When you sit down to a plate of food, the first thing on your mind is whether or not it tastes good. Ofcourse you know that your food choices make a difference in your health and appearance. But, not everyone can follow a raw food, vegan or even, vegetarian diet. You love good food and you like to eat whatever you want. You keep wondering why some people keep telling you to abandon your tastebuds and give up all the foods you enjoy eating. After all, not everyone can follow a raw food, vegan or even, vegetarian diet!
While I don’t miss eating meat nor dairy, I know that many of my loved ones feel like they can’t survive a day without stuff like chicken, fish or cheese. I still hear the comments and get the emails, “I want to start eating healthy, but I don’t think the food tastes good without the meat.” What you really mean when you say that sort of thing is, “I can’t be bothered with learning to make any new dishes or trying out new options on the restaurant menu. Don’t you know any way for me to get around the ‘change your diet’ thing?” (My response to the ‘making plants taste great’ challenge is quite simple, but that answer is for another topic, on another day.) So, can you get around changing your diet, while reaping the health benefits?
Yes and no. You don’t need to give up your favourite meat and dairy dishes and become a vegetarian. But, you will need to eat a whole lot more leafy green vegetables than you’re used to.
The earth isn’t half green for no reason! You were meant to eat greens. In fact, half of your plate at mealtime and at least half of what you eat daily from the plant world should be green.
Greens are the life force of the vegetable kingdom. Green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach carry with them all the nutrients you need to thrive.
from “Appreciate the Power of Greens in a Plant-Based Diet” in Plant-Based Diet For Dummies by Marni Wasserman)
Dark-green, leafy vegetables are the one food I tell myself that I must consume every day, and the one food I recommend to others to base their diet on. The colour green represents life, renewal, nature, life, growth and freshness – all things we need to be healthy, yet greens are often the dish we kotch onto the side of a scanty plate or resort to when the cashflow is low. However, as Wasserman points out, greens are our life force!
Whether you are a staunch raw vegan or a junkfood addict, eating more greens is the best thing you can do for your health. In fact, most vegetarians and vegans don’t consume enough dark-green leafy vegetables. Instead, their diet is heavy in starch foods like rice, bread and pasta. While whole grains are an essential part of balanced diet, they shouldn’t be the main part of the diet. Ever wonder why many of the popular weightloss programmes encourage ‘no carbs’ and leave you eating ‘lean protein and salads’? Since they often limit the amount of lean protein you eat at each meal, you’re left filling up on the vegetables from the salads and the high intake of greens ultimately proves itself by melting the excess fat, boosting your immunity, supercharging your energy supply and giving you glowing skin.
So, how do you eat more greens? Sneak them into your regular eating routine!
A lot of the foods we already eat can be modified to include dark green leafy vegetables without compromising on taste. Here are 6 different types of meals that you can sneak leafy greens into for maximum nutrition:Juices & Smoothies
1. Smoothies & Juices
Whether you are on #TeamBlender or #TeamJuicer, liquefying your greens is one of the most efficient methods of consuming dark-green leafy vegetables in large quantities. The best part, for me at least, is the option we have of combining the greens with our favourite sun-riped fruit for a sweet beverage that almost always tastes better than it looks.
Soups & Stews
2. Sides & Salad
From Callaloo Rice to Garden Salads, the side dishes we pile onto our plates don’t need to be starch-heaven. We can green them up with our favourite leaves, adding nourishment, texture and colour. Your macaroni salad is not off-limits either. Just saute your greens and mix it in. Of course, for vegetable salads, you should “Go Large” and “Go Hard” with the greens. The darker the green of the leaves, the better.
This is my 2nd favourite way to have my leafy greens. In fact, stirfried or sautéed greens end up on my family’s daily menu at least once a day. You can have the greens all by themselves, lightly seasoned with your favourite herbs and aromatics (e.g. garlic, onion, escallion), or toss various non-leafy veggies in the mix with your favourite sauce. I love stirfries because they can be served for any meal of the day.
Not everyone loves to eat their ‘main dish’ in between two slices of bread, but there are other ways to enjoy your greens aside from the traditional loaf squares. Warm roti skins or other flatbreads are an excellent alternative to the regular ‘harddough’ bread. Using tortillas and pitas, you can stuff lots of greens into your burritos, tacos, falafel pockets. Of course, there are open face sandwiches, so we can enjoy our leafy toppings on servings of bammy or crackers, too.
5. Sweet Treats
Smart mothers around the world have found innovative ways of sneaking veggies into treats their children enjoy for centuries. But, now you can do it for yourself knowg the benefits of an Otaheite Apple & Romaine Lettuce Icicle (Freezer Pop) or Blueberry-Kale Ice Cream. You can find recipes for cookies, muffins and even key lime pies that have been infiltrated by hearty servings of dark-green leafy vegetables. Sometimes the greens help to colour the desserts and sometimes they go undetected.
6. Soups & Stews
Ital stew is not just for peas and beans, toss in some shredded greens in the last few minutes of cooking, for a powerful dose of energy and immunity. Any stew that you set to simmer is worth the upgrade of leafy greens, so don’t be afraid to include them. The traditional Jamaican pepperpot soup is an excellent way of sipping on some warm greens, but you don’t need to limit your soup-and-greens pleasure to that age-old dish. Just like the stews, you can toss in a handful of edible leaves towards the end of your soup pot’s boiling time or make it a main star alongside other key ingredients in your soup.
The reality is that just by increasing the amount of leafy greens in your diet, you are guaranteed a health boost. Unlike other elements of the modern diet, whole (unrefined) vegetables don’t harm us when consumed frequently and in large quantities. They only restore our bodies’ immune systems to optimum performance and give us steady supplies of high energy and mental clarity. So, today is the day to make greens the foundation on which you build the rest of your diet – whatever your diet may be. After all, the earth isn’t half green for no reason 😉