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The Easiest Ways to Sneak Greens into Your Diet—And Actually Like It

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Do green, leafy vegetables scare you? They don't have to! Dietitian Brittyn Howard explains why leafy veggies are so important and lends a hand with some yummy recipes!
Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com


Green leafy vegetables are infamously known for their vitamin K and fiber content. While this is true, it doesn’t even come close to representing their full nutritional profile. Greens are a great source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, calcium, B vitamins and antioxidants. As a matter of fact, one cup of kale has even more vitamin C than a large orange!

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Green leafy vegetables include common greens such as kale, spinach, romaine, arugula and collard greens and other less-known greens such as dandelion, watercress, chard and chickweed. Many people complain that they simply don’t like the bitter taste of greens, therefore they omit them from their diet.

Greens are a great source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, calcium, B vitamins and antioxidants.

If you are one of these people, here are seven easy ways to sneak greens into your diet and reap the tremendous health benefits that leafy veggies have to offer.

1. Green Tropical Smoothie

Green-smoothie.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 peeled orange
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 cups frozen spinach or kale
  • 1/4 cup mango
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in blender, with unfrozen ingredients at the bottom toward the blade and heaviest frozen ingredients at the top (to force the ingredients down toward the blade).
  2. Blend until smooth, adding almond milk as needed.
  3. Enjoy!

Parsley Mango Smoothie

Parsley smoothie.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 frozen avocado
  • 1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender, with greens toward the bottom and heavier ingredients (mango and avocado) toward the top.
  2. Pour in 1/2 cup almond milk and begin to blend. Feel free to add another 1/2 cup almond milk depending on your thickness preference.
  3. Top with parsley, chia, cacao nibs or your choice of topping!
  4. Enjoy!

2. Kale Pesto

Pesto.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

  • 4 cups kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds
  • 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in high-power blender until well combined and a thick paste.
  2. Add more water for a thinner sauce.
  3. Use on pastas, grains like quinoa or in your salad!

Spinach Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or sub 1/4 cup water)

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in high-power blender until well combined and a thick paste.
  2. Add more water for a thinner sauce.
  3. Use on pastas, in place of tomato sauce on a pizza or drizzle on veggies!

3. Cheesy Kale Chips

Kale chips.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. chopped kale leaves, organic preferred
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (or sub another plant-based oil)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (unsalted preferred)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of smoked paprika (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Add kale and oil to large mixing bowl and mix until covered.
  3. Pour sunflower seeds, half of the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and smoked paprika (optional) to a blender or food processor and process until finely chopped and combined.
  4. Add mixture to kale and hand toss to coat.
  5. Spread kale over 2 large baking sheets, making sure to have as few overlapping as possible.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining nutritional yeast.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip/mix kale with a heat-safe spatula and then bake 5-7 minutes more until crispy and golden.
  8. Let cool before serving.
  9. Make sure they are completely cooled before storing. They’ll keep for 2-3 days but the crispness starts fading after a loud a day. They’re so tasty you may have trouble saving any!
  10. Enjoy!

4. Cucumber Parsley Green Juice

Green juice.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 1 head of celery (8-10 stalks)
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 small knob of ginger (1/2 inch)

Directions

  1. Wash all produce thoroughly and cut off ends of celery and cucumbers
  2. Put all ingredients into juicer
  3. Enjoy!

5. Lemon Basil Hummus

Hummus.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cans organic chickpeas (drained—keep the liquid!)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 cup organic basil
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • paprika
  • sea salt and ground pepper
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Drain two cans of chickpeas and save the liquid in a bowl and set aside. You can use a strainer to make the process easier!
  2. Put in the drained chickpeas, basil, spinach, garlic, tahini and the juice from 1 lemon in your food processor.
  3. Add in the sea salt, ground black pepper and paprika.
  4. Secure lid and blend until finely chopped, then slowly add in the olive oil. The mixture should be pretty thick and still pretty chunky.
  5. Continue to blend mixture for about 10-15 seconds, then pour in about 1/2 cup of the chickpea liquid (aquafaba) into the hummus mixture. Scrape down the sides of the processor and blend until smooth.
  6. If you’d like a more lemon-y taste, use a grater and zest in some lemon skin into the mix or on top of the finished hummus.
  7. Scrape out into a bowl and enjoy! Top with lemon zest, olive oil, paprika, basil leaves or any garnish of your choice!

6. Tofu Tofu Scramble

Tofu scramble.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu, well pressed and mashed with fork
  • 2 cups kale (raw or frozen)—feel free to add other veggies!
  • 1/2 can beans (I used kidney but you can substitute for black or pinto, too!)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, more to taste
  • optional: top with red pepper flakes
  • sea salt (my favorite here) and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • other yummy spices that go well: cumin, coriander or a little dash of curry

Directions

  1. Sauté kale with garlic until thoroughly cooked.
  2. Add mashed tofu, beans, garlic, soy sauce and turmeric to skillet and stir to combine.
  3. Cook for 5-8 minutes and stir occasionally to heat all the way through. Add cayenne and more turmeric to taste.
  4. Once fully heated, remove skillet from heat and add nutritional yeast and stir to mix completely. Add salt and pepper to taste, adding other herbs and spices for desired taste.
  5. Eat as a scramble, wrap in a gluten-free tortilla for a breakfast burrito, put on top of toast with avocado, the options are endless! Enjoy!

7. Grapefruit Sweet Potato Salad

Healthy salad.

Photo by Brittyn Howard/Brittynhoward.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups kale
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted sweet potato
  • 1/2 grapefruit, peeled
  • avocado (grill it for extra flavor!)
  • roasted pumpkin seeds
  • vinaigrette of choice (try balsamic, apple cider or lemon)

Directions

  1. If sweet potatoes are not already roasted, dice them into small pieces and coat them in a thin layer of olive or avocado oil, salt and pepper and roast on 400 for 20 minutes, then flip and roast another 20 minutes.
  2. Place kale in bowl, topped with roasted sweet potato, grapefruit, avocado, roasted pumpkin seeds and vinaigrette of choice!
  3. Enjoy!