21 Days of Healthy Holiday Habits–Eat your Greens!

I hope you guys are enjoying the simple tips I have been giving so far in the series!  I’m back with another very basic nutrition rule today–eat as many green foods as possible.  Of course I don’t mean green candies or cookies.  Kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, herbs and the numerous other green vegetables contain some of the highest amounts of nutrients that our bodies need.

Leafy greens and the like are generally low in calories, but high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.  Besides being so high in nutrient quality, they help fill you up, which is a plus for someone trying to lose a few pounds of body fat.  You can use them to add bulk to your meals without worrying about serving size.  These foods are also visually vibrant, so they look nice on the plate which helps our brains be more satisfied.

I like to rotate out my leafy greens from week to week when I can, as they each have slightly different nutrient profiles.  One week I’ll get a big pack of kale, or the next I may use the tops from my beets.  Other times I like to get a big mix of greens like arugula, spinach, and chard.  If you are a little new to the greens game, stick with spinach or baby kale if you prefer a more mild flavor, and then experiment with some of the other options as you get a little more confident.

Hitting all the green notes with this stir fry!

Besides just the leafy vegetables, I also try to make sure I have a cruciferous vegetable in my weakly meal plan.  This would be your broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and the like.  These foods have possible cancer-fighting compounds in addition to all of the other healthy benefits of including them in your diet.  For many people it helps to add these in slowly, as they can cause unwanted gas issues if you eat too much at once when your body is not acclimated to them!  Cooked crucifers also tend to be digested better than raw, though there are benefits to eating both ways.

I know most of my fellow trainers and I all try to throw in the green stuff wherever we can.  There’s always salads, but you can also add greens to soups and curries, smoothies, or cook them up as a side dish.  I have started making green ice cubes to add to my smoothies when I have some leafy greens that are either starting to get too wilted or if I have a lot that I know I won’t be able to use before they go bad.  I just put the greens in the blender with some water then freeze in a good old-fashioned ice cube tray until I’m ready to pop them in a smoothie.

Fresh herbs are another great addition, as there are many who contend they have healing properties.  Oregano has been used for centuries for its mild antibiotic properties.  Mint is wonderful for digestion.  Adding herbs also enhances the flavor of your dishes, so if you feel like your healthy foods are a little bland, punch them up with some fresh chopped herbs.

There are some medical conditions and medications where you have to watch your iron or vitamin K intake, so if that is the case you may have to modify what leafy greens or how much you can eat without interactions.  On the other hand, if you are low in iron, add things rich in vitamin C to your meal with your greens for better absorption.  A bit of citrus or colorful bell peppers can help absorb the iron in spinach, for example.

What are your favorite healthy green foods?

Author: plantstoplanks

Personal trainer, nutrition and wellness consultant, plant-based cook, avid runner and book-lover. :)

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