Leafy greens are one of the nutritional powerhouse foods dietitians and health experts are constantly saying we need to be eating more. Like other fruits and vegetables, they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. According to the USDA, green leafy vegetables may be one of the leading cancer-preventing foods. Eating two to three servings of leafy greens per week may lower the risk for certain cancers.
The good news is adding leafy greens to your diet doesn’t have to be complicated—or boring. Leafy greens can go way beyond just salads. You can literally throw on a handful or two when cooking to seamlessly add in this nutritional powerhouse food. Here are 10 non-salad ways you can easily add leafy greens to your meals.
1. Top your pizza
Whether you are making pizza from scratch or heating up a frozen pizza, you can throw on a handful or two of spinach or other leafy greens the last few minutes to your pizza while it’s baking in the oven. Keep in mind these will cook down quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to throw on more than you think.
2. Blend in with smoothies
My favorite way to add more leafy greens to my diet is tossing them into a smoothie. Simply blend up fresh or frozen fruit, a liquid as needed (dairy or non-dairy milk), some leafy greens and optional add-ins like protein powder, a few slices of avocado, a tbsp of nut butter, etc.
This can be an easy way to get more leafy greens especially for those that don’t want to eat them.
3. Add to a stir-fry, roasted or sautéed veggies
If you are already stir-frying, roasting or sautéing meat and/or vegetables, get in the habit of adding in a handful or two of leafy greens. Like adding to pizza, adding leafy greens here will cook down substantially and blend in with other ingredients.
4. Throw them in egg dishes
If you are already cooking eggs as an omelet, scramble or baked dish, you can easily incorporate some leafy greens in the process. This breakfast egg cups recipe simply combines eggs, spinach, veggies and cheese that are baked in a muffin tin. Egg breakfast cups can be made ahead of time and kept in the frig for an easy breakfast or snack on the go that is nutrient-packed.
5. Stir in soups or stews
Making a pot of soup in a slow cooker or Instapot is an easy, simple way to add in some extra greens to a dish you are already making. A benefit of adding leafy greens in a soup or stew is you don’t lose any nutrients from draining the cooking water. You chop up greens to smaller pieces if you don’t want a big piece of cooked greens throughout your soup. Choosing tougher leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard can hold up well in soup or stew recipes.
6. Juicing your greens at home
Do you have a juicer at home? If so, you can add leafy greens to your homemade juice. In fact, you can add other vegetables like celery, carrots, beets or cucumbers as well. Easy Green Juice from Minimalist Baker combines kale, parsley, green apples, celery, cucumbers, ginger and lemons for a refreshing, green homemade juice. For optimal nutrient content and flavor, drink juice soon after juicing. You can even use the leftover pulp in homemade crackers, pancakes and baked goods.
7. Top sandwiches or wraps
If you are a sandwich lover, one of the easiest ways to add leafy greens is by adding them to your sandwich or wrap. No matter how simple the sandwich, add on those leafy greens such as spinach or Arugula to add some color, texture and beef up the nutrients in your sandwich. You can even add in a veggie sandwich into your schedule by adding in even more veggies to a sandwich, hummus and optional cheese.
8. Make green rice instead of white Rice
If you are making rice as part of your weekly meals, why not make green rice instead of plain white rice? You can easily make green rice by adding in spinach, cilantro or parsley, optional jalapeño and pinch of salt blended with your cooking liquid. Adding these greens can elevate your rice by adding color, flavor and nutrients. Make a big batch on the weekend and use throughout the week for easy meal planning.
9. Make your own green sauce
You can be creative by using leafy greens to add flavor to meats, roasted veggies or pasta dishes. Some green-based sauces can be made in minutes and can be cheaper than pre-made store-bought sauces. This 5-minute sauce from Pinch of Yum uses green ingredients like parsley, cilantro, avocado, jalapeño and pistachios for a flavorful sauce for meats or even as a dip on its own. You can also make from leafy greens pesto sauces such as spinach walnut pesto.
10. Oatmeal or overnight oats
Besides egg dishes or a smoothie, you can also add in some leafy greens for breakfast with oats. There are many savory oat recipes that incorporate leafy greens with other savory ingredients like parmesan cheese, peas, mint, chives or caramelized onions.
You could also add greens to overnight oats by blending them, i.e. spinach, with your liquid and other ingredients such as maple syrup, berries, banana, chia seeds, etc. Overnight oats can be made the night before and stored overnight in the frig for an easy, nutritious, quick breakfast.