Everyone can use a little more green in their lives! Pun intended. Greens can be hard to brown-bag for work or school, and are not that filling when you eat them solo, but between the amino acids and the iron, dark leafy greens are even more important for people on plant-based diets. The main problem is the bitterness, so finding ways to pair greens that enhance the good flavors will be the focus.
Not all greens are created equal. There’s a host of different kinds of greens that can be eaten cooked or raw, from chard and purple kale to beet and sweet potato greens. Test things out to find what you like, and buy in season for the best flavor. Also, keep in mind the intended purpose: kale is particularly difficult to blend while baby spinach disappears like it was never there, except for the attractive color. Chard tastes great and comes in rainbow, but either remove the thick stems or throw them in the pot early to let them soften. Experimentation, and making sure that you’re picking the best of the bunch at the grocery store, go a long way. No one I’ve met likes a wilty green, and we don’t want to judge greens when they aren’t feeling their best.
This is the obvious one, but stay with me. You know them, you love them, you hate them. Here’s my secret: they can still be sweet. Green smoothies should taste delicious, with raw cacao or cocoa powder, bananas, mango or other seasonal fruit. Lower-glycemic index fruit like berries can be swapped in if you need to watch sugar content. With some spinach, an avocado-chocolate mousse smoothie can totally count as breakfast, in my humble opinion. (I make it with almond milk, avocado, cacao and baby spinach, but mousse can also be made fancier, raw or sugar-free.) If all else fails, I’m pretty sure having too much agave is better than never eating those greens at all … just sayin’). These green smoothie recipes and this cheat sheet will get you blending in no time. For the adventurous, this dandelion green smoothie packs a punch of other nutrients.
Also, make sure to blend well. The fiber you need is micro fiber that won’t be destroyed by blending, and while it can be healthy to chew your smoothie to get your digestive juices flowing (Yes, really!), this is the fastest way to make yourself never want another green smoothie in your life. Change works best in baby steps, and if it doesn’t taste great to you, you won’t drink it, so do yourself a favor and make your green smoothies delicious!
Before you roll your eyes and hide your coconut ice cream from me, I promise this isn’t totally crazy! We’ve all got a cooked comfort foods, like mac and cheese or hot soups. The thing about comfort foods is that we often need the calories and fat in them when we seek them out, but if they’re completely empty calories, we’re more likely to feel sick the next day — and the cycle repeats. Eating when you first feel hungry so that you don’t get to the point of cravings will often keep away cravings, but knowing that isn’t helpful once they hit.
You can still eat an entire bag of substitute melty cheese if you must, but adding some spinach or collards to the pot will go a long way towards making you feel better physically as well as emotionally.
Even My Dessert is Green
Soups and Stir-Fries
You’re definitely going to be able to tell there are greens in a stir-fry, and so is your five-year-old or picky uncle, but if they taste good, hopefully no one will complain. Small amounts of greens in a stir-fry or lentil soup will be mild and add a splash of color, and they can be hidden by blending into creamy soups. Try a Tempeh and Turnip Green Soup, or add greens to these Raw Blender Smoothies.
In stir-fries, cooking greens with yams, sweet potatoes, avocados, or any other naturally creamy and sweet vegetable balances and compliments the flavor. Try this Roasted Corn and Kale Stir Fry. Adding soy sauce, liquid aminos, toasted sesame oil or nutritional yeast can also help to make them more savory and interesting, often in place of salt. You can also sautee spinach with Indian spices or veggie bacon bits.
If you are fond of salads, baby spinach is an easy addition alongside the usual romaine. Also, massaging kale will start to break it down, so it’s easier to eat raw, like this fresh fig and orange kale salad. Along the same lines as use in stir-fry, avocado kale salads are actually amazing and uncomplicated, avocado and spices working like a creamy dressing to coat the leaves. And after a long day at work, there’s always Cheezy Kale Salad.
Master Level: Kale Chips
You have conquered your fear of greens and can eat them plain now! Well, not quite plain. If you’ve been looking for a way to swap out chips, then try kale chips and seaweed crisps, which are salty, crunchy, and actually much lower on both sodium and oil than chips. Rather than going for the uncomfortably expensive kale chips in the grocery store, they can be made in one’s own oven in about 15 minutes.
Cycling through different kinds of greens and different methods of preparation will keep them interesting, and fill in different kinds of nutrients that other greens don’t contain. Greens don’t need to be gross or difficult, and between breakfast, dinner and dessert it shouldn’t be difficult to find a way to sneak more greens into your diet.
Lead image source: Mint Carob Walnut Brownies