Going Green

It’s safe to say that we most often associate the color green with the month of March. The grass begins to grow, trees start sprouting leaves, shamrock decorations appear everywhere and even the Chicago River is dyed green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Green is also the color of some of the most nutritious vegetables—all of which should be staples in our households.

Broccoli: Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, calcium, folate, beta carotene, antioxidants… this list of nutrients supplied by broccoli appears to be endless! Broccoli may not always be at the top of kids’ most favorite vegetable list. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2011) found that kids were more likely to rate broccoli as “yummy” if they had something to dip it in. Try serving broccoli florets with homemade hummus or make your own low-fat ranch dressing by combining plain Greek yogurt with Ranch seasoning mix. Creating fun animations with your vegetables (and fruits) is another great way to get kids excited about eating these nutritious treats!

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Here is a delicious recipe that I made the other night (husband approved!): Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. I used less salt and oil than the recipe called for, and it turned out to be a delicious and nutritious addition to our dinner . For a less expensive option, I substituted sliced almonds for pine nuts.

Spinach: No salad should go without this nutrient-packed leafy green. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, which is essential for bone development and blood clotting. It also houses vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid and manganese. Spinach contains flavonoids which are antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be added to dishes in several ways:

  • Added to an egg omelet or scrambled eggs (an excellent way to get vegetables at breakfast)
  • Mixed in with your salad greens
  • Blended into pasta and rice dishes
  • Great healthy additions to soups and casseroles
  • Used as a stuffing mix to put inside lean proteins (think spinach-stuffed chicken breasts!)
  • Blended into smoothies

Kale: I’ll admit—this vegetable used to scare me. But once I actually tried kale, I couldn’t believe I had gone so long without it! This is one of the superstars of the vegetable world, despite most people not even knowing what it is. Kale tops the charts with its antioxidant capabilities. In fact, it has been given the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score out of all the vegetables = 1770 (spinach comes in a distant second with a score of 1260). Kale and collard greens contain some of the highest concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and are associated with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The most common way to prepare kale includes steaming and sautéing in olive oil and garlic. For the kids, you can dehydrate kale in the oven making “kale chips”. Most people enjoy kale after it has been cooked, but you can also add it to fresh salads.

Here’s a recipe packed with antioxidants and nutrients for the entire family to enjoy: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Kale and Wild Mushrooms.

March, the month where spring fills the air and the color green wraps around us. Let’s celebrate the month of March, National Nutrition Month, by exploring and expanding our consumption of green vegetables.

**Individuals who are taking blood thinners should not consume dark green vegetables in large amounts due to the high content of vitamin K in the vegetables.