Turn over a new leaf! With so many types of leafy greens available it can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve gathered some information about various leafy greens as well as delicious ways to prepare and eat them (besides salads!) for you to share with your participants! Read on for more information or jump right to the recipes.
Leafy greens contain potassium, folate/folic acid, iron, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A, just to name a few! Besides being nutrition superstars, leafy greens are delicious raw or cooked, and can be the star of the meal or the perfect side dish. Visit the Eye on Nutrition series to learn more about these and other nutrients and checkout the Meals of the Month series to find nutrient-specific recipes.
Tips & Ideas to Share
There are so many varieties of leafy greens to choose from and they’re not just for dinner. Nutrient rich leafy greens can be a perfect addition to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack!
Types of Leafy Greens
- Romaine: Crisp and crunchy, this salad staple is easy to find in most grocery stores and may be a great intro salad green for little ones due to its crunch and mild flavor.
- Kale: Dark green and with a coarse texture, kale is delicious raw in a salad or cooked. Some common types of kale available include curly kale or lacinato kale, which has a smoother leaf.
- Collard greens: Collard greens are a southern side dish staple. The leaves are sturdy, so they hold up well to longer cooking times in soups or braises.
- Spinach: You can find spinach pre-washed or in loose leaf bunches in the supermarket. Baby spinach may be better suited for salads, and larger spinach leaves for cooking recipes.
- Arugula: This delicate green has a peppery taste and is perfect in a salad, as a sandwich topper, or sprinkled on top of a vegetable pizza!
- Mustard greens: These greens live up to their name and have a flavorful bite that is similar to the famous yellow condiment. Mustard greens are usually enjoyed cooked due to their strong flavor but can also be added to other greens for a flavorful salad.
- Swiss chard: Ribbons of jewel tone colors in the stem make this green fun to eat and prepare! Sauteed, it is an easy, colorful side dish or add it to soups and stews.
- Bok choy: This popular leafy green is common in Chinese and other Asian dishes. It’s sometimes described as peppery and can be prepared by steaming, stir-frying, or braising. You may even find it in a smaller size, sometimes called baby bok choy.
- Bitter melon leaves: These leafy greens can be found in cuisines in Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas, East Africa, and the Caribbean. A delicacy in Indian culinary, bitter melon leaves have a bitter taste. The leaves are often boiled, stewed or sauteed in recipes.
Many leafy greens can be substituted for each other in recipes. For example, spinach and kale can usually be swapped for each other. Hearty greens like kale, turnip, beet, mustard and collard greens also substitute well for each other.
Tips for Getting Started
Wash first: First things first, start by washing hands before preparing food. Then wash leafy greens before eating and preparing. Try these 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables or these steps for washing leafy greens. After washing, drying greens well can help make chopping easier.
Pre-washed: Some salad greens found in plastic bags or containers are pre-washed and don’t need to be rewashed. Be sure to read the label and if in doubt, give greens a rinse.
Cutting and chopping: Some leafy greens have a thick stem, and this can be cut out. Then chop or slice to your desired size and shape.
Tearing: Greens like romaine and kale are perfect for tearing instead of chopping. Tearing leafy greens can be a fun, safe activity to help introduce leafy greens to children.
Tips for Cooking and Using
Cooking: Hearty greens like collard, Swiss chard, and mustard are often cooked. They can be sauteed, braised (simmered in a cooking liquid) or added directly to soups and stews.
Flavor: Adding flavor to greens is easy. Seasonings like onions, garlic, herbs and spices all add flavor without adding salt or sodium. If using broth as a cooking liquid, consider using a low-sodium broth to boost flavor while reducing the amount of added sodium.
Bitter flavor: Some greens like kale, mustard and collard greens have a bitter flavor. Adding a splash of acid like vinegar or citrus juice at the end of cooking can help contrast the bitterness.
Smoothies: Greens like spinach and kale can be incorporated into fruit smoothies for a fun green treat. Be sure to add the greens first into the blender and then blend well to desired smoothness.
Frozen: Some greens, like spinach, can be found in the frozen food aisle. Thawed greens can be an easy addition to a casserole and some recipes may even call for frozen greens. Check to see if your State agency includes frozen vegetables on its authorized food list.
Raw salad greens may be difficult to chew for the youngest participants and cooked greens may be an easier option when introducing leafy greens to toddlers and children. The Reducing the Risk of Choking in Young Children at Mealtimes tip sheet provides food preparation tips and for more information about feeding infants leafy greens, visit the WIC Infant Feeding and Nutrition Guide.
Easy Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup (available in Spanish)
Quick Quesadillas (available in Spanish)
Spinach Egg Bake (available in Spanish)
Collard Greens (available in Spanish)
Greens & Beans Soup (available in Spanish)
Other Leafy Greens Recipes
Kibbeh Khamoustah (Swiss chard)