As a child, I was told on many occasions by my parents to “eat your broccoli.” But I didn’t really understand why it was so important that I finish my broccoli. So I would sigh a lot, roll it around my plate, take a few tiny bites to appease my mother, and run away from the table.
Little did I know I’d grow up to become a nutritionist who not only understands but also enthusiastically promotes the nutritional powerhouses that are kale, spinach, arugula, dandelion, Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, broccoli (of course)… the list goes on!
These dark leafy greens are fantastic sources of a plethora of nutrients: vitamin A, C, E, K, folate, B2, B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, and more. They’re also high in fibre, promoting healthy digestion and detoxification.
While the dark-and-leafy are arguably some of nature’s healthiest plant foods, I would be remiss not to mention other green veggies that make a nutritious, delicious (and colourful!) addition to any meal.
It can be quite simple to “healthify” your favourite foods and snacks, or to sneak some greens into a picky child’s (or adult’s) dinner. Once I began adopting these tricks in my kitchen, I never went back to my old, broccoli-scorning ways.
Five Tips to Go Greener at Mealtimes:
- Add greens to a traditionally non-green meal.
Toss a handful of spinach, arugula or beet greens into your breakfast fruit smoothie or omelette, your lunchtime soup, or your curry or chilli at dinner. Steam some kale or Swiss chard to serve as a side dish with your meat-and-potatoes dinner.
- Start your meals with a salad.
Serving a “salad course” of mixed greens with vegetables before your main meal is a terrific healthy habit. The whole family, including the kiddos, are less likely to hesitate to eat their greens because they’re hungry and it’s the only food in front of them! Starting with some light fare at a meal is also a great way to kick-start the digestive process.
- Do the dinner switcheroo.
It’s a good idea to switch up your side dishes at dinner, not only to spice things up with some variety but also to ensure that your diet provides a wide range of nutritional benefits. If you normally have peas, carrots, or cauliflower with your main course, substitute them with green beans, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Bonus points for switching up your sides according to whatever fresh, in-season produce you can find at the market!
- Do the snack switcheroo, too.
Not everyone’s go-to snack involves vegetables, but you might be surprised how easily one can incorporate them while still enjoying those classic snack foods. Love chips and dip? Chop up some cucumbers and celery to dip in your hummus. Still tastes amazing, but you’ll likely feel satisfied after a handful or two (not an entire bag!). And of course, let’s not forget the magnificent kale chip.
- Season foods with fresh green herbs
Herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, and dill add so much more than flavour to your plate; they pack a huge nutritional punch! Consider parsley, an excellent source of vitamin C, high in folic acid, and rich in antioxidants (primarily from the flavonoid luteolin) that prevent oxidative damage to cells. Basil has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects. And animal studies on cilantro, also known as coriander, have found the herb to have benefits for regulating blood sugar (by stimulating insulin secretion), as well as for managing cholesterol (by lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and raising HDL (‘good’) cholesterol).