Leafy green vegetables are your ticket to becoming lean, mean, green/healthy machine. The Center for Young Women’s Health staff reports that regular consumption of artichokes, arugula, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach (to name a few) can provide your body with the vitamins A, C, and K, folate, iron, calcium, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids (to name a few) it needs. The best part is that dark green vegetables are high in the type of vitamins that are better absorbed with a little healthy fat. You will get more from your artichokes by adding a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese. The collard greens are healthier cooked with a dab of butter than without.
The staff at the CYWH recommends that teenage girls get about ½ cup of greens a day. I’m not a teenager anymore, so I try to get two cups of leafy greens daily. The easiest way to accomplish that is to keep a bag of pre-washed, ready-to-eat spinach handy. You can add a little spinach to the foods you already would eat for a colorful and healthy boost without sacrificing any flavor.
I tear up a few leaves and toss them in my scrambled eggs or omelets in the morning. I add spinach leaves to my turkey club or wrap for a more gourmet looking sandwich. I put chopped spinach to add more body and variety to pasta sauces and pizza.
Sauteed spinach makes a quick nutritious and delicious side dish. I heat 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a small or medium sized pan on medium heat. Then, I add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and saute for 1 minute before adding 1 – 1 ½ cups of fresh spinach, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of water. I let it simmer, stirring often, for 5-10 minutes. It is perfect next to a steak or chicken dish or even just with some crusty Italian bread as a snack.
An unexpected leafy green addition to a Midwest staple is macaroni and cheese with broccoli. My brother suggested this to me once while we were fixing late night munchies. Prepare mac & cheese according to the directions on the box. When you add the noodles to the boiling water set up another pot of approximately 6 cups of water to boil on a separate burner. Cook about a cup of chopped broccoli pieces for 5-7 minutes or until they turn really bright green. After you have successfully drained the pasta, added the cheese powder, butter and milk and stirred to a smooth consistency, fold in the broccoli.
Salads are the tried and true method for getting your greens. But, when I have a salad I want to really enjoy it – not begrudgingly shovel tasteless iceberg and carrot shavings into my mouth longing for the next course. I will leave you with two simple but sophisticated salad recipes that never fail to satisfy.
Grilled Romaine Salad
Packaged Romaine Hearts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Slice one romaine heart in half lengthwise.
Cut sides up, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Grill, cut side down, at medium heat on a preheated grill or grill pan for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has slightly browned.
Serve, grilled side up, drizzled with a little fresh olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.
*This salad is also delicious with crumbled bleu cheese and bacon bits.
(Makes 2 servings)
Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts
2 c. Baby Spinach
2 Tbs. Crumbled Goat Cheese
¼ c. Dried Cranberries
¼ c. Walnuts (spiced or candied walnuts preferably)
4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
Toss ingredients together in a large bowl.
(Makes 2 servings)
Center for Young Women’s Health Staff, “Dark Green Leafy Vegetables.” Center for Young Women’s Health.