy Bauer’s site here.
How can you get some greens?
Greens can often be used raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Remember that the less a vegetable is cooked, the more nutrients it maintains.
If you don’t like the taste of greens, some recipes will help disguise it so you can still get the benefits.
Kale can have a more bitter taste and tough texture that is disguised well in smoothies.
If kale is not your cup of (green) tea, you may want to try milder tasting greens like romaine lettuce or spinach or baby greens in non-smoothie recipes. Trader Joe's Power to the Greens is a good mix of beneficial baby greens.
Here are a few ways to get your greens:
You can find green smoothie recipes galore online. Blend up some greens with fruit, almond or coconut milk and healthy fats like avocado and nut butter for a nourishing treat that, we promise, won’t taste like wheat grass juice. Some smoothies are heavy on the fruit, which can spike blood sugar when you drink it fast, so drink slow, be aware of the fruit content and lessen it if you need to. Fruit like berries tend to be lowest in sugar.
Try sprinkling some chia seeds on top of your smoothie for extra fiber and protein.
Green ham is still weird—sorry, Sam I Am—but green eggs are pretty normal, provided the green comes from veggies.
Plus, the eggs give you extra protein and if you eat the yolk, satiating fat.
- Scrambled: While scrambling eggs or egg whites, mix in some greens of your choice about halfway through cooking. Season to taste with black pepper, garlic seasoning or whatever you feel like. It’s even better topped with sliced avocado and sauerkraut.
- Basic Spinach Quiche: This crustless quiche recipe (pretty much a basic egg bake) is super easy and healthy and can serve as your breakfast or lunch for the week ahead. Feel free to use egg whites (you’ll need to use about 8 or so to compensate for the absence of yolks) and add other veggies like mushrooms and spices in there too.
No need to lay off the sauce when the sauce is made with greens.
- Super Kale Pesto: Make cookbook author Kathryne Taylor’s spin on the scrumptious Italian classic with walnuts (extra protein) or hemp seeds (extra protein and fiber).
- Carrie’s Chimichurri Sauce: This Argentinian sauce with fresh detoxifying greens like parsley, oregano and cilantro is like the South American pesto. Slather it on meat, fish, veggies, eggs (like the egg dishes above for double greens duty) and whatever else strikes your fancy. This recipe is from health coach and registered nurse Carrie Russell.
Big Ass Salad
We are talking about non-salad ways to get your greens here, but if you want to wander into the world of salads—you won’t turn into a rabbit, we promise—we can help.
Dodi’s Big Ass Salad Plan: This is all about easy prep plus variety, with a helpful tutorial from our resident Wonder Woman and fitness queen.
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.