March marks National Nutrition Month, making it the perfect time to jump into spring with a healthy attitude when it comes to eating well. Of course, good nutrition is a year-round must, but devoting March to education and healthy habit-forming food philosophies, we’ll all move into the subsequent months with a better understanding of what to put on our plates.
Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the focus of National Nutrition Month is centered on variety, meal planning, and meal-making skills. It’s easy to embark on this eat-right journey when you’re committed to the concept of ‘food=fuel’ and balance is what’s best.
One way to work National Nutrition Month into your calendar is by going green. Not in the eco-friendly sense (although that’s important too), but in terms of eating your greens. The dark and leafy kind is especially energizing. Before you give swiss chard the “side-eye,” realize that there’s a world of delicious dining options out there that are tempting, tasty, and—wait for it—good for you. See, it is easy being green!
Green means “go,” so read on for some facts and fun stuff that’ll help you get healthier as you consume volumes of these very good veggies. Popeye had the right idea with his appreciation for spinach, and you’ll soon realize why green is so great too.
Dark, leafy greens are the go-to veggie so many health professionals highly recommend. Before you order that iceberg wedge drowned in blue cheese dressing and sprinkled with bacon, realize your “salad” is not what the doctor ordered.
Why dark and leafy? Aside from their Instagram-worthy appearance, they’ve got so much inside that’s good for your insides…outsides too. Full of fiber, vitamins, and even iron found in spinach, kale, collards, and swiss chard, and the like, these dark leafy greens are nature’s miracle food.
These greens are low-cal but pack a punch. A study carried out at Rush University medical center reported a significant decrease in the amount of cognitive decline for those participants consuming higher amounts of dark green leafy vegetables. Salads make us smarter? Sounds like it’s time for a trip to the supermarket.
They also help burn fat, regulate cholesterol, and protect your body from toxins. Chlorophyll found in plants and abundant in particular in greens has a neutralizing effect on (carcinogenic) toxins.
It’s evident that greens are good. So get ‘em. But for some, stocking up isn’t as smooth as it is for others. Depending upon where you live and your budget, getting fresh produce is either a snap or a struggle. Here’s what you can do.
You can save money by getting the “average” stuff rather than organic offerings. Non-organic vegetables can be found at any supermarket and are relatively cheap. You don’t have to eat organic greens. Do they have less pesticide residue than non-organic? Yes. Are they absolutely necessary for great health? No. Choose the option that works for you, wash thoroughly, and eat at your next meal.
If you reside in what some call an “urban” or “concrete” jungle, and fresh produce isn’t easy to come by, look out for weekend farmers’ markets and even “rooftop” urban farms. Folks in an East Atlanta neighborhood took matters into their own hands since the nearest grocery store was a 30-minute bus ride away. The cost and distance made it difficult for many in this community to eat healthfully. In 2016, (the city of Atlanta) purchased a 7.1-acre former farm in the underserved neighborhood and turned the land into the nation’s largest food forest, (transforming) the edible landscape into a powerful community resource.”
What a remarkable way of working together for the betterment of the community. And for those with easy access to the grocery store, pack your cart with fresh leafy greens, bring them home, and have at ‘em.
In a nutshell, fresh is best. Nothing beats a fresh veggie out of the garden. That’s pretty much as nutritious as vegetables get.”But most grocery stores are the last stop on a long supply chain, meaning it’s not as fresh as it could be. Still, this is a great option, especially if you want to use your leafy greens in a cold salad.
Canned and frozen veggies often get a bad rap, but the “rumors” aren’t realistic. Both canned and frozen vegetables are typically processed within hours of being harvested. This helps preserve the nutrients, so frozen and canned veggies can often be healthier than fresh vegetables. They’re also usually picked and processed at the height of ripeness, while fresh produce from the grocery store may have been picked at an unripe stage before they have fully developed their vitamins and minerals.
Ask a store associate which greens they know are the freshest and follow suit. Any decent produce pro will give you the goods on their greens. Fill the rest of your basket with canned or frozen items instead.
Whether you’d like to make a full meal of it or enjoy salad as a starter, a nice bed of dark leafy greens makes for the perfect “platform” to pile onto.
Top your dark leafy greens with lots of other fresh veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and more. Boost your protein intake with beans and legumes, tofu, grilled chicken, or poached salmon. You can even open up a can of tuna or scoop on some cottage cheese.
Go easy on the dressing, or better yet, skip it altogether and simply squirt some fresh lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Add herbs and spices for extra flavor, and your salad is ready to enjoy. Pack another one for a healthy work lunch for the following day.
Fans of smoothies love the thick and creamy milkshake-like experience they suck down when they blend up frozen fruit and other ingredients to create their concoctions. Keep at it if that’s your fave go-to on-the-go breakfast or post-workout snack.
Make your smoothie even healthier by incorporating dark leafy greens. It sounds strange at first, but you won’t alter the taste much and the consistency is comparable. Pack a nice handful or two into the blender and whip ‘till smooth and frothy. Sipping a “salad” is a smooth move.
Give those greens some respect by introducing them to your other favorite foods. A spinach omelet is far more exciting than plain old scrambled eggs. Blend some greens with a bit of vegetable broth and drizzle it over a salad. It’s like a double dose of greens on one plate. Make savory oatmeal with wilted greens and salt and pepper for taste. Spin into sauces and pile onto pizzas. Never let a sandwich go “naked” without a layer of greens between the slices. There are endless ways to work greens in, so get creative as you get healthier!
While leafy greens are generally good for you, care should be exercised if you are taking a blood thinner or certain other types of medications. If you have any questions regarding potential interactions with your medications, consult your vybe provider.