10 Easy Ways to Sneak Greens Into Your Diet (March 22, ’14)

For my March 22 Kingston Whig Standard article about adding extra veggies into your meals, 10 Easy Ways to Sneak Greens Into Your Diet, either click here or scroll down!

 

Though snow banks still crowd Princess Street and I’ve not yet seen one crocus, spring has arrived — officially, at least. The season has many themes; rebirth, rejuvenation and, for many, a renewed commitment to health and fitness. Spring means shedding the thick, fleecy cloak of winter. It means longer days, warmer temperatures and finally getting outside. And, inevitably, it means the return of shorts, bathing suits and the realization that we may not have shed all of that extra holiday weight we put on back in December.

So what do we do? We spring clean our diets along with our homes. We cut back on sugar, do away with the fried stuff, and, of course, eat more vegetables. And while it’s relatively easy to ditch the French fries and donuts, adding more greens to our diet can be a challenge. If you’re struggling to find easy ways to get your veggies (without chewing on a celery stick all day long), try one of my 10 ways to sneak greens into your diet.

Salads: If you’re trying to increase your intake of leafy greens, a traditional salad is likely the first to pop into your head. And for good reason! Salads are inexpensive to make, easily portable and can be customized umpteen ways. The problem? They can get pretty darn boring. When you’re sick of the traditional Greek or garden varieties, a chopped salad can be a great alternative. Dice kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, cabbage or brussel sprouts, add mix-ins (think beans, bulgur, quinoa, beets, corn, nuts, seeds, herbs and extra veggies), and toss with a lemon vinaigrette dressing for a satisfying variation on a traditional salad.

Smoothies: These days, the ‘green drink’ trend has gone mainstream; it’s no longer rare or nutty to see a person sipping away at a bright green smoothie. The thought still repels people, though — many imagine grassy, vegetal tasting cocktails as something to be endured. And while they can taste a bit like you’ve taken a bite out of the front yard, it isn’t a requirement. A lighter touch can be just as effective! Try adding spinach, kale or chard to a traditional fruit smoothie to up your leafy green intake. With this method, you can add a cup or more of greens to your diet without even realizing it.

Soups: A frequently overlooked method of adding vegetables to your diet, most homemade soups can easily handle taking on a few more veggies. Whether it’s a minestrone, a chicken noodle or a split pea, adding chopped greens won’t significantly alter the flavour of your soup. An added bonus? Because they’re usually cooked for a relatively long period of time, soups can handle traditionally tough greens (like kale and cabbage) easily. Just be sure to add the chopped greens to your soup at least half an hour before mealtime.

As bread: Sandwiches are a lunch box staple for a reason — they’re cheap, they’re easy to make and they travel well. And while most of us throw in some lettuce and tomato, why not omit the bread and use large leaf lettuce instead? You’ll cut down your calories, carbs and sugar, while adding vegetables and preserving the integrity of your flavours. Try spreading spicy deli mustard on your lettuce for an authentic sandwich taste!

As ‘fries’ or ‘chips’: Some of my more habitual readers may remember my recipe for kale chips (kale, coated in olive oil and seasoning of your choice and baked), but why not try cabbage ‘chips,’ zucchini ‘fries.’ or artichoke ‘chips’? All of these baked-and-seasoned options please even the most skeptical of veggie eaters. Experiment with whatever vegetables you have in the house — you’re only limited by your imagination!

Steamed: Though it seems like a boring approach, steaming greens like spinach, chard or cabbage can make them more versatile. When steamed, greens shrink and wilt, making them ideal to mix into already cooked dishes like rice, quinoa, stew, pasta and chili. The greens add bulk and fibre to your dish, while taking on its flavour.

In the wok: A traditional stir-fry is a fantastic vessel for extra vegetables. As a general rule, mine have a 3-to-1 ratio of veggies to protein. Try a chicken, shrimp or tofu stir-fry with vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, celery, kale, onions, mushrooms, peppers and eggplant. If you’re using broccoli, don’t be afraid to eat the stems! Chop them up and throw them in your wok along with everything else.

On your pie: We don’t tend to think of pizza as a healthy dinner option. And with most delivery and freezer-to-oven options full of calories, fat and sodium, it’s a justified stereotype. Without too much effort, though, you can make a homemade pizza that is as healthy as it is satisfying. Try making your dough at home with whole wheat flour,and instead of topping with pepperoni and sausage, choose vegetables like mushrooms, fresh peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. Dice baby spinach and fresh basil (don’t forget to use the stems, too!), and use the greens to cover your pie. Top with a sprinkle of part-skim mozzarella, and watch as your kids devour greens without even realizing it!

On the grill: Soon enough, many of us will be firing up the grill for our inaugural barbecue of the season. Remember the open flame isn’t only for meat, though! Try adding zucchini, eggplant or kale to the barbecue for a satisfying, easy side dish.

In the fridge: Finally — and this one may seem the most obvious — keep vegetables in your fridge. Specifically, cut up your favourites (try carrots, radishes, zucchini and cabbage), and keep them in a bowl filled with cold water. The water will keep them crisp and fresh, and placing them front and centre in the fridge will make you more likely to grab them as a snack. You can only eat more vegetables if you have them in the fridge!

Molly Daley is a nutritionist and runs the healthy eating, fitness, and wellness website Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl. Find her at www.DiaryofaFormerlyFatGirl.com or follow her on Twitter, @DOAFFG

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