Glorious Greens, and My Top Ways of Preparing Them

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That typical childhood hatred for anything green is the worst. We grow up fearing this color on our plates, and unless our parents did a really good job in making us eat them, get used to the tastes and learn how to appreciate them, we kind of get an awkward start when it comes to amazing nutrition. Why? Because greens are one of the most nutritious foods available.

Greens are powerful. They are jam packed with calcium, filled with vitamin C, K, A, folate, potassium, chlorophyl, manganese, several B vitamins including B2 and B6, iron, magnesium,  they are sky high with fiber which helps you stay satiated and improves digestion. To top all that they are ridiculously low in calories which means you're getting a huge nutritional bang for your calorie buck. Each type of green has its own specific benefits and vitamin and mineral profile, but here's the good news. There's one easy rule to follow to make sure you're eating the most nutritious ones: the darker the leaf, the more nutritious. Pretty easy right?

There are so many options when it comes to greens, and although you probably know by now after watching our videos and reading our blog, that kale is my favorite and has been ranked number one in nutrient density out of ALL vegetables (not just greens), there are so many options and I'm going to give you all my favorite cooking tips and preparations for each. First though, let's go over two basic tips for avid green leafy eaters:

Which are best?... and the one green you should stop eating

Greens should be a part of our diet every day, and yes, lettuce and salad greens count, but I always highly recommend including heartier and darker greens in the diet as much as possible. Options include kale, collard greens, bok choy, broccoli, turnip and mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, cabbage among others. There's only one leafy green that I recommend you start removing from your plate to make room for others. Not because it's unhealthy, but because it's very close to having no nutrients at all when compared to other greens. Sadly, it's the only green leafy veggie that many people are having: iceberg lettuce. Salad greens like romaine lettuce beat it by a mile, and I'll say it again, the darker you go the better. 

A note about high oxalate greens (i.e. swiss chard and spinach)

These two greens have countless benefits, they are delicious, perfect in things like smoothies and juices, in salads or sautés, but I always recommend alternating these with other greens since these are high in oxalates. Oxalates bind to the calcium found in these leafy greens making it harder for calcium to be absorbed by our bodies, and they can cause problems in people prone to kidney stones if eaten in very high amounts. The good news is oxalates are slightly reduced by cooking which makes the calcium in these greens become more readily available. This doesn't mean these two are dangerous or shouldn't be eaten, or you can't eat them raw, these are definitely a part of my diet, just keep this information in mind so that you vary up the greens you consume and you're getting all the benefits each of them provide.

Let's get our greens on!

Kale (Kim's favorite)

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Lightly steamed and seasoned with just a splash of soy sauce, lemon juice and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil.
  • Sautéed with other vegetables like thinly sliced onions and peppers, black beans and some roasted sweet potato cubes like we did in this video.
  • Roasted in the oven to make kale chips! A total classic (we'll be making a video for you soon).

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • In smoothies with some frozen banana, a few chunks of pineapple or pear and some non-dairy milk.
  • Chopped into bite sized pieces and massaged with your favorite dressing or mashed avocado and a little lime juice and sea salt. Massage it well until it's tender and has shrunk a bit, and then use it as your base in salads and top with your favorite raw veggies.

Collard greens

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Lightly steam it only until pliable and vibrant green and use the whole leaf as a wrap instead of a flour tortilla. Fill it up with some hummus or pesto, some raw veggies, tempeh or tofu and you'll have the most fun and healthy meal.
  • Thinly sliced and added to stir-fries.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • Thinly sliced and used in salads, or added to smoothies or juices. Any recipe you use for kale can be made with collards since they're very versatile.

Bok Choy (Carlos's favorite)

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Grilled in the barbecue or a grill pan like we did in our simple pan fried bock choy video, and drizzled with some soy sauce and lemon juice.
  • Very lightly steamed until bright green but still crisp, seasoned and used in soups, especially Asian style soups.
  • Leaves separated and added to stir fries, or even better, using the cutest vegetable on the planet, the baby bok choy.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • I hardly ever eat bok choy raw since I just love it cooked and it can be a bit bitter and tough when raw, but when combined with other ingredients in smoothies they might be ok, just try to balance out the flavors with fruits like mango or pear. 
  • Separate the leaves of smaller bok choy bulbs which will be sweeter and use it in salads, with some carrots, nuts, dried cranberries, shredded brussels sprouts and a sweet dijon vinaigrette.

Broccoli (not technically a leaf, but very similar in terms of nutrition)

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Lightly steamed and seasoned with a mixture of dijon mustard, garlic powder, soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil (amazing!).
  • Lightly steamed and served as is with just a sprinkle of garlic powder.
  • Cooked in curries with things like chickpeas or tofu or tempeh.
  • In stir-fries and sautées.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • In juices, especially that thick stalk you normally throw away.
  • You can simply blanch it quickly to remove that raw taste and bring out the brightness and color. Simply place it in boiling water for a few seconds and immediately place it in an ice bath to halt the cooking. Use these florets in salads (especially pasta salads) or as a crudité platter with your favorite dipping sauces throughout the week.

Swiss Chard

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Thinly sliced and sautéed with thinly sliced onions, raisins or dried cranberries, some olives or capers, a drizzle of maple syrup and some apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Same preparation but then used as a filling for a baked sweet potato, and topped with a little pesto (like our oil free spinach and basil pesto).

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • In smoothies and especially juices, combined with some cucumber, ginger, lemon and green apple.

Spinach

Favorite way to cook it:

  • The Greek way! Simply sauté some minced garlic, a small pinch of chili flakes, add the spinach and cooked until wilted, add a splash of lemon juice, sea salt pepper and serve! It's completely addicting. Keep in mind that spinach shrinks a ton, so pile it on!
  • Added to curries or stews.
  • Added to veggie burgers to add color and texture.
  • In vegetable soups. 
  • In lasagna or fillings for stuffed pasta.
  • As part of a creamy artichoke and spinach dip served inside a bread bowl. If you're a member of our online program, this is one of our favorite recipes and you can find it in the dips section.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • In smoothies and juices. It adds wonderful sweetness and great texture.
  • As the base for raw spinach salads. These go great paired with something sweet, for example raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raisins or mandarin oranges, as well as with ingredients like pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, grilled mushrooms and lentils. For the perfect dressing for spinach salads, I always love to play with balsamic vinegar (either white or dark balsamic), grainy mustard, lemon, miso and a little maple syrup for sweetness.

Romaine lettuce (and other salad greens)

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Although I always have my romaine lettuce in its raw form, some people adore cutting a big head of romaine into quarters, grilling it, and then pouring a strong dressing or sauce over it. Things like a tahini/ miso dressing or our Thai peanut sauce, sweet mustard dressings or making a vegan ranch style dressing, all go great with this dish.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • My favorite way to have romaine is by buying romaine hearts and making lettuce cups, if you're a member of our program you probably know this recipe very well since I mention it constantly, our tofu lettuce cups with a Thai peanut sauce. Basically all you have to do to make delicious lettuce cups is to add a combination of cooked and raw veggies, add a plant based protein source if desired like tofu or tempeh, and a sauce (which can be as simple as a splash of soy sauce or any dressing you have on hand).
  • You can also make lettuce "boats" or "tacos" with a big romaine leaf and your favorite taco fillings, things like black beans, salsa, guacamole, or thinly sliced raw cabbage for some crunch.
  • Make your favorite salads and vary up the toppings and dressings. You can get instant access to our super cool salad menu printable at the end of this post, a little pdf guide to help you create different salads every day by picking and choosing ingredients from each category, and you'll also love our salad dressing printable (also below) with some delicious ideas and quick glance recipes for everything from herby chimichurri style dressing, to creamy avocado, oil free Asian miso, tropical bliss pineapple, among others. They're delicious and you can stick this printable on your fridge and always have ideas.

Cabbage

Favorite way to cook it:

  • I'm paying tribute to my Russian and Polish heritage here! My favorite way to have cooked cabbage is to prepare stuffed cooked cabbage leaves with tempeh and veggies which you then place in a casserole dish and pour a delicious rich tomato sauce over and bake in the oven. To cook the leaves you can steam them only until tender, or go old school and boil the entire head of green cabbage and separate the leaves, prepare your filling by sautéing some tempeh or tofu with mushrooms, onions, peppers, celery, and any other vegetables and spices you like, add a splash of wine or some tomatoes to moisten the sauté, then stuff and roll and top with a tomato sauce before baking. Serve with rice (or add rice to the filling) and go straight to heaven!
  • I also love sautéing purple cabbage during the holidays with some raisins, apples, grapes, or dried cranberries, some caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and let it really cook down. It's a total sweet and tangy treat filled with color for the holidays.
  • In Asian style stir fries.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • Coleslaw! Need I say more? One of the genius creations of our time. Use eggless mayo instead of regular mayonnaise, and add in little additions to vary up your coleslaw. I love using the standard combo of green cabbage and carrot, and adding some poppy seeds, pineapple chunks, very thinly sliced onions, and I love it inside wraps with some other goodies too.

Turnip greens

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Sautéed with some thinly sliced red onion, pine nuts and raisins. Add a bit of lemon juice at the very end.
  • In stews, soups or curries.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • Best eaten cooked.

Beet greens

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Chopped with a hint of that pink stalk included, and sautéed with lots of onions, garlic, a splash of soy sauce and some lemon. I love serving these next to sweet potatoes or on top of veggie bowls.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • Best eaten cooked.

Mustard greens and dandelion greens

Favorite way to cook it:

  • Sautéed in their whole form for just a few minutes until tender, season with some sea salt and pepper, a little lemon juice to tame their typical peppery and spicy taste, and then toss with some toasted pecans, grapefruit or blood orange segments and some cooked quinoa and grilled mushrooms for an amazing warm style salad.

Favorite way to eat it raw:

  • Best eaten cooked.

As you can see, greens can be so much more than just a bed in a salad bowl! They're so versatile and you can prepare them in different ways every single day so you're never bored and you get maximum nutrition. Speaking of which, don't forget to download your salad and salad dressings printables below! These are a great way to start revamping salads, and make delicious dressings for any of the preparations mentioned above.

** If you're a member of My Brownble click here to access**

What is your favorite green and way to prepare it? Leave it in the comments below, and don't forget to share this post with someone you love who is looking for some healthy cooking inspiration!