On the Table

On the Table: Add hearty greens to make your summer meals healthy

CorrespondentJune 10, 2014 

It’s the season of abundance of everything green.

In last week’s column, I made the case for using lettuce to make supersize entrée salads as often as possible. Don’t stop there.

Starting now through the fall, other greens are also readily available. These are the heavy hitters, the tough stuff like kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, collards, mustard, turnip greens and spinach.

These greens are substantial in that they are flavorful and have a firmer, heavier texture than most salad greens. That’s why we tend to serve them cooked rather than raw.

They’re also intense in terms of their nutrient content. Dark green, leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron, calcium, folic acid, potassium, vitamins A, C and E, beneficial phytochemicals and dietary fiber.

Find ways to work these substantial greens into your diet at least a few times each week. Consider alternating meals with cooked greens and meals with raw green salads so you are eating something green most days of the week.

It’s easy to make cooked greens a substantial part of meals.

For starters, keep them on hand at home, washed and ready to use. Wrap them in damp paper towels and store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Then use cooked greens as the base for a variety of entrees and sides.

I typically sauté onions and minced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet, add washed greens, cover and steam until tender.

You can stir soy ginger sauce, balsamic vinegar or other marinades into the greens while they are steaming. Use cooked greens – plain or seasoned – as a simple side or try some of these ideas for incorporating them into meals in other ways:

• Add cooked greens to pasta dishes. For example, toss them with cooked bow tie pasta, olive oil, toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.

• Serve cooked greens over a helping of steamed white or brown rice or couscous. Garnish with sliced, fresh tomatoes and corn cut off the cob.

• Stir cooked greens into a pot of vegetable or lentil soup.

• Mix cooked greens with pintos or black-eyed peas and serve with a chunk of cornbread and more of those backyard tomatoes.

Feature greens in your summertime meals as often as possible.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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