Monday Mission: Get Spring Greens in your Diet

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Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to get more greens into your daily meals.

Spring is the perfect time for this as (finally) some local foods are going to come into season in the colder climates. For a while, it will be greens, greens, and only greens (+ asparagus).

Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss (17) (500x333)

(By the way, if you’re wondering why this mission is on a Tuesday instead of a Monday, I just got a little worked out about our culture of food yesterday and “wagered” a post that interrupted my normal schedule…)

Why eat more greens? Not only because they might be fresh and local, but any time of  year because they fight cancer, improve a ton of body functions and have more health benefits than I can count!

This post is sponsored by Plan to Eat, where their mission is to help families plan healthy, real food meals at  home to encourage family mealtime, saving money, and being well, both physically and emotionally.

Can You Find the Perfect Recipe?

When you have an unfamiliar ingredient you’d like to use, it’s amazing and wonderful that the power of the Internet can quickly spit out hundreds of recipes using that food, isn’t it?

Sometimes, though, it can hamper our creativity and ability to think outside the box. For example, I encouraged my mom to include artichokes more in my dad’s anti-cancer diet, along with greens of any kind. She was a trooper about it and looked up some artichoke recipes to use up the huge Costco-sized jar I left with her.

Unfortunately, the recipes were a bust. Too lemony, too crunchy, too whatever for my dad to enjoy it. She froze the rest of the artichokes and hoped to include them in something, someday. But the nail was already going into the coffin of artichokes to be sure.

When they visited for the weekend, I used nearly a whole huge jar of artichokes in 2-3 meals, and Dad wasn’t any the wiser. My mom was also surprised I had stuck them into so many things, and I explained how easy it would be to cut up the artichoke heart small and incorporate them into any soup or especially the pasta meals that my dad adores, which are kind of cheats anyway and could use a little boost. (No pressure, Mom, no pressure…but whenever you’re ready, I have two more jars here for you!) Winking smile

My mom has also been awesome at including leafy greens in Dad’s smoothies, but I still had to encourage her to think outside the recipes. Here’s the key:

Greens can go into almost anything

It’s true!

Beef stroganoff? Greens.

Pasta dish of any kind. Greens.

Soup? Any soup at all? Greens.

Okay, so maybe they wouldn’t go all that great in oatmeal, but even basic staples like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables can absorb some cooked greens without too many complaints (as long as the eater can get over the green mashed potatoes, you really can’t taste much!).

If you’re steaming broccoli for a normal side veg, just add a few leaves. Just ask your adult eaters to simply spear a piece of broccoli with a bit of greens, and they are barely noticed.

My Poor, Poor Brain

It gets so tired, you know.

Even though I know how easy it can be to add greens to any recipe, I can have a bunch of kale in the crisper drawer for a week and simply forget that I should be using it. No matter how easy it is, if you forget completely, it doesn’t work very well. Winking smile

I have two basic strategies for trying to make sure I do include greens more often, especially when I’ve already bought them. (I do buy greens without a plan for them, by the way, which some say is a bad idea because you might waste the food. But for me, having them on hand is the push I need to remember to plan them in, so it’s a first line of attack in a way, and I try hard NOT to waste them!)

First, in my Plan to Eat recipes in my online menu planner, I have taken to editing recipes to make notes of including greens. This helps my poor, tired brain out the next time!

I might be planning a week’s worth of dinners and have a note-to-self like this:

“Use or freeze kale, celery and tomato paste!”

While I’m planning, I’ll make sure my chosen meals either already include those foods OR I can immediately edit the recipe (so easy to do in PTE) and add “greens” into the ingredients list and/or the directions. Also when I do add greens to a meal, I can grab my tablet after dinner and make sure I edit the recipe to help my poor, tired brain have a leg up next time I plan that dish.

It’s best if I add it to the ingredients, because then I can use strategy number two even more efficiently – searching for recipes with “greens” (or “kale” or “spinach” etc.) when I know I have some to use up. I focus either on my own recipes in Plan to Eat or on the KS group, where I know I’ve got a much better chance of finding both tried-and-true meals and real food ingredients that on a standard Google (or Swagbucks) search.

“How to Use Greens” Ideas for You

If you’ve ever had a CSA, you probably are well versed at including greens in everything. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of five bunches of unidentified leafy things hitting your fridge every week, you might enjoy these green-y tips and recipes from KS – always family-friendly, kid-approved, real food standards:

Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss (11) (500x333)

Creamy Alaskan halibut with Caramelized Onions (8) (475x356)

dehydrating greens (5) (475x356)

Salmon Spinach Pesto Crustless Quiche (1) (475x356)

What About Those Pesky Anti-Nutrients?

Spinach contains oxalates. Kale contains goitrogens.

The first, not so great if you’re at risk of kidney stones. The latter can hinder thyroid function, which is actually suffering in many Americans (most of whom don’t realize it and just think they’re tired…see above, my brain!).

I’ve written about them in the past HERE, but it seems that so much new information is coming out all the time. It’s hard to keep up! I know there are some real foodies who won’t touch the cruciferous family raw with a 10-foot pole, nevertheless a fork.

For me, I’ll eat a mixture of raw and cooked greens, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, and I’m not worrying about it yet.

On the other hand, I keep wondering about all that I hear about low thyroid function (my basal body temps have always been closer to “dead” than normal!) and adrenal fatigue. I’m guessing I’m a prime candidate with the sleep schedule I tend to keep. Sad smile

Now the important question – are you going to figure out how to use more greens in your meals, starting this week? Buy some kale or spinach and see what you can do with the pressure of using it! Winking smile 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Plan to Eat. There are affiliate links in this post to Phoenix and the Thyroid Sessions from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

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5 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. BeccaM says

    My boys (ages 3 and 1) look askance at most green vegetables, though it is not for lack of exposure! So I’ve been buying bags of frozen organic spinach at BJ’s (my local bulk store) and throwing a handful into their kefir smoothie in the mornings, along with some blueberries, to hide the fact that their drink is quite green 😉 So far, they don’t even notice or mind!

    I cook kale, spinach, cabbage and other greens on a regular basis. Kale is my absolute favorite! So versatile: it holds up well in recipes, or just sauteed on it’s own with olive oil, onions & garlic. And it tastes so good to me.

  2. SarahEileen via Facebook says

    We are already overloaded wit greens from our work trade, so I already dehydrated a bunch! Before I saw this! So I am awesome! :)

  3. Alice via Facebook says

    Tee hee hee. Greens are just about done in my neck of the woods! By the end of May it will be too hot, and they’ll be gone. But then we’ll have zucchini and cucumbers. And peaches! :)

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