Our diet has very few empty calories in it. We still indulge once a week or so, but generally everything we eat is:
whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, vegetables, or fruit. We minimize added oils and sugar and try to cook things from scratch whenever possible.
However, we still have to deliberately add leafy greens to our diet. It’s so easy to graze on fruit and peanut butter toast and miss out on the vibrant, colorful, healthful veggies… particularly leafy greens.
Salads can be tough on little kids, texture-wise, especially since one of ours has just a handful of teeth.
Here’s what we’ve been doing lately to up our green quotient:
I had gotten out of the habit of smoothies for breakfast, but lately I’ve been making one up most nights. A few cups of water, a blenderful of leafy greens, a tablespoon of ground flaxmeal, and a pound of frozen fruit makes a yummy concoction. I pour it into mugs, stick them in the fridge, clean the vitamix and call it a night.
Scott stirs his up in the morning and chugs it as he’s getting ready. The girls and I share a mug along with whatever else we’re eating for breakfast. (I often spoon it into the baby’s mouth since she has still not fully caught on to the cup thing.)
Pretty much any bean or lentil soup can handle quite a bit of chopped baby spinach or kale. Just add it into the last five minutes of cooking time. It cooks down to almost nothing and get slurped up by babies and preschoolers alike with the rest of the soup.
Modify the recipe
- My neighbor just had us over for black bean and brown rice burritos. She chopped up at least a whole bunch of fresh cilantro in her food processor and threw it in with the rice. More flavor, more greens down the hatch!
- Just this morning I threw a generous handful of spinach into my blender oatmeal pancake batter. My girls were delighted with the green pancakes and if anything they were tastier than usual. Proof positive that sometimes you just have to give things a try. 🙂
- I made a yummy Asian peanut noodle dish and realized it was saucy enough that it could handle some leafy crunch mixed in. Now I never make it without a head or two of romaine chopped up.
- Normally I steer clear of anything the Pioneer Woman cooks (she and I have irreconcilable differences about bacon and butter) but her Asian noodle salad recipe had promise. I doctored the dressing to lower the sodium and empty calories from oil, and I put all the cilantro with the salad (not chopped up in the dressing where it gets wilty). I doubled the veggies and kept the pasta amount the same. It’s now a pretty darn healthy dish with something for everyone. My girls happily munch on noodles, peppers, and cucumbers, and the older one (with teeth) doesn’t blink at the spinach.
I always double or triple recipes to give us plenty of leftovers, but for dishes to which I add fresh leafies (like the Asian peanut noodle dish above), I don’t add the greens to the whole dish. I chop all the lettuce and then I pull just the noodles we’re eating that night out and add lettuce to those. The extra noodles go straight in the fridge, as does the lettuce in separate containers. So Scott grabs a tupperware of saucy noodles and a tupperware of chopped lettuce for lunch the next day and combines before eating. No more wilty lettuce!
If I’m using just a part of a head of romaine lettuce (for example), rather than just start chopping from the leafy end, I pull off whole leaves and chop them up. That gives a better blend of leafy and crunchy, and gives me full leaves on the head to use next time.