Easy Ways to Add Greens to Your Family's Diet Like the greens you should be eating, reading all these ideas and recipes are good for you. BY CHERYL TALLMAN
As a parent, it's your responsibility to teach your child healthy eating habits.
“ Its bright color is pureed to a smooth texture. The coconut milk gives the soup a creamy sweetness and the essence of ginger is the perfect flavor.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends Americans consume three cups of leafy greens weekly or about half a cup each day. These vegetables thrive in the cold of winter, making now the perfect time to start getting more greens into your diet. Leafy greens are packed with nutrients including Vitamins A, C and K; folate, calcium and iron while providing a good source of fiber.
With that said, here are some common greens that can be found in your grocery store to help get you started with the recipes below.
Arugula: Packing a punch of peppery flavor, arugula has long, spiked leaves and is a great source of calcium and magnesium.
Bok Choy: This mild, cabbage-flavored leaf is a good source of vitamins A and C. It’s great in salads and is often found in stir fries.
Broccoli: There’s more to this bunch than just the florets; the crunchy stalks and lettuce-like leaves are delicious too and together provide the body with vitamins A, C, K, folate and fiber.
Collard Greens: Mild in flavor and a staple in Southern cooking, these large leaves are often boiled or found in soups.
Kale: An increasingly popular green, kale’s slightly bitter flavor has not deterred its inclusion in everything from soup to smoothies.
Spinach: The second most popular green in the U.S., spinach is very mild in flavor and can easily be added to any dish for a boost in vitamins A and K, folate, iron and calcium.
Getting More Greens in Your Family’s Diet
Smoothies: Smoothies are an excellent way to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens. Try adding half a cup of spinach or kale to this basic smoothie recipe.
1 ripe banana, peeled
3 ripe strawberries or 1/4 cup blueberries or 1/4 cup of papaya
1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice, such as apple
1/4 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt (dairy or soy)
1/2 cup of ice cubes
Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Pour into a covered cup, add a straw and serve immediately. This recipe makes two 6-ounce servings.
Age to introduce: Over 12 months
Blending tip: Blend the juice and greens first before adding the other ingredients for a smoother texture
Kale Chips: This delicate, yet crispy treat is a hit with children and adults alike. For added flavor try sprinkling with parmesan cheese or your favorite herb or spice (such as chile powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning or paprika).
1 head kale
2 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt (less than 1/4 tsp.)
Preheat oven to 300. Rinse and dry kale. Remove the center ribs and stems from each leaf. Tear the leaves into 3-to-4-inch pieces. In a large bowl toss kale with olive oil. Spread kale in single layer on 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle the kale with salt (or other seasoning). Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Spinach, Ginger and Coconut Soup: A mild green, such as spinach makes a yummy green soup. Here’s an easy spinach soup that is a true kid pleaser. Its bright color is pureed to a smooth texture. The coconut milk gives the soup a creamy sweetness and the essence of ginger is the perfect flavor.
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
10 oz. of spinach with hard stems removed
Zest of 1 lemon
1 medium-size potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 can (13 oz.) coconut milk
1 tbsp. mirin (rice wine) or dry sherry
Salt and pepper
Directions: 1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry until softened but not brown (3-4 minutes) 2. Add spinach and lemon zest to the pan. Stir until spinach is wilted. Add the stock and potato and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. 3. Pour soup into blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender and process until smooth. 4. Return soup to the pan and add coconut milk, mirin/sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat until almost boiling.
Make it a meal tip: Consider this soup a vegetable and serve it with grilled chicken and warm whole-grain dinner rolls.
Spinach and Blue Cheese Spaghetti: Leafy greens wilt nicely when stirred into hot pasta like.
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tbsp. spinach
14-16 ounces of chopped, fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 (8oz.) package of spaghetti
Directions: 1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. 2. Sauté the garlic with Spinach in olive oil in a large saucepan a few minutes until fragrant. 3. Add the spinach leaves and toss until the spinach is wilted. 4. Remove from heat and add the walnuts and crumbled blue cheese. Combine well.
Serve spinach mixture over pasta.
Versatile Green Pesto: Try this basic, yet versatile pesto for a nutrient-packed pasta sauce:
1 cup of greens (traditionally basil, but try using greens such as arugula, kale, spinach or even mustard)
1 clove of garlic
3 tbsp. of walnuts (nut allergy? Try using sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds or skip them)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 tbsp. of water or lemon juice as needed
Combine greens, garlic and walnut in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine. Slowly drizzle olive oil and continue to pulse. Scrape down sides and blend until smooth. Add pesto to hot pasta and serve immediately.
Pesto can also be frozen in freezer trays to make convenient, pre-portioned cubes that can be dropped into hot pasta.
Although perfect on paper, greens aren’t always tops in toddler food choices. Here are some ways to help the introduction go a bit smoother.
1. Set a good example by eating your greens.
2. Make it fun! Chop down broccoli trees, help those dinosaurs eat more leaves and be sure to remind them of the super strength they get from eating these super foods.
3. Be patient and don’t forget the Ten Times Rule, i.e., the average toddler may need to see a new food on their plate at least 10 times before they will eat it.
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the "So Easy Baby Food" and the new book "So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years." Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.