As many of you know, I have a love-love relationship with vegetables, especially my greens. However, it wasn't always this way. Like many children, I saved the vegetables for last at dinner, and then insisted to my dear parents that I was just too full to finish my meal and I would "finish it later." Did I ever finish it later? If you guessed no, you'd be right. The truth is, I grew up in a home with two holistic doctors, so our diets were VERY clean. No chips, no junk food, and definitely no candy. I used to ask all of the kids at school for a taste of their lunches. Princess gummies were the ultimate score.
It wasn't until college when I was really on my own for food that I began to appreciate my upbringing and the way my parents fed our family. I found myself walking the extra distance to the healthiest dining hall on campus at UMass Amherst, Hampshire Dining. If you've been to UMass you can attest that this university has a HUGE campus. I was the first in line for the DIY Asian Stir-Fry Station. I would load up my plate with broccoli, carrots, spinach, onions, tofu, you name it. I'd then make my way over to the organic juice bar, and grab myself the fresh juice of the day. I hardly looked at the dessert station. While my colleagues returned home with the freshman fifteen, I had actually lost weight, and my skin was glowing.
My point in telling you this story is to emphasize the fact that I had to be on my own to learn how I liked my food prepared. If I hadn't had this experience, I wouldn't be such a veggie lover and I definitely wouldn't be what some call a "healthy vegan." Every palate is different. What you enjoy someone may strongly dislike. Learning how you like your food prepared is essential to building a healthier relationship with your food. Instead of carrying the mindset "I don't like veggies" I encourage you to carry the mindset "I don't like my veggies prepared that way."
Today I will be teaching you first the benefits of incorporating more vegetables, specifically greens, into your diet, and second 3 irresistible ways you can eat greens even if you think you aren't a huge fan. I invite you to share this article if you find it helpful, and check out the YouTube recipe video below for an interactive cooking experience in my Minimalist Kitchen.
The Benefits of Eating Yo' Greens
Green vegetables are truly a miracle food. Not only do they help you lose weight, they reduce your risk of cancer, make you look younger and more radiant, strengthen your bones and are even attributed with living longer. Greens are packed with healthy nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, E and K (which are found in salad greens, spinach and kale). Many of the B complex vitamins are also found in bok choy, broccoli and mustard greens as well as calcium and fiber. The beauty about greens is that there are an abundance of options to choose from. Experiment with all of them to see which greens you like best!
Now, let's talk fiber for a second. It may not be the sexiest of topics, but when it comes to feeling full and losing weight, eating enough fiber can help make that easier. Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants and takes longer to move through the digestive system, which can promote that “full feeling.” Fiber also adds bulk to your stool (I warned you that this wouldn't be a sexy discussion), which helps keep things moving along. Most Americans only get approximately 16 grams of fiber per day, significantly less than the USDA Dietary Guideline’s recommendation of 25 - 38 grams. This is mostly due to an overconsumption of processed, packaged foods (all the more reason to go zero waste, by the way) void of fiber, and a diet lacking in fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, for every fruit serving, aim for two veggie servings, until you reach seven to nine total combined servings per day.
While green veggies are full of fiber and vitamins, what makes green vegetables (and really all vegetables and fruits) so healthy is their abundance of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants that help protect plants from disease, insects, injuries, etc.; they’re basically a plant’s immune system. The cool thing is they work for our immune system, too! Phytochemicals have been shown to be effective in treating cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. They also can decrease cholesterol levels and help prevent cell damage. Phytochemicals are very potent, and by eating healthy, organic & locally grown foods (like the recipes coming up below!), we can be assured of getting adequate amounts of these nutritional goldmines.
Eating Enough Green Vegetables
So now comes the question... How much is enough? The daily recommendations vary depending on age, gender and activity level, but generally a good guideline for an adult according to the USDA is 2 - 3 cups of vegetables daily.
I recommend eating the rainbow by consuming nutrient-rich meals and snacks. Foods with fiber, healthy fats, protein, quality carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients will leave you feeling satisfied and not hungry craving junk food throughout the day.
And now, for some killer recipes which will leave you lovin' greens like never before ;).
Chocolate Green Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to get in your greens. Add a handful of raw spinach, kale, or chard to your smoothie and you'll be sure to have that green smoothie glow in no time. Greens pair well with blueberries or mixed berries, which complement the deep color of the veggies and soften their flavor.
Makes approx. 1 smoothie
- 16 ounces homemade vanilla almond milk
- 2 cup baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon superfood greens (I used 1/4 cup kale) (optional)
- 1 tsp mushroom powder (optional)
- 1 cup ice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon monk sugar (candida cleanse friendly) OR 1 - 2 frozen banana OR 3 dates
- 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
- Sprinkle of cacao nibs
- Strawberries, banana, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
- Coconut shreds unsweetened
*Affiliate links above. If you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.
- Apart from the cacao nibs, throw all of your ingredients into the blender.
- Blend until fluffy and creamy (1 - 2 minutes).
- Serve in your favorite jar. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings, including: peanut butter, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, or even chocolate fudge!
Chipotle Chickpea "Tuna" Salad Wraps
A great way to include more veggies in a meal is to stick them in a meal that often doesn't contain very many. These wraps mean serious business. Feel free to use regular vegenaise if you aren't a big fan of chipotle.
- 16 oz cooked & cooled chickpeas
- 1/4 cup red onion minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper diced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro minced
- 3 tablespoons chipotle vegan mayo
- 1/4 cup minced purple cabbage
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Salt to taste
- For extra smokey flavor, top with smoked paprika
- Nutritional yeast
- Prep your chickpeas that you bought zero waste & in bulk. Soak them for 8 hours. Drain the water, and pour fresh water over them to boil. Boil your chickpeas for 30 minutes or until soft.
- Drain your chickpeas and let them cool for 20 minutes. While you are waiting for them to cool, finely chop your cilantro, red onion, red bell pepper, and purple cabbage.
- Once your chickpeas are cool, add the remaining ingredients.
- Load up your cabbage wraps and sprinkle with spinach for extra greens.
Mixed Greens & Chickpea Asian Stir-Fry
Sometimes you just gotta' have a big bowl of sautéed veggies.Creating a tasty stir-fry is all in the sauce. I love to mix and match spices to create exotic flavors. Check out this Asian-inspired meal.
Makes approx. 2 bowls
- 1.5 cups roasted chickpeas
- 1/4 cup red onion minced
- 1/2 cup broccoli
- 1/2 cup chard
- 1/2 cup spinach
- 1/4 cup minced purple cabbage
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- 2 cloves garlic OR pickled garlic
- 1 tablespoon creamy miso ginger dressing (recipe below)
- Nutritional yeast
- Begin by sautéing your onion and garlic in coconut oil or water. When brown, add in your broccoli and coconut aminos.
- While the flavors begin mixin' and minglin', begin chopping your chard, spinach, and purple cabbage.
- Add your remaining ingredients and stir for 2 minutes.
- Add your miso ginger dressing and stir.
- Serve in your favorite bowl. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Creamy Miso Ginger Dressing
- 1/4 cup miso
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger (fresh, minced; or 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
- Place all of your ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir
- Keep refrigerated when not in use.
Happy eating, green monsters!