There’s a whole world of tasty greens out there. So fill your plate with these low-calorie, low-carbohydrate nutrient powerhouses. If you’re like many people, you might shy away from including leafy greens into your diet, thinking their flavors are too strong or bitter. Fear not. Leafy greens have different flavors, so if you don’t like one, there are plenty more to try. And who knows, you just might find that starting with milder greens like baby spinach gives you the confidence to branch out to stronger, more pungent leaves like mustard greens. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider or nutritionist about a healthy eating plan that is right for you.
Mild: Iceberg Lettuce. It has an undeserved reputation of being devoid of nutrition. Sure, other leafy vegetables are more nutritionally dense, with ample vitamins A and C, folate, and more. But iceberg lettuce does offer a healthy dose of vitamin K, along with smidgens of other nutrients, including potassium and vitamin C.
Medium: Kale, Spinach, Butter, Romaine, and Red Leaf Lettuces. Slightly stronger flavored, but still mellow enough for most people.
Strong: Chicory, Escarole, and Radicchio. Strongest flavor and more bite.
Peppery: Arugula and Watercress. Tastes slightly spicy or mustard-like.
If more flavorful choices are too strong for you, mix them with your favorite mild greens. Most lettuce varieties are available year-round in large supermarkets. Be sure to hit your local farmers’ market to pick up tender baby greens with a delicious sweet flavor. Better yet, plant some in your backyard or in a container garden.
There are at least as many varieties of cooking greens as salad greens, and of course, many find a place in either a salad bowl or a cooking pot.
Mild: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, and Collards. Many people describe kale as similar to collards but more strongly flavored. Try them steamed, sautéed, or in soups.
Strong: Turnip and Mustard Greens. Strong flavor with some bite. Great sautéed or steamed.
Slightly Bitter: Dandelion Greens. Earthy, nutty, and pleasantly bitter. Prepare them sautéed, steamed, or boiled.
More Bitter: Broccoli Rabe and Rapini. Blanching (a quick dip in boiling water and then cooling in an ice bath) before continuing to cook really mellows the vegetable. Enjoy them sautéed, steamed, roasted, or grilled.
Cooking Tip: In general, we find adding a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice during cooking tones down the flavor of strong or bitter greens.
Leafy greens have different flavors, so if you don’t like one, there are plenty more to try
Be sure to wash greens in a salad spinner. It’s good for both cleaning and drying. Save the thick stalks from Swiss chard, and cook them as you would celery or asparagus. Discard stems from other greens. Sauté greens in a large pan with a little olive or canola oil and fresh garlic. Steam or blanch bitter greens before sautéing. To make greens especially tender, braise them by adding a little broth after sautéing and cook for another ten minutes or until the liquid evaporates.
Salads, of course
Minimize the stronger flavors of kale and arugula by finely chopping them and mixing them in with your favorite milder salad greens. Once you get used to the strong flavors, add more and in larger pieces. Eventually, you might find you’ll crave a kale, arugula, or Swiss chard salad! Serve tender greens, such as dandelion, with a warm dressing to wilt the leaves.
Green your smoothie
Blend a handful of baby spinach along with an equal amount frozen fruit and a cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. You’ll get more green color than green flavor at first. Then become a little more daring with two handfuls, then three. Eventually, add kale, beet greens, and others.
Mix them into family favorites
Add a little sautéed spinach or kale to scrambled eggs. Slip Swiss chard between the layers of lasagna. Toss a few torn turnip greens with onions and potatoes before roasting.
Slip into soups
Wilt spinach into soup after taking the pot off the heat. Or add chopped kale or another hearty green for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Simply snack on it
Greens may not be the first thing you think of when grabbing a snack, but kale chips are trendy! Toss the washed and torn kale in with olive oil and seasonings, such as salt, garlic, or paprika. Spread a single layer on a baking sheet and cook at 275ºF until crispy (20–30 minutes), turning the chips once, halfway through baking.
Now that you know more than a few ways to include greens in your daily diet, pick one that works for you. You may just find that adding other cooking styles will be easier than you thought.