Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard somewhere along the grapevine that we should all be eating more greens veggies. As a nutritionist and food-as-medicine advocate, I whole heartedly agree with this recommendation.
The health benefits of consuming green vegetables extend to virtually all aspects of our body. In fact, I would go as far as to say that green vegetables are akin to nature’s version of a multi-vitamin. Depending on the greens you choose to eat, they typically offer good amounts of the following essential nutrients:
- Dietary fibre
- Vitamin K
- Folate and other B-vitamins
- Vitamin C
What greens should I eat?
Opt for any and all kinds of green vegetable – particularly ones that your kids show any interest in. Usually when we say ‘green vegetables’, we are talking about leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, silverbeet (aka swiss or rainbow chard), bok choy, romaine lettuce, cabbage, or mustard greens.
But any other green vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, or zucchini, are also winners.
Unfortunately, your average green lettuce, like cos or iceberg, doesn’t add too much nutritional value other than lots of water and a teency bit of fiber.
The hard part
For most people, simply knowing that they should ‘eat more greens’ is not enough to actually help them to eat more greens – especially if feeding kids is part of the equation.
Many green vegetables have a bitter taste to them, which children (and some adults) perceive to be highly unpalatable. From an evolutionary perspective, being able to detect bitter tastes had it’s advantages. Many poisonous compounds found in plants are bitter, leading humans to evolve highly sensitive bitter taste receptors to detect and avoid poisonous plants. But many bitter compounds are safe and even healthful, so overcoming this bitter-taste receptor with a few clever food preparation tricks can help you to get more green veggies into your kids.
My Tips & Tricks
To be honest, even I need to constantly remind myself to eat more greens. And in the process of doing this over many years, I’ve rounded up a few tricks for fooling myself (and others in my house) into eating more greens on the reg.
Add a handful of spinach or kale into a smoothie with bananas, apples or berries – the fruit totally masks the taste of the greens.
It’s super easy to hide the taste of greens in a mixed fruit & vegetable juice. Some winning combos include:
- Carrot, apple, celery, and cucumber
- Spinach, apple, and orange
- Pineapple, spinach, lemon, and cucumber
Bake kale leaves in the oven with some olive oil and sea salt (and garlic if the kids like the flavour). Baked for 15-20 mins in 180oC oven. These are a hit amongst all ages – crunchy, salty and delicious!
Blend a cup of rocket or spinach into a pesto sauce and serve with pasta or meat & veg – many kids will eat pesto, and they won’t realise you added extra greens once it’s all blended up.
Blend a cup of spinach leaves into a tomato sauce and spread onto a pizza base – although the spinach makes the sauce turn greenish, once topped with cheese and baked in the oven the kids (and you) won’t know the difference
Add greens into soups or sauces that you will blend or puree, for example, pumpkin and/or sweet potato soup, napoli sauces
Green Rice or Green Mash
Add broccoli (blitzed in a food processor until it’s grainy), mashed peas, or finely chopped green beans to rice or potatoes for your meal. It makes the rice look fun and novel (monster mash anyone?), and could persuade some picky eaters to try the greens when mixed with all time crowd favourites – rice and potatoes.
For the hardcore greenies out there or for the adventurous kids in your family, you can actually just eat your greens, plain and simple. Yummy options include:
- Sautéed spinach with butter
- Cooked kale with garlic
- Chopped greens into scrambled eggs or omelettes
- Fresh mixed leaves in a yummy salad – the possibilities are endless!
Every little bit add up, so even if you only add a small handful or 1/2 a cup into your meals here and there, you’re still doing your body and your kids body’s a solid by added all the extra nutrition that comes with green veggies.
Let me know if you’ve got any tricks of your own for getting more greens into your daily meals.