Kids either like them or they don’t – it’s really that simple. Vegetables, especially the green, leafy kind are something that some children can’t wait to gobble up while others would rather visit the doctor than eat. Getting kids to eat them, and some adults too, can be a real challenge. If you enjoy them, there’s a better chance that your children will. If, however, the sight or smell of green vegetables makes you shudder, in all likelihood you won’t be promoting them in your kitchen.
A childhood classic, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss is the perfect story to help introduce “healthy”, “green” foods to your family. It sort of takes the edge off of the whole healthy eating concept by bringing humor into the situation. I used it with the students in my classroom when we were preparing our very first Thanksgiving Feast. I knew that a lot of the traditional foods that were being served, and prepared in the classroom, would receive a “nose up in the air” greeting. In order to attempt to bring humor into the situation, and to ease the children into eating foods that were 1) good for them; 2) traditional foods served during the holidays, I read the story and we completed taste tests on some very ordinary foods that had been “dyed” green. Amazingly, the children had a blast and we were able to conquer vegetables in a very positive way.
Green leafy vegetables are one of the foods that we, as parents, need to encourage our families to eat on a daily basis and which we should incorporate into every meal (perhaps not breakfast). They are the super foods of the produce department and have been shown to prevent many health issues from cancer to heart disease and tend to be the “boost” that our brains need to function at optimum capacity. Vegetables like arugula, mustard and collard greens, Swiss chard, watercress, kale, and spinach are often intimidating since we aren’t certain the best manner in which to cook them. We’ll go home instead with a cart of broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and maybe green beans since those foods tend to be easier to prepare so that our families will eat them. With this being the age of the internet, finding recipes and healthy ways to prepare these greens and many others is just a click of a button away. What are you waiting for?
Vegetables are a versatile as meats when it comes to cooking. They can be used to make ordinary salads appear dazzling, taste fantastic, and more healthy, they can be added to stir-fry, pizza, and even give chips and crackers a run for their money when added to dips and dressings. So, without further ado, let’s tackle some healthy “greens”, what they offer in terms of health and wellness, and a few recipes so that you’ll be more inclined to add these powerhouses to the menu at your home.
- Arugula: Related to broccoli, with a leg up on lettuce, Arugula is known as a cruciferous vegetable. It contains eight times more calcium, five times the Vitamin(s) A, C, and K, and four times more iron as that found in iceberg lettuce. It also has more fiber, folate, protein, potassium, and magnesium. With all of this good stuff, you’ll be much more capable to ward off heart disease, osteoporosis, sun damage, and certain types of cancer. With a delightful “peppery” flavor, it is an excellent addition to a salad, perfect on sandwiches, magnificent when added to sautes, pizza, quesadillas, and soups.
- Mustard Greens: I must admit, this one took me a while to perfect before adding it to the regular menu. This vegetable has a “peppery” flavor like arugula and is full of vitamin(s) K, A, and C making it a fantastic antioxidant that assists in the battle of aging and disease. It is also considered to be one of the more heart healthy vegetables since it contains higher levels of folate, fiber, potassium, and beta-carotene. The vegetable, while known to protect the heart and lungs, is high in calcium which helps our bodies produce stronger teeth and bones. Although a pungent green, raw or cooked, it is perfect as a side-dish, or combined with casseroles and stir-fry’s.
- Collard Greens: One of my all-time favorites since I was raised in the south and had grandmothers who could cook them perfectly, these green, leafy vegetables are busting at the seams with beta-carotene, vitamin(s) C and K, calcium, iron, and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are known to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Just one cooked cup of collard greens adds 5 grams of fiber to your diet. The offer tremendous benefits including the prevention of cancer, improved circulation, enhanced immune system, and are critical to the function of both the liver and kidneys. Collards are a member of the cabbage family, another favorite of mine, and can be added to many different dishes including quiche, pasta dishes, couscous, or cooked by themselves as a wonderful side dish.
- Swiss chard: This vegetable adds an incredible boost of iron, protein, folate, and fiber to a diet. It is rich in vitamin(s) K, A and C. Chard isn’t just a green vegetable as it promotes many shades of red and purple from its stems. Loaded with an array of phytonutrients, it is known to provide anti-inflammatory properties, lowers the risk of chronic inflammation and helps to fight off many diseases. If you’re a diabetic, this vegetable is an excellent blood sugar regulator and has been noted to help individuals with type II diabetes. It has a milder flavor than spinach, and can be eaten sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or raw as an addition to a healthy green leaf salad.
- Watercress: I have to admit, this is one vegetable that I’ve not taken home for my family. It is a superfood as it is rich in calcium, potassium, and Vitamin C. This particular vegetable is known for its isothiocyanates, which are anti-cancer phytochemicals that can help to prevent lung, colon, and breast cancer if it is a regular part of your diet. Not only does this incredible vegetable get the highest rating for its anti-cancer properties, but it also lowers cholesterol and regulates blood pressure. Now for those of you wishing to start a family but finding it difficult to become pregnant, this vegetable has been known to improve fertility. Two other significant benefits of adding this vegetable to your diet is the correlation between Watercress and improved mental clarity and stronger bones. Finally, Watercress acts as a natural diuretic. Again, known for its peppery flavor, this vegetable can be added to salads, pasta dishes, or served by itself as a side dish.
Here are some healthy recipes that your family will be sure to enjoy, even the most finicky AND provide your family with many healthy nutrients.
Garlicky Kale Chips
Preparation Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes; Serves: 4
- Canola Oil Spray
- 1 Large bunch kale, washed and dried
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher Salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare two large baking sheets with oil spray,.
- Trim kale stems and cut or tear leaves into 2- to 3- inch pieces. Arrange the kale in a single layer on two baking sheets. Coat with oil spray (I prefer Olive Oil vs. Canola), sprinkle with garlic power, and salt.
- Bake 15 minutes, or until crispy and slightly brown around the edges. You may want to turn them once. Serve with ketchup, aioli mayonnaise or shaved Parmesan.
Watercress Barley Salad
Preparation Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 0; Serves 4
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup pearled barley, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large bunch watercress (about 3 cups), washed, drained and stems trimmed
- 1 medium English cucumber, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 2 pears, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slices
- 1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Crisp, peppery watercress combines with barley for a hearty feast of greens and grains.
- In a medium pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the barley and salt; reduce heat, cover and allow simmering until barley is tender, approximately 35 minutes. Rinse barley under cold water, drain well, and let cool completely.
- To make salad, combine watercress, cucumber, celery, red bell pepper and pear in a large bowl.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. Top with blue cheese and pecans.
Arugula Pistachio Pesto
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, broken into pieces
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 5 cups loosely packed arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
Arugula adds a peppery spin to this flavor packed pesto. Toss with pasta or use it as a sandwich spread.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Insuring that your family eats healthy greens will benefit everyone – not just with immediate benefits but also with long-term health benefits and goals. Leafy greens such as those referenced above can also provide reversal of many health issues and diseases.
Eat healthy – be healthy!!!
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