Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for a decade, you’re probably aware that study after study show that leafy greens are all-around the healthiest foods we can eat. Eating these “powerhouse” veggies on a daily basis prevents disease, slows aging, and improves just about every bodily function.
Even just a couple of servings (about a 1/2 cup each) per day can make a big difference. For instance, a recent study found that people who ate one to two servings of greens per day–such as collards, kale, and spinach–for about five years had the cognitive abilities of someone 11 years younger.
But, let’s be honest–many of us don’t always have the time to make a salad, and, frankly, we’re not always in the mood to sit down in front of a plate of greens (pass the pasta, please!). Luckily, there are many easy ways to incorporate greens into your favorite dishes.
To start, all you need is a fresh package of your favorite baby greens, preferably organic. They’re usually pre-washed and ready to eat. I recommend boxed organic baby spinach or baby kale because of their mild flavor.
Tip 1: Serve Your Meal on a Bed of Greens
Before serving your meal, whatever it is, grab a fistful of your leafy greens, layer them on your plate, and then top them with the food you’re planning to eat–an omelette, pasta, chicken salad, baked salmon, eggplant parmesan, whatever. You’ve just added one or two servings of greens to your diet within seconds. The flavors of your dish will transfer to your greens. If you want to so step up the flavor, you can always drizzle some salad dressing onto the greens before topping them with your food. (By the way, my favorite healthy dressing these days is Bragg’s Organic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing)
Tip 2: Add Greens to a Smoothie
If you stick to greens with a mild flavor–like baby kale or baby spinach–you can add a handful (or two) to your favorite smoothie without even tasting them. The easiest recipe for a smoothie is combining one banana, a large handful of frozen organic berries, a handful of greens, and liquid of your choice (water, almond milk, coconut water, etc.). Then blend. There you go, instant serving of greens. Play around with different fruits and different proportions to identify your favorite recipe. You’ll find tons of easy smoothie recipes online like this one. Bonus: This strategy is super kid-friendly, because you can’t taste the greens!
3. Make Pesto…Out of Kale (or Spinach)
Seriously, you can make pesto with almost any kind of leafy green. And lord knows, pesto is good with EVERYTHING–chicken, fish, pasta, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, eggs. I found this awesome Kale Pesto recipe in O Magazine, and here’s another recipe for Spinach Pesto. You can make a big batch and freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray–just defrost when you’re ready to eat it.
4. Use Leaves Instead of Bread or Wraps
Instead of your typical sandwich, substitute a crunchy romaine leaf for bread. I like to cut of the droopier tops of the romaine leaf and fill the crunchier bottom half with tuna fish or salmon salad, egg salad, babaganoush, pesto, hummus, or any other dip I enjoy. You can also use hearty collard green leaves to make a wrap. The inside can be whatever you normally like inside a burrito, or try this collard wrap recipe. I love how avocado, sprouts, tomatoes, and creamy dressing taste when they’re wrapped up in a collard leaf.
5. Garnish with Greens or Herbs
Top an almost-ready soup, pasta, omelette, quinoa or other saucy dish with a handful of baby spinach, kale, or your favorite herbs. They will wilt but will stay fresh and bright green–full of live nutrients.
With these tips, you can start adding some of the healthiest foods to your diet with minimal pressure.