Far too often, nutrition advice can feel inherently confusing and unnecessarily convoluted. When am I supposed to eat? What’s the best bang-for-my-buck workout? Do I actually need a probiotic? The complex questions abound—which is why we’re dedicated to answering them all here at CS. But when it comes down to it, a few pieces of universal advice apply. Prioritize sleep, move your body in a way that feels supportive and joyful, seek purpose in your everyday, and eat a colorful diet that’s rich in a variety of nutrients. But on the topic of that final seemingly simple truth, there’s one part that always throws me, and I imagine many others, for a loop: how to add more dark leafy greens to your diet.
Greens powders? Just one piece of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber-seeking puzzle. Yes, in a pinch, these blend-and-go options get the job done. But oftentimes, what these solutions suggest is that we haven’t made it far from our picky eater adolescence and have to hide all the good-for-you foods under the guise of something more palatable. Newsflash: The world of dark leafy greens is vast and rich. Some picks are hardy and spicy while others tend to be more mild and tender. There are those that work best in soups and other leafy greens that take center stage in vibrant, verdant sauces. Conclusion? There’s no shortage of ways to work these nutrient-dense wonders into your diet.
That’s why I tapped holistic nutritionist Mia Rigden, MS, CNS, and the founder of RASA to share all there is to know about getting our greens not only on the reg, but in the most delicious and simplest way possible. Keep scrolling for Rigden’s expert tips—plus six recipes to get you started.
Feature image by Suruchi Avasthi.
To start, why is it important that we get our daily requirement of leafy greens?
Leafy greens are a nutrition powerhouse! They’re full of vitamins, like vitamins K, C, and E; minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium; and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which provide cellular protection, improve eye health, and even have some anti-aging properties.
How do these veggies support our overall wellness?
Leafy greens provide some fiber and protein to keep you full and satisfied. With all this nutrition, they can reduce bloating, help relieve stress, improve gut health, enhance detoxification, support the immune system, balance blood sugar levels, and more.
What foods fall under the “leafy greens” category?
When it comes to leafy greens, the darker the pigment, the more nutrition it has. The list of leafy greens include:
- collard greens
- beet greens
- romaine lettuce
- mustard greens
- bok choy
- turnip greens
What tips and tricks make it easy to get your greens at every meal?
When you start thinking outside the (CSA) box, you’ll start to find plenty of delicious ways you can work your dark leafy greens into every meal, every day. Rigden shares her top six tips:
1. Throw a handful of greens into your daily smoothie to start the day with extra nutrition.
2. Eggs are a great vehicle for sautéed greens of all varieties. I love making a frittata with fresh greens to have throughout the week. It’s a cook once, eat many times type of dish.
3. If you’re strapped for time, buy organic pre-washed greens for quick and easy salads and bowls throughout the week.
4. Find a CSA or visit a farmers market to support local agriculture and get fresh, seasonal greens each week.
5. When cooking, use the whole plant and find uses for the stems, stalks, and leaves you might ordinarily throw away. Beet greens, for example, are highly nutritious, as are broccoli leaves, parsley stems, kale stems, and other commonly discarded plant parts. Smoothies, sautés, pestos, and soups are a great way to sneak those extra greens in.
6. Many of the vitamins in leafy greens are fat soluble, meaning they need to be eaten with fat in order to be absorbed, so don’t be afraid to dress your greens with olive oil, grass-fed butter, avocado oil, nuts, seeds, or another fat source.
6 Recipes That Make It Easy (And Delicious!) To Get Your Dark Leafy Greens
Almond Butter Green Smoothie
Why We Love It: I couldn’t agree with Rigden more—smoothies are one of my favorite ways to get my greens! Already a morning habit, I simply throw in a handful of spinach or another neutral-tasting dark leafy green and go. When I’m wanting something that strays a bit from the path of my regular beverage/meal hybrid (I thrive on repetition), this is the recipe I turn to. It’s full of healthy fats, fiber, and general all-around goodness. What’s not to love?
Hero Ingredient: The almond butter seamlessly blends together with the other healthy ingredients, but will give your smoothie just the right amount of decadence.
Get the recipe for Almond Butter Green Smoothie.
Tofu Noodle Stir-Fry with Spring Vegetables from Minimalist Baker
Why We Love It: There’s nothing I find more inspiring at mealtime than a bowl that’s brimming with colorful ingredients. While stir-fries have a reputation for being a bit on the heavier side, the abundance of veggies keeps things light while still packing serious flavor.
Hero Ingredient: Don’t sleep on the Tahini Stir Fry Sauce. It’s just one of the beautiful things that make this dish a delicious delight.
Get the recipe for Tofu Noodle Stir-Fry with Spring Vegetables.
Egg and Greens Bowl from Eating Bird Food
Why We Love It: Salad, but make it enticing enough to enjoy first thing in the morning. For years now, I’ve been making a variation of this meal every a.m. for breakfast. This recipe pairs protein with greens to perfection.
Hero Ingredient: Two sunny side up eggs are a reason to smile.
Get the recipe for Egg and Greens Bowl.
Arugula Pesto from Love & Lemons
Why We Love It: Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Not only is it perhaps the best example of a low-maintenance, high-reward recipe, but the options are truly endless when it comes to all the way you can experiment with different ingredients and components. Case in point, this arugula take on the classic. The dark leafy green gives the sauce a little spicy bite, which I’m 100% here for.
Hero Ingredient: Cashews keep your pesto creamy, dreamy, and delightful. Spoon me up.
Get the recipe for Arugula Pesto.
Big Green Immunity-Boosting Vegetable Soup
Why We Love It: Camille developed this recipe a couple years ago, and since then, it’s held strong to its title of being one of our most popular recipes of all time. The accolade is definitely not without merit. Not only does it pack an impressive amount of green veggies into every bowl, but it’s perhaps the best blend I’ve come across of being comforting while still tasting fresh.
Hero Ingredient: Ginger gives everything a little warm, grounding spice, tying together all of this soup’s many vegetables beautifully.
Get the recipe for Big Green Immunity-Boosting Vegetable Soup.
Quick Collard Greens from Cookie + Kate
Why We Love It: Collard greens? You bet! While the traditional bbq side may have the connotation of being the heavier fare’s default veggie, this recipe shows off a healthier spin. Plus, all the flavor it packs is beyond impressive. Each bite is garlicky, lemony, and just what you want served alongside a more satiating protein or main. It’s the side dish you immediately crave when the spring weather kicks in.
Hero Ingredient: Don’t like heat? Forgo or hold back on the red pepper flakes. But I’ll tell you one thing right here: you’ll be missing out.
Get the recipe for Quick Collard Greens.