Come on greens, work your magic! Sometimes you just feel that you need an extra boost of…something! Increasing leafy greens should hopefully give us the little extra energy boost we need, particularly if you’re a vegetarian. I usually just fry up a bunch of silverbeet or spinach with garlic, onion, and any other vegetables I have on hand, plus some nuts or seeds. How do you eat your leafy greens, and how do you get your kids to? A green smoothie is always a winner with my little guy. He will always try whatever I give him but understandably the texture of leaves, which are too similar to the ones he sees outside, was initially a little daunting. We all need to be eating a rainbow every day, so if we can include greens of some sort into our kids’ day every day, we’re winning.
Here are a few ideas to incorporate more of that green goodness into your lives.
Get the kids into the kitchen
Getting him to help me in the kitchen is a great incentive for him to taste the food, or at least put it in his mouth. Here is my little kitchen hand preparing the spinach for pesto. Sure it doesn’t actually need to be chopped up, since it’s going in the food processor, but it kept him amused for five minutes. He’s actually getting pretty good with his @foost.com.au knife now. Do your kids help in the kitchen? It doesn’t even need to be something particularly productive.
- wash the veggie scraps in a bowl of water, or sort them into little containers
- place the chopped veggies onto the baking tray to roast them, and even toss them in the oil
- they could wash the dishes as you use them
- put the peelings in the bin for you
- assemble raw veggies onto plates for a side salad
- rip up lettuce, pull stalks off mushrooms etc…
The pesto we often make together can go with pasta, but it’s just as lovely mixed with some roasted veggies, added to ‘zoodles’, or as an accompaniment to chicken or fish.
This was probably the most delicious lasagna I’ve ever had! Homemade pesto and ricotta. To make it dairy free, the ricotta could be swapped for cashew cheese or pureed cauliflower. The lasagne sheets could also be gluten free, or could be substituted with slices of sweet potato or eggplant/aubergine. This pesto was a blend of mixed nuts, spinach, basil, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast flakes, and olive oil. To make it nut free, seeds could be used instead.
Kale. Yes it’s amazing for you, and everyone raves about its health properties…but eating it raw for me is like chewing on paper towel. Bitter and ruffled paper towel. And nope, I don’t like it in smoothies either. Too fibrous, that stuff does not become smooth at all. That’s why I only like it as chips. It is THE BEST!! Simply cooked in the oven until really crispy with some olive oil, sea salt flakes, garlic, and a sprinkling of chilli or smoked paprika. It often doesn’t even make it into a bowl for me, I just stand over the hot oven tray and essentially down a whole bunch of kale in seconds. My toddler stands there to eat it with me now and we make a big mess together. How do you like to prepare kale? Am I weird in my kale-despising ways? You could other leafy greens to make chips, if you really can’t tolerate kale.
Smoothies and smoothie bowls
There are so many delicious green smoothie recipes out there and I don’t really have a favourite. I usually just make mine up with whatever ingredients I have. Generally as a rule, if I’m making one for my son and me, I’ll use two servings of fruit, plus a couple of handfuls of greens. If I want to make it a milky one, I’ll add nuts, seeds, chia seeds, coconut or almond milk, and perhaps some avocado. If I want to make it more of a cleansing juice texture, I’ll use water or coconut water as the liquid, and then add a couple of handfuls of green leaves (this could even be lettuce), more veggies like carrots, cucumber, and maybe some ginger. Have a play around with recipes until you find one or two you like. Check out my attempt to get creative with a smoothie bowl!
It’s all about exposure
I simply continue to put a couple of leaves on Little Foodie’s plate whenever we eat leafy greens. It’s important not to make separate meals for everyone or cater to what each one prefers. ‘One family, one meal’ should be our mantra. Some days he takes it off his plate, some days he puts it in his mouth and takes it out again, but a couple of times he’s surprised me (not that I would show it though, I don’t want it to be a big deal), and chewed a leaf up. He sees us enjoying it, too, so if you’re not too keen on on your leafy greens yourself, you might learn to like them alongside your child. Even if it’s only for your child’s sake.
What are the health benefits?
These are some of the health-promoting nutrients that you can get from leafy greens:
- Vitamin A helps with good vision and healthy immune function. Leafy greens are a good source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids like beta-carotene which your body can use to make vitamin A.
- Vitamin C required for the growth and repair of tissues throughout your body, including bones and teeth. It can also function as an antioxidant, protecting your DNA from damage by free radicals. Vitamin C can help your body absorb iron from plant-based (non-haem) sources like beans, lentils and broccoli.
- Vitamin K plays an important role in helping your blood to clot which stops continuous bleeding when we have a cut or bruise. There is also increasing evidence that vitamin K improves bone health and reduces the risk of bone fractures, but researchers are still looking into this.
- Folate is a B-vitamin essential for the healthy development in early pregnancy, particularly in preventing neural tube defects. It is also important in DNA synthesis and the building or repairing of tissues like red blood cells.
- Potassium is an electrolyte that helps keeps fluids balanced in your blood and tissues. Potassium also helps to control blood pressure and leafy greens are a particularly good source.
- Magnesium is essential for hundreds of different processes in your body, including energy production, bone development, mineral balance, muscle contraction and protein and DNA synthesis.
- Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. While dairy foods are the best source, some leafy greens contain high amounts of calcium as well, particularly kale, rocket and bok choy.
- Fibre helps to make you feel full and aids in weight loss. Fibre is essential in keeping your digestive system healthy and keep your bowel movements regular. Eating a diet high in fibre has been shown to reduce your risk of a range of health conditions including diverticular disease, heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer (Australia’s 3rd most common cancer).