+ Well Nourished | Why eat leafy greens?

Eat your leafy greens – I explain why and how

If you are going to eat seasonally, then greens are what you will be eating this winter.  So as a tribute to this new season, I am going to convince you to EAT YOUR LEAFY GREENS!

I firmly believe that nature provides what we need to survive, thrive and be healthy.  So this poses the question, why has she given us greens in winter?

Here are my ideas
Green vegetables have a very high nutrient content.  I won’t bore you with the details, but they have more nutrients per calorie than any other food.  Forget fancy and expensive ‘super’ foods.  Greens are as nourishing as it gets.

Their high level of nutrients coupled with many potent, immune enhancing Phyto (plant) chemicals, results in much-needed virus protection at this time of year.  So consuming greens in some capacity, daily during winter, is a key factor in preventing colds and flu.  Nature as always provides.

Being very low in calories, you can happily eat all you like.  I think greens are a perfect accompaniment to the stodgy, hearty meals we tend to crave in the cooler months.  Try it, the two really work together beautifully.

So here’s how you can incorporate greens into your diet this winter:

  1. Add a green side salad to your meal.  Here’s a recipe to inspire.  It’s amazing how even a simple bowl of salad leaves dressed with lemon juice and olive oil can lift a heavy dinner.  I served just this with yesterday’s hearty One Pan Moroccan dinner.
  2. Sauté some kale or spinach leaves in coconut oil (or butter) with a little garlic, sea salt and pepper.  For extra flavour and nutrition squeeze over some lemon juice (and even grate the zest).
  3. Add a handful of chopped fresh herbs to finish a casserole or curry.  Think parsley or basil (Mediterranean flavours) or coriander (Indian and Asian meals).
  4. This may seem a little gross to some, but a few baby spinach leaves blended into a smoothie is a great way to incorporate greens into your diet.  The good news is that its flavour disappears behind strong flavours like berries and chocolate.
  5. And always add fats to your greens (butter, coconut oil, olive oil… for more on which oils and when see here).   Fat greatly assists the absorption of nutrients from vegetables and salads.  Plus they make them so much more appetising.  For more on the fascinating health benefits of adding fat to your greens, see here.

Grow your greens
What better way to optimise the nutrition available in greens, than to grow your own.  All varieties of lettuce, spinach, rocket, mustard greens, kale, parsley and coriander grow very easily throughout the winter months.  They can be grown in small spaces and even in pots.  They are also very low care – no green thumb required!  Give it a go, there’s nothing better than picking your own.  Also, add in a marigold – the flowers petals added to greens makes them much more beautiful  (I just love edible flowers).

Kids and greens
What is it with kids and greens?  It took 3 years of serving up salads to my kids before they finally started eating them.  My son used to pick up the leaves, frown and say ‘don’t like flowers!’  (no matter how many times I corrected him that they were leaves, he maintained they were in fact flowers!)  So if greens are off the cards for your kids there are a few things you can do to bring them around.

  1.  Keep eating them yourself and always offer them.  It is essential to always demonstrate healthy eating.  Put the greens in a self-serve bowl and encourage them to serve up some themselves (children love to participate in any way, they feel independent this way). If they are too young for this then just place one or two leaves onto their plate.  As I said it took 3 years of doing this before either of my children gave into greens.
  2. Always stir through a curry or casserole just prior to serving.  Prolonged cooking destroys many of the nutrients in greens so mixing in at the last minute is the way to go.  Chop them very finely if you have to ‘hide them’. i.e.; basil in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, coriander in Indian and parsley in either.
  3. Make a pesto – many children love their greens this way. Recipes here and here.
  4. For older children I find marketing the benefits of eating greens works really well. Don’t say ‘they are good for you’ as many children just don’t want a bar of being ‘good’.  For example; my son wants to be stronger and faster, so I drop little hints that his favourite superhero relies on greens for his strength and speed.  For my daughter, I appeal to her vanity (and oh, is she vain!)- ‘greens for longer, shinier hair’.  Whatever appeals to your child.  McDonalds market their food to kids very well, so why can’t you?  Don’t harp on, just little consistent comments will do.

I will discuss much more tips for dealing with food fussiness in children, very soon.  Until then, just don’t give up.

I hope I have encouraged you to consider eating your greens and how simply they can be incorporated into winter meals.  Try it this winter.  I firmly believe that greens play an integral role in avoiding the typical winter onslaught of illness.

 Share how you eat your greens.  Any more suggestions for frustrated parents of ‘green phobic’ children? Post your comments below.

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  • Adrianne

    My 15 month old daughter will eat any spinach and fetta combo every day of the week if I served it up. She can’t get her head around the texture of salad yet. She will sort …. then resort her plate before having a chew, spitting out and moving back onto sorting. But I guess it’s a good thing she’s interested enough to sort through it.

    • I think this is pretty common. As I said, both my kids were at least 3 before they would happily eat salad. My daughter would do the same as yours, try it and spit it. My son used to just fling it over to our plate. You should try mixing finely chopped herbs, or even chopped leaves into a cooked meal (casserole or soup or mash). Adding a little raw in somewhere is good and the taste for it develops without them noticing. I bet if you keep persisting she will come around (only 21 months to go if she’s like my two!!). It’s great she like spinach/feta – one of my favourite combo’s too. G x

  • Edina

    Great ideas. I can always rely on pesto to get a few greens into my kids, they love it. I make up a batch every week consisting of whatever greens Ive got or managed to get from the weekend market. Usually basil, parsley, kale & spinach at least, with whatever nuts Ive got & handful of pepitas. Sometimes rocket, broccoli, silverbeet & this week I brought dandelion leaves so they went into this weeks batch. Kept in a jar in the fridge, my kids then like it mixed through some pasta for a quick meal, or spread on toast with an egg or on crackers with a bit of cheese. They will not yet eat greens or veges that are in a salad or that they can see in their meal (very frustrating) so I also make “baby food” to hide them. A big pot of mixed steamed veges that I then mash with a dab of butter like mashed potato, they will devour big bowls of that!

    • I really love these tips. Great to think outside the square of just basil for pesto. Combining the greens is just fantastic and adding pepitas to the mix is another great idea. Just thought of one more thing I make – I call it ‘green eggs and ham’ (like the book). Whilst my kids are pretty good, they often fuss over cooked greens like kale and spinach. So, I throw eggs, spinach or kale (or any green), cheese and a little grated lemon zest (I find it lifts the earthy flavour) in a blender and whizz it like a smoothie. Stir through some chopped ham or bacon then scramble or make into an omelette. It’s bright green, but thanks to Dr Seuss, they will eat it! Thanks so much for your valuable suggestions. G x

      • Nat

        I love pan fried kale with lemon zest, salt and pepper. You get little crunchy salty bits that are delicious. Yum

        • Me too, although the caterpillars are enjoying my Kale before it hits my plate! S’pose they have to eat too! Have you ever tried tossing it in a little coconut oil, tamari and pepper and oven roasting to make kale chips. Good too, and the kids prefer it like this. G x

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  • Isi

    I steamed up some Savoy cabbage. Added some sesame seed oil. Toasted sesame seeds and tamari on rice and my 3 year old munched a huge pile of it. I suppose the salty tamari really helps 🙂
    Any-green-thing-pesto on toast is a big favorite too.

    • Sounds great and yes, kids do love tamari (see my ingredients glossary for more info). I often cook Kale or spinach this way too. Thanks for your ideas. G x

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  • Kelly Berghella

    Great tips, thanks. I have a 9 month old daughter so I am soaking up all your tips and tricks in preparation for the years ahead. I am so focussed on her eating well and us being a good example to her. Thanks for all your super helpful posts Georgia

    • You’re welcome Kelly. I love your dedication and commitment to leading by example, good on you, G x

  • Jo

    Stir fried or steamed kale with olives, walnuts, garlic, chicken, a little bit of balsamic vinegar and pasta is a big hit here. Including my one year old and fussy hubby. “What’s this green vegetable, it tastes so good’. And he shudders when I mention kale 😀

    • Jo, I love this because it really demonstrates that you should never give up and that you should keep trying the same foods, served in different ways. Plus it sounds YUM! Thanks for sharing, G x

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