December 15, 2020 (Updated: December 16, 2020)
Leafy green vegetables are an irreplaceable part of a good diet. Most people know they should be eating them, but a few things can make that hard to do.
Some people don’t like greens, and others forget to eat them. Whatever it is that you might find challenging about getting your greens in, we hope we can help you find new ways to enjoy them…
Or maybe just get them down.
Do you remember that time Peter Parker backflipped from his bike over a car and said, “Work out, plenty of rest, eat your green vegetables?”
Well, he may have been onto something, especially with the comment on green vegetables. They may not give you the same athletic ability as a bite from a radioactive spider, but there is still a lot of good they can do.
Recommendations from health authorities in different countries vary for fruit and vegetable intake, but they have one thing in common. They recommend MORE than the average American is getting.
The USDA found that the average American is getting about 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables. This might sound like a pretty good amount until you learn that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables. They also found that people aged 19-30 are only eating 0.5 cups of dark green veggies in a week instead of the recommended 2-2.5.
That is not even close… What’s going on here?
It costs less than $3.00 per day to meet the total vegetable recommendations. So, for our more privileged readers, price is likely not the cause.
Fresh veggies are a big deal! Heavily processing food to create these dietary supplements is stripping them of many of their benefits. Vitamins will decay, fiber is lost, and of course, they will do nothing to keep you full.
However, there is another reason that you can’t simply pop a few vitamins and other supplements and skip out on the veggies.
Something that people often overlook is that fruits and vegetables contain a variety of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, which are quite literally “plant chemicals,” are non-essential nutrients that help us thrive.
Vitamins and minerals are essential, and deficiency can result in disease or death. Yikes, no wonder people develop a hyper-focus on them.
The same is not true for phytochemicals, but they help ward off disease and protect your health!
There are well over 5000 phytochemicals, so striving for specific amounts of each is a fool’s game. Harvard Health and other sources say that the solution is to instead focus on “eating a rainbow”. This method works because phytochemicals are often responsible for the physical appearance of plants. Variety is king!
So what is special about greens? Your rainbow wouldn’t be complete without a dark and rich green in the center. From the numbers that the USDA reports, it seems that a lot of Americans are going without greens altogether.
So my mission is to address the most significant problem area that keeps people’s “food rainbow” incomplete.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is pretty picky when it comes to what counts as a “Dark-green vegetable,” and with good reason.
While iceberg lettuce, green peppers, cucumbers, and other green vegetables are healthy in their own right, they don’t contain a similar enough nutrient profile to dark-leafy greens to be considered in the same group for recommended intakes.
When we talk about dark green veggies, what we usually mean are some of the following:
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Okay, maybe that is a bit intense… But, if you forget to eat your greens, making a schedule could really help.
Know how much you want to eat and when, and write it down. Knowing what you are going to eat will make your grocery shopping more straightforward. Plus, you won’t have to worry about throwing things out because you have already planned out how much you are going to eat. If you do it right, you won’t have any greens left at the end of the week!
A meal planning tool like Prospre can help you make a plan that is full of greens. It also provides an automatic grocery list to keep everything simple.
Boiling your greens is a great way to consume them in larger amounts! Chewing all those raw greens can be exhausting on the jaw, and sometimes you just don’t have the time.
Spinach reduces to only one-sixth of its size when cooked, making it an easy leafy green bomb that you can eat quickly.
Raw spinach is high in oxalate, which can leave you with kidney stones when consumed in excess. Since boiling spinach drastically reduces its oxalate content, there is an argument that spinach is better consumed cooked.
Cooking methods change your food’s nutritional content, so mixing in different preparations of the same food can ensure that you benefit from all that it has to offer. Cooking also changes the flavor and overall experience of the food.
Maybe you will find that you like your greens much better boiled!
Smoothies are a great way to get some extra fruit in your diet, but it can also be an opportunity to add more vegetables. Adding greens to your smoothies and shakes completely removes taste and texture but is just as good as eating them alone.
Blending greens into your smoothie is an excellent trick if you are not a fan of greens. Still, I would encourage even green lovers to add a small amount to their next homemade smoothie. If you add enough greens, it can positively contribute to the flavor! It’s all about preference.
Some people are concerned about how satiating smoothies are (how much they make you feel full after drinking them) for the number of calories they contain. If you are worried about this, there are plenty of no-fruit green smoothies that you can find with hardly any calories at all!
Throw them on top of a homemade pizza, or sneak greens into your lasagna sauce. Most oven-cooked meals are delicious with some extra leafy greens mixed in. They work particularly well in any dish that is tomato sauce based.
This one requires some hardware. If you have a juicer that can handle greens, then you probably already take advantage of this. If not, they aren’t cheap, but a cheap masticating juicer would get the job done.
Green juice is a super convenient way to pound back your greens. You can drink it on its own or mix it into other fresh juices or smoothies.
Although it has all the vitamins and minerals from the vegetable, it’s important to note that you will be missing out on the fiber. If you were once eating your greens and switched to juicing, you may want to re-evaluate your fiber intake to ensure it is adequate!
It can also be quite wasteful because often, the fiber is simply composted or tossed out. I encourage you to find creative ways to use that fiber by using it in another delicious way like these crackers.
Kale chips are a delicious alternative to regular potato chips. They are crunchy, flavourful, and low calorie. The beauty of kale chips is that you can add as much seasoning as you’d like to get your desired flavor.
Of course, seasoning is bound to be high in sodium, so be careful not to add too much. Kale chips will help curb your salty cravings while staying on track with any diet AND getting your greens in. It’s a win-win!
If you are an egg lover, this is the perfect trick for you!
It can be difficult to figure out how to fit some vegetables in your breakfast. I am an egg lover, and this is the method that I use most frequently. Greens have taken my omelets up a notch.
Adding spinach or your favorite leafy greens to an omelet is an easy way to create a nutritious, green filled meal.
Sandwiches are an easy, on-the-go meal that you can use to up your greens intake.
Adding lettuce or spinach to your sandwich will give it a fresh taste without being overpowering. In my opinion, leafy greens are what separate a good sandwich from a great one!
However, we all have different tastes. So, if you don’t like greens at all, you can mask the taste of them with meats, sauces, and other veggies.
Salads don’t have to be boring. Don’t be afraid of salad dressings or crunchy toppings. If you make a salad delicious, you won’t mind that it isn’t zero calories.
They can be quite filling and can be a meal all to themselves. There is a trade-off between using delicious ingredients or having a low-calorie salad. You can use higher-calorie toppings in whatever quantity you like to strike the right balance for you.
I like to use plenty of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. This makes for a pretty high-calorie salad, but I enjoy it so much and find it a very satisfying lunch! Something to point out is that dried nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are all very high-quality food sources. Calories aren’t everything!
To make a tasty salad, just add things you love. Any leafy greens can serve as a base. Then you can add a protein source like chicken or some eggs, your favorite veggies, any other toppings you like, and some dressing!
I'm a strength-sport enthusiast with a passion for nutrition. I'm also one of the co-founders of Prospre. I started weight training at 13 and from my time competing in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and weightlifting, I've developed a few different perspectives on fitness and nutrition. I like to write about cool things I have learned about nutrition, and easy things you can do to improve your eating habits.