Better Living for Texans: Greens – the mean fighting machines
By Lindsey Breunig
Whatever life stage you are in, let’s join the new school year and celebrate the start by making some healthy green habits. Unless your school allegiances bleed green or are celebrating a green-themed holiday, incorporating regular dark leafy greens into your diet can be tricky. When I encourage someone to eat more greens some comebacks I hear are: “they are gross” “I only like the white lettuce” “they are bitter or taste like grass” or “that is rabbits’ food” – Well today our goal is to squash these comebacks!
Some common dark leafy greens are kale, chard, collard greens, arugula, spinach, and bok choy. A half-cup serving is 10 to 25 calories and jam-packed with bursting health benefits. Dark leafy green vegetables contain many nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. The USDA’s MyPlate recommends adults and children over 9 years old to eat 1 ½ to 2 cups of dark green vegetables per week. Generally, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup. The nutrients from dark leafy greens support a variety of functions in the body. For example, the nutrients support good vision, increase immune function, regulate blood pressure, and act as antioxidants to potentially help prevent certain cancers.
Dark leafy greens often have an intense flavor which can be off-putting. Unfortunately, simply knowing these veggies are nutritional superstars does not always make them taste any better. Below we will discuss ways to make them more appetizing! For storing, washing, and keeping leafy greens fresh click here.
- Tender greens such as spinach or baby kale are great for salads. If incorporating more leafy greens into your diet is a new change, try making the salad with a familiar lettuce and half with a dark green one. Use a citrus-based dressing to help balance the strong flavor of the greens.
- Remove tough stems. For new “green eaters” the stems are often more bitter and tough to eat. Additionally, this will reduce cooking time and help avoid over-cooking the greens.
- When cooking with kale: Tougher curly kale is best for soups or stews, while tender Lacinato (flatter leaves) and baby kale are best in salad or as chips.
- When braising at a low temperature for an extended period, a pinch of sugar can help overcome the bitterness of collard and mustard greens.
- Sauté vs. boil: sautéing greens will help lock in nutrients better than boiling. Sauté greens with olive oil, onion and garlic to add flavor. For a crunch and heart healthy fat add chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans.
A class favorite: Chicken Vegetable Soup with Kale
We made this during the summer & kids love the crunch: Bok Choy Noodle Crisp
Add kale or spinach to a fruit smoothie for a quick and delicious breakfast or snack: Simple Green Smoothie
Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com
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