“At one point, I hated eating green food. It just looked wrong on my plate growing up as a kid. While I liked pesto (yes, also green, yet apparently less bothersome to me), the rest was relatively gross until my mature years where I actively began seeking out ways to eat greens,” share Jennifer of Gluten Free School.
Contrary to the notion that only kids think anything green on their plate is gross, adults can still fear green veggies too. “My thirty-something husband can’t stand anything green and it’s a big deal if he allows one piece of lettuce on top of a burger. And I’ve had clients who swear at the beginning of our working relationship that they’ll never touch anything leafy or green. (Thankfully most end up changing their tune within a month or so!)” she adds.
This is why being told to “eat your greens” and “kale is the new “it” food” can be annoying. What if you just don’t want to eat them because you really do HATE greens? Or how do you get kids to stomach them without throwing a hissy fit?
Reasons To NOT Eat Greens
If we stick with the theory that greens are gross, then we’ve got to have good reasons right? Let’s see what we can come up with…
“Cooked greens are stringy.”
Sure that can be true if you’re defrosting frozen spinach (which is honestly gross no matter your age or greens preference). And overcooking greens is a surefire way to ensure stringy greens. However if you learn to cook them just perfectly (which is probably for a much shorter amount of time than you think), you may be surprised to find that greens won’t necessarily turn into a smushy, slimy mess.
“Greens taste gross.”
Again, this probably goes back to your experience with frozen spinach (which again, for the record, should be avoided). While greens certainly have different flavors on their own, seasoning them properly or adding them to flavor-filled dishes can improve or even mask their inherent flavor. Finely chopping up greens and adding them to sauces and chili towards the end of cooking is another easy way to sneak them in without the taste.
Kale is quite strong as is broccoli rabe. Other greens aren’t necessarily so bitter. Swiss chard, for example, is a great next step away from those who are finally comfortable with the taste of baby spinach.
“Greens go bad really fast and I end up having to throw them away.”
This is a big problem for many which is why GFS founder Jennifer Fugo never recommends buying those pre-washed greens in bags. One way Jennifer shows clients how to save money in her book “The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank” is to to buy a whole head of a green and then at home, wash, spin/dry and chop it up yourself. Store the greens in a big plastic bag making sure to press out most of the air before sealing it. This will allow the greens to stay fresh for up to a week.
“I’m just not into eating greens. Period.”
Then puree them into soups or drink them. Add them to smoothies or fresh juice. It’s not necessary to from zero to sixty over night. If you’re into juicing, add some leafy greens into the veggie rotation especially if you typically juice fruit or sweeter veggies such as carrots and beets. Romaine lettuce is great in juices and spinach is easy to add to smoothies.
So now that we’ve busted those excuses, let’s talk about how you can get them into your diet.
Five Ways To Eat Greens
A lot of people find kale intimidating not just because of the huge difference in appearance from lettuce, but because of its distinctive taste. When eaten on its own, it can taste “too healthy” for some palates and unfortunately can scare people away.
The trick is to add kale as an accent complimented by other ingredients rather than putting a big pile front and center onto your plate. Incorporating kale into a large dish is an amazing (and sneaky) way to get anyone acquainted with it.
All you have to do is mince the leaves finely and sprinkle them into your favorite stuffed mushroom recipe.
Don’t have one? Simply preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, remove the stems from baby portobello mushroom caps, stuff them with goat or non-dairy cheese, chopped scallions and finely chopped sprinkles of kale. Roast them for 10 to 15 minutes and you’ve got a tasty side dish for dinner tonight!
Rainbow chard is the better option for those who aren’t big fans of leafy greens, especially kids. The colorful stems are inviting and the leaves are more tender with a mild flavor. Full of vitamins K, A, and C, chard is a popular green to grow in the garden (even your flower beds too!).
Unlike kale, the stalks can be cooked and eaten, however it’s best to add them to the pan so that they can cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer than the leaves that require very little time to cook.
A fun way to combine rainbow chard into a main course is Chicken and Chard. Dr. Amy Myers has an amazing Paleo Rainbow Chard and Chicken Stir-fry recipe which is healthy while still incorporating great flavors. Try it for yourself!
Escarole is a pretty, leafy green that can be eaten raw or cooked. Though it can look an awful lot like a salad green, it’s not. (See the picture at the top of this article of Jennifer holding escarole!) It’s related to endive, but is usually not quite as bitter. If you’ve ever eaten Italian Wedding Soup, then you’ve probably had escarole since it’s the green that’s typically added. Here’s one of Jennifer’s favorite ways to cook escarole in less than 10 minutes.
Savory Sauteed Escarole
- 1 head escarole, chopped, rinsed and spun/dried
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove medium garlic, minced
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil, butter or rendered fat for cooking
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
Cabbage is part of the Cruciferous plant family that includes broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. You may recall Dr. Terry Wahls on the Gluten Free School Podcast mention eating cabbage and other sulfur-rich vegetables to help overcome mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
You can add cabbage into your diet through cole slaw or sauerkraut. Try different types of cabbage such as the purple variety or savory cabbage for a change. Or you can really crank up the volume on the flavor with some exotic flair. Because cabbage is a staple in Eastern European cooking, you’re probably already familiar with certain dishes that have it as part of its recipe.
One of my family favorites is from Belarus called “Kapusta”. Belarusian savory fried kapusta is a dish that incorporates fresh garden vegetables with garlic and warm spices that allows cabbage to steal the show. (Check out the easy recipe at the end of this post!)
Most people think of collard greens as a part of southern US cooking which can make them seem foreign if you don’t know how to cook them properly. Luckily, there’s no one way to use collards (or any other green for that matter). Chop collard greens finely and “hide” them in fruit based smoothies, chili, chunky stews, pasta sauces and soups. Sometimes you might find them finely chopped and flash frozen in your local grocery store.
You can also eat them raw! They make for better “lettuce” wraps than do actual lettuce leaves because they’re more durable and can hold warm/hot foods without disintegrating. Whether you use them to make wraps or in place of tortillas, just make sure to cut off the bottom 2 inches or so of the stem that’s embedded inside of the leaf on the thickest end.
And the best part about collard greens? They have the highest level of calcium of all the dark leafy greens. Anyone hoping to build strong bones should definitely add collard greens to their weekly menu.