You’ve probably been told to “eat your greens” since childhood, and guess what? It’s still just as important today to do so. More than any other color of the rainbow, green produce is power-packed with nutritional value, and it’s worth loading your plate up with plenty of it. Of course, some green stuff is wonderful on its own (avocado, anyone?), but boring ol’ boiled broccoli hardly inspires one to keep on eating it. Here are some fun ways to spruce up your old green favorites—just in time for spring and St. Patrick’s Day.
Avocado. Whether they’re in your guacamole or a topping on your salad, this fruit has earned its place among the superfoods. “Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids known to help reduce LDL cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Hailey Crean, RD, a registered dietitian and diabetes coach.
“The healthy fat profile and fiber provide a ton of satisfying staying power to whatever you add them to.” Crean suggests adding avocado to your toast—try a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes on top—or tossing them into a green juice for some added creaminess. You can even top half an avocado with a fried egg for the perfect snack.
Okra. This veg isn’t everyone’s favorite because of how slimy it is, says Megan Wong, RD, a registered dietitian. But it sure is nutritious. “It’s low-calorie, packs in lots of immune-boosting vitamin C, is a good source of soluble fiber and folate, and contains potassium,” Wong says. “Soluble fiber and potassium are heart-healthy nutrients, helping to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure, respectively. And soluble fiber can help stabilize blood sugars and keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you don’t snack as much.”
Of course, you will want to eliminate okra’s sliminess. Cook the okra whole instead of slicing it, Wong suggests. She notes that “you can also make crunchy okra fries by roasting them whole.” They are a tasty, savory snack.
Parsley. Wong calls parsley “so underrated” as a green addition to your plate. “It’s a mega source of vitamin C and vitamin A, and provides a good amount of potassium and iron too,” she says. “It’s great for your immune system, eyes, and heart.” It’s usually used as a garnish but think beyond that. “A tabbouleh salad is my favorite way to get in a bunch of parsley, but you can even make pesto out of it or try making Persian Herb Frittatas.” It’s more versatile than you think!
Asparagus. Asparagus is the perfect side for a great cut of lean meat to round out a dinner plate. “When in season, asparagus is inexpensive and readily available,” Crean says. “Nutritionally, it’s an excellent source of folate and vitamin K, plus it provides a good boost of fiber.” Crean likes roasting asparagus on a sheet pan, along with salmon or cod. Roasted asparagus is also great served with rice or with a sprinkle of parmesan on top.
Broccoli. Kids usually like the shape of broccoli, which makes it easier to serve for a whole family, according to Jodi Greebel, RD, a registered dietitian and founder of Citrition. “It is also packed with fiber, powerful antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C, and more,” she explains. “It is good for boosting immunity, fighting inflammation, filling you up, and it can be eaten in so many different ways.” Try it sauteed with sesame seeds, tossed into your favorite pasta dish, or as broccoli fried “rice” for a filling, low-cal way to make a meal healthier.
Brussel Sprouts. Brussel sprouts as a great green vegetable to add into the mix now as they are currently “in season,” says Emily Tills, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition coach. “They are a great source of vitamin C, which is important for immunity in late winter and early spring, as well as fiber and vitamin K,” she says. “Roast them to help preserve the nutrient level that would typically be lost in boiling them, add some extra-virgin olive oil to make the vitamin K more absorbable, and top with a little parmesan cheese.” You can also go toward the sweeter side: Roast with a little bit of maple syrup, crumbled bacon, and red pepper flakes for a yummy side dish.
Edamame. When you think of eating your greens, you may not think of edamame as much as you should. “These ‘immature’ soybeans are a great source of vegan protein at 18 grams per cup, and pack in a whopping 8 grams of fiber, over 600 milligrams of potassium, and a good amount of iron and magnesium too,” says Wong. They are super-delicious as a lightly salted snack or pre-meal appetizer if you want to eat them on their own, but Wong also loves throwing them into stir-fries with other vegetables or noodles.
Scallions. These milder tasting onions are “a great way to add flavor and nutrition without adding salt, fat, or a lot of calories,” says Greebel. “For kids, it’s a great way to expose them to a green vegetable because you can use really small amounts as a garnish. Scallions are great for bone strength (thanks to their vitamin K content), eyesight, and immunity (because of their carotenoid content).” How do you play with them at home? They are easy toppers for soups and dips, as well as excellent on top of chili or fish.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.