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Adding Color to your Plate with Leafy Green Vegetables

Jennifer Freitas Carter MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Spring is full of all things green – make sure your plate is one of them! The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables. Leafy greens are nutrient-packed and versatile in the kitchen. No fancy recipes required – they can easily be added to recipes your family already enjoys.

Benefits of Adding More Green to your Plate

Leafy greens, like kale, Swiss-chard, collards, cabbage and spinach are an excellent source of Vitamin A, an important nutrient for vision and immune system function. They also contain large amounts of Potassium, a mineral responsible for blood pressure regulation and muscle contractions, and Vitamin K, which helps our blood to clot and promotes bone health. Greens are also a good source of dietary fiber, which aids with bowel regularity, and contributes to healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Like all vegetables, leafy greens are a source of phytonutrients, which help keep us healthy and prevent disease. Cabbage is a good source of Vitamin C and Spinach contains non-heme iron, the type of iron found in plants.

Not sure where to begin when it comes to adding more greens?

Greens can be eaten raw or cooked. Try incorporating nutritious leafy green vegetables in the following ways:

– Add spinach or chopped cabbage or kale to your favorite salad (or use the greens instead of lettuce to make a salad).

– Make a sandwich wrap with a collard green leaf – simply remove the hard part of the stem, steam the leaf to soften (optional) add your favorite sandwich fillings and wrap it up! Collard wraps make a great gluten-free alternative to sandwiches for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Cabbage can also be used to make a wrap – it can be eaten raw, like a lettuce wrap, or cooked, such as Polish Gwumpkies (cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and ground meat, baked in tomato sauce).

– Add raw greens to your favorite smoothies. Start with a small amount of greens and add more to your liking. A great way to add extra nutrition!

– For a quick and easy side dish, sauté spinach or chopped swiss chard in a small amount of oil and garlic until just wilted – Yum! Cabbage, Kale and Collards can also be prepared this way with a small amount of water or stock added after sautéing, to soften the greens.

– Drizzle chopped kale with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for about 15 minutes to make kale chips – a nutritious and delicious snack with crunch.

– Include greens with your favorite egg dishes, including scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas and quiche.

– Add greens to your family’s favorite recipes. Leafy greens are an excellent addition to your favorite soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries and pasta dishes.

Look for locally grown-greens at local farm stands and farmers markets starting in late May and early June. Once you bring them home, store them in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week. Be sure to wash greens thoroughly before using. Consider keep frozen greens, such as spinach on hand for convenience.

For More information about the health benefits of all vegetables, including leafy greens, and for recipes visit: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/dietary-guidance/fruits-veggies-more-matters-resources/fruits-veggies-more-matters

 

Also check out Local Mom Jenny’s Kid-approved recipes incorporating green vegetables!