The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends Americans consume 3 cups of leafy greens weekly or about ½ cup each day. These vegetables thrive in the cold of winter, making now the perfect time to start getting more greens in your diet. Leafy greens are packed with nutrients including Vitamins A, C and K; folate, calcium and iron while providing a good source of fiber.
Common greens found in American grocery stores:
Arugula: Packing a punch of peppery flavor, arugula has long, spiked leaves and is a great source of calcium and magnesium.
Bok Choy: This mild, cabbage-flavored leaf is a good source of vitamins A and C. It’s great in salads and is often found in stir fries.
Broccoli: There’s more to this bunch that just the florets, the crunchy stalks and lettuce like leaves are delicious too and together provide the body with vitamins A, C, K, folate and fiber.
Collard Greens: Mild in flavor and a staple in Southern cooking, these large leaves are often boiled or found in soups.
Kale: An increasing popular green, kale’s slightly bitter flavor has not deterred its inclusion in everything from soup to smoothies.
Spinach: The second most popular green in the US, spinach is very mild in flavor and can easily be added to any dish for a boost in vitamins A and K, folate, iron and calcium.
Getting More Greens in Your Family’s Diet
Smoothies: Smoothies are an excellent way to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens. Try adding ½ cup of spinach or kale to this basic smoothie recipe.
Blending tip: Blend the juice and greens first before adding the other ingredients for a smoother texture
Kale Chips: This delicate, yet crispy treat is a hit with children and adults alike. For added flavor try sprinkling with parmesan cheese or your favorite herb or spice (such as chile powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning or paprika). Find the recipe here.
Soup: A mild green, such as spinach makes a yummy green soup. Here’s an easy spinach soup that is a true “kid pleaser”. Its bright color is pureed to a smooth texture. The coconut milk gives the soup a creamy sweetness and the essence of ginger is the perfect flavor.
Spinach, Ginger and Coconut Soup
- 2 Tbsp Oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 10 oz of spinach with hard stems removed
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 medium size potato, peeled and chopped
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 can (13 oz.) coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp. mirin (rice wine) OR dry sherry
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry until softened but not brown (3-4 minutes)
- Add spinach and lemon zest to the pan. Sir until spinach is wilted. Add the stock and potato and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Pour soup into blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender and process until smooth
- Return soup to the pan and add coconut milk, mirin/sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat until almost boiling.
Stir Fry: Broccoli, bok choy and kale all make delightful additions to any stir fry.
Pasta: Leafy greens wilt nicely when stirred into hot pasta like suggested in this Spinach and Blue Cheese Spaghetti.
Try this basic, yet versatile pesto for a nutrient-packed pasta sauce:
Versatile Green Pesto
- 1 cup of greens (traditionally basil, but try using greens such as arugula, kale, spinach or even mustard)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 3 Tbsp. walnuts (nut allergy? Try using sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds or skip them)
- ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp. of water or lemon juice as needed
Combine greens, garlic and walnut in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine. Slowly drizzle olive oil and continue to pulse. Scrape down sides and blend until smooth.
Add pesto to hot pasta and serve immediately. Pesto can also be frozen in our So Easy Freezer Trays to make convenient, pre-portioned cubes that can be dropped into hot pasta.
Although perfect on paper, greens aren’t always tops in toddler food choices. Here are some ways to help the introduction go a bit smoother.
- Set a good example by eating your greens.
- Make it fun! Chop down broccoli trees, help those dinosaurs eat more leaves and be sure to remind them of the super strength they get from eating these super foods.
- Be patient and don’t forget the Ten Times Rule.
- Want to add more variety with your salads, check out our article on salads greens complete with recipes for homemade dressings here.