Food Focus: Super Greens

Greens such as kale, chard and collard are known as “super foods”, richer than any other food in vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They help your body fight diseases, from the common cold to cancer. Collard greens are especially effective at lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease.

So why do we eat so few of them? Mainly it is because of a bad experience in childhood from poorly cooked greens. We often got a pile of slimy overcooked greens on our plate, if we got them at all. So we have not developed a palate for them nor have we been taught how to cook them well.

The simplest way to eat greens is to have a salad. We can chop up some tender kale into our spinach salad and enjoy. However we get less of the super greens if we eat them raw.

You can also gently steam greens for about 5 minutes until crisp tender and then toss with your favorite salad dressing, pumpkin seeds and feta. Or steam and add to brown rice and protein.

Sautéing your greens is a very popular method. Heating olive oil to a sauté pan, add chopped greens, garlic and a touch of salt. Sauté until the greens wilt but are still crisp and not mushy. Remove from heat and add a small amount of acid such as soy sauce or balsamic vinegar.

Kids and Super Greens

Though adults may enjoy the recipes above, children have more sensitive taste for bitter foods. Greens can be bitter and unless introduced well to greens, many children will avoid them on their plate. Here are a couple ideas to make them more palatable:

Kale chips -- wash kale and dry completely. Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with a small amount of olive oil and salt. Bake at 275 until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes.

Sneak into meatloaf --- pulse greens in the food processor and add to current favorite meatloaf recipe.

Lasagna -- sauté greens as noted above. Use in place of spinach or combined with spinach in lasagna.

Toss greens into a smoothie with bananas, berries, apples and juice. Call it Martian mess or galactic goo and you just might get a child to drink it!

Let your kids see you eat greens daily. "Children watch what their parents eat, and if you are role modeling eating good food, you will support good food habits in your children."