Whether you love them, hate them, or are indifferent to them, you’re probably not getting enough of them. We’re talking vegetables here. The average American diet should include at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Easy, right? Maybe not so much. With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day activities, it’s almost easier to make quick, careless food decisions instead of making the right decisions for your body. Check out the CDC’s Fruit & Vegetable Calculator to personalize your necessary intake. Although many different vegetables provide different nutritional benefits, if you can fit anything into your diet, make it GREEN. Specifically, leafy greens. Not only are they stacked with health benefits, leafy greens also aid in weight loss maintenance by helping you feel full longer. There are a plethora of these greens to choose from:
Arugula, Collard Greens, Endive, Escarole, Kale, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Radicchio, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens, Watercress
Click here for descriptions of each of these
Additional benefits: they are rich in fiber, calcium (collards and kale), help keep you hydrated, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of arthritis, promote collagen levels, help prevent osteoporosis, manage blood pressure levels, aid in the growth and repair of body tissues, can reduce the risk of memory loss, and improve your mood. *Phew!* And that’s not even all of them!
Green vegetables don’t have to be boring and bland. SAY WHAT?! That’s right, you can actually have fun incorporating them into your diet. There are an indefinite number of ways you can add them to any meal; you can hide them or you can have them right out there in the open depending on taste preferences. These are merely 5 ways to supplement green leafy vegetables.
1) Blend them – throwing some greens into a breakfast or protein smoothie is probably one of the easiest, tastiest ways to eat, or rather drink, them. Blending them preserves all of the vitamins and minerals packed in to each leaf. Add in some fruit, a base, and a protein, and you can’t even taste the greens. Many people call these green smoothies — you can be as simple or as creative as you want with these. My go-to ‘green’ smoothie is ½ to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 green apple, 1 big handful spinach or kale (or both!), 2 tbsp PB2 (powdered peanut butter), ice, blend. I actually put a post on our Facebook site earlier this week, and these are some additional recipes that were posted by some of our amazing followers!:
- Lisa – almond milk, vanilla vega protein powder, frozen bananas, spinach, and a pear or avocado.
- Kim – 1 cup water, 1 cup salad greens, 1 cup assorted frozen fruit, and ½ banana. Pour over crushed ice.
- Jennifer – 1 cup spinach, 1 cup kale, 1 small banana, ¼ cup frozen pineapple and frozen mango, 4oz pomegranite juice, 4oz water.
- Nicole – Frozen banana, pineapple, avocado, peaches, ½ cup almond milk, ½ cup water, protein powder.
2) Juice them – although it may be a little more potent than a smoothie, juicing vegetables helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. You’ve already done part of the body’s work by ‘pre-digesting’ them through the juicer, making it easier for your body to quickly absorb the nutrients, rather than simply passing through your system. You can add fruits to make the juices more palatable as well. This also allows you to add a wider variety of vegetables to your diet than you normally would. This should be a supplemental part of your diet and not replace full meals.
3) Puree them – this can be a fun way to hide leafy greens and other vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. In a food processor or blender, add finely chopped vegetables and water, and blend until as smooth as possible (you can make it as runny or as thick as you want). Add this to sauce, salsa, rice, soup, casserole, noodles, etc. The possibilities are endless.
4) Stack them – leafy greens are a must on my sandwiches, paninis, and wraps. It’s an easy way to get a serving of vegetables, and doesn’t necessarily alter the taste of the sandwich, depending on which greens you add. Whether it’s a quick lunch, or a full meal, adding greens to it will keep you feeling full longer and can be a little more exciting than a salad.
5) Mix them – what am I talking about? Salads can be tremendously exciting! If you’re a rabbit-food lover, like myself, you know all about this. In addition to several different types of leafy greens, you can add an amalgamation of ingredients to a salad to make it as simple or as complex as you’d like. This is my salad, for example. The caveat: try not to undo all the good the leafy greens are doing by drenching it in dressing. There are several alternatives to high-fat, high-calorie dressings. The beautiful thing about salads is if you keep it healthy enough, you can eat as much and as often as you want without fearing weight-gain repercussions. In fact, you can expect the opposite! I make a giant salad every week and keep it in my refrigerator as an easy, go-to meal.
No matter your leafy green vegetable preference, the issue is getting the most out of them, as well as eating enough of them in the first place. With all of the health benefits they have and the variety of ways you can eat them, the mountain of excuses for not having them in your refrigerator seems moot. Whether you love leafy greens, or absolutely despise them, there’s a method out there for everyone to consume an adequate amount of them on a daily basis. It’s up to you whether or not to break out the blender or salad bowl and make that healthy choice.