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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Be adventurous – variety really is the spice of life so mix it up and try something new…mustard greens, tatsoi, endive, watercress, bok choy, rocket, spinach, beetroot leaves, kale, silverbeet, spinach…you get the gist.
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.
- Keep eating them yourself – it is essential to always demonstrate healthy eating.
- Always offering them. 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.
- Get them involved preparing the greens. My son was won over by simply washing and spinning the leaves in the salad spinner. This one simple task turned him from a green hater to a green lover overnight (because he’d been involved in making the salad).
- Get you kids to help grow them or at the very least, encourage them to pick and taste edible greens and flowers from the garden. Just remember to educate them that all greens and flowers are not edible (I learned the importance of this when my son was a toddler and grabbed a petunia flower at Bunnings and shoved it in his mouth).
- 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 or parsley in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, coriander in Indian, Thai or Middle Eastern cuisine.
- Make a pesto – many children love their greens this way. Recipes for delicious pest with a range of greens here and here.
- 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.