Go Green!

Spring has arrived and the growing season is upon us. I cannot wait for the farmer’s markets to open to try all of the local fresh produce! If you have been to a farmer’s market, you probably gravitate towards the brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as the plump red tomatoes and the mouth-watering berries. While tomatoes and berries are very beneficial to your health, don’t forget the greens!

Green vegetables are usually the most commonly missing foods in a person’s diet which is a shame because they are essential for a healthy body and immune system. Let’s be honest... when you hear the words “green vegetables”, do you sometimes think of bland and boring? Do you automatically think of celery sticks? Or are you envisioning that sad, iceberg lettuce salad with a sprinkle of grated carrots and croutons? I also would be avoiding greens if that’s all that was available. Forget that image! There are so many delicious greens easily accessible all year round, and there are limitless ways to enjoy them.

Some of my favorites include: Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Artichokes, Green Beans, Arugula, Bok Choy, Endive, Mesclun, Swiss Chard -- and there are so many more!

Experiment with new greens you’ve never tried and change it up each day so that you don’t get bored. See which ones you enjoy the most and don’t be afraid to try something new J. The more variety you have in your diet the more health benefits you will receive from the wide array of nutrients.

Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s great to be told what greens to eat; but where do I find them, and how do I prepare them? I’m here to help deal with your frustration!

Below are some tips to incorporate nutritious greens into your diet and experiment with delicious ways to prepare them.  

Try greens from different sources – See what you enjoy from your neighborhood supermarket. Scope out the local family owned produce store. Stop by that health food store you’ve always wanted to try. Support the farmers at a nearby farmer’s market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I am personally so excited to be joining the Seton Harvest CSA this year!

Purchase produce that works for you and your lifestyle
 – If you like to purchase loose vegetables by the pound, then do so. If you prefer bulk packaged vegetables, then buy those. If you are short on time and like to buy pre-cut vegetables, then that works well too. If you find that your vegetables often go bad quickly, then start with frozen and buy a smaller amount of fresh greens to incorporate in your meals.

Have fun with salads! -
 I love experimenting with a variety of colorful vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and whole grains. Keep it raw or add in cooked vegetables. Make it savory or sweet to your liking. Top it off with some nuts or seeds for additional crunch. The sky is the limit! Click here for some salad recipe inspiration.

Use various cooking methods – Aside from enjoying the crisp refreshing greens in their raw natural state, there are several quick and easy cooking methods. Experiment with boiling or steaming. Sautee greens in a skillet with some protein and your favorite grain. Grill them on a skewer. Toss the vegetables in the oven with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper; set the timer, and roast them while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Start with breakfast:
 Start your day on the right foot by adding greens first thing in the morning. Add greens to your eggs or toss them into your favorite smoothie or green juice. Include them with avocado in a savory breakfast bowl. Find some delicious green smoothie recipes here.

Wrap it up or sandwich it!
 – Add a variety of greens to your whole grain wrap or sandwich. Add them to your chicken, turkey, tuna, or to your burger.

Use green herbs
 – Keep on hand a variety of fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill, and parsley. Sprinkle them on your salad or add them to your sautéed or roasted vegetables. Add some to your steamed vegetables and drizzle with olive oil or avocado oil for some extra flavor.

Dress it up! – Now I’m not talking about dousing your greens with store-bought dressings like blue cheese or ranch; they are processed and filled with added chemicals and sugar. Experiment with various vinegars, healthy oils, seasonings, and spices. There are so many quick and easy recipes! Click here for dressing tips and inspiration!

Dip it! Enjoy green veggies such as green beans, snow peas, zucchini, broccoli, or celery   with a healthy dip. Experiment with guacamole, hummus, or nut butter.

Indulge in “chips” – Rather than reaching for potato chips, make your own green vegetable chips. Branch out and try different chips in addition to kale. Crispy Brussels Sprouts are my personal favorite! See various leafy green chip recipes here.

Get creative with leftovers – Use the steamed broccoli and asparagus from last night’s dinner and add them to your whole grain breakfast bowl. Sautee them with your morning eggs. Add them to your salad or wrap. Toss them into the skillet with your favorite protein for dinner. You will save time, reap the added nutritional benefits, and enjoy the varied flavors!

Stock up and prep ahead – Set yourself up for the week by stocking up on your greens on the weekend, so you have them at your fingertips when you’re ready to prep!

I’m a firm believer in the gradual addition of greens to your diet to naturally crowd out the sugar and processed foods. Rather than avoiding burgers, have that burger with a side salad or steamed vegetables instead of the fries. Enjoy your steak with roasted asparagus or broccoli dressed in olive oil and lemon. Add spinach to your pizza. The most important thing is to start with something, and find enjoyable ways to continue to incorporate greens into your life. Go green!

Talya Kosstrin