Whole Story

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Getting Your Greens

Rainbow Kale SlawGreens are eaten every day around the world. Dark leafy greens are abundant in a multitude of nutrients, particularly when compared to their caloric content, making them just about the most nutrient-dense food we can eat. Sometimes tangy, pungent or slightly bitter, many of us don’t really know what to do with these bold bunches, we just know that we should be eating more of them…somehow.

Versatile greens can be an easy habit to form, showing up on your plate, in your bowl, and even in your glass multiple times a day. With so many kinds: arugula, spinach, watercress, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, collard greens, mustard greens, beet tops, turnip greens, curly green kale, curly red kale, Lacinato (dino) kale, and my favorite, red Russian kale, each with their own particular flavor and texture, you will never run out of ways to get more greens. Here’s how I get more greens on the table (and into my family).

Health Starts Here In A Blender

I know this sounds weird if you’ve never tried it. I resisted for years, thinking, “I eat greens, why do I need to blend greens?” But this is now my breakfast of choice, and it’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask my kids — they love it too! Plus, the blender does all the work for you, making the nutrients even more available, and you don’t even have to chew.

Still skeptical? Try the Double Green Smoothie or the Get Your Greens Smoothie and see what you think. Smoothies are easy and quick, and lend themselves well to experimentation. Use whatever fresh or frozen fruit is on hand.

Some smoothie tips:

  • For your first green smoothie, baby spinach is a good choice. Mild and buttery, you won’t even notice it’s there.
  • Adding colorful berries will turn your smoothie a lovely purple color, making it look less Hulk-like.
  • If you are using kale or collard greens, strip the leaves from the stem before you add them to the blend. Only use the stem if you have a high-powered blender and prefer a more fibrous drink.
  • If you don’t have a high-powered blender, don’t worry! Just add more water or other liquid for a thinner smoothie that blends well.

Double Green Smoothie Get Your Greens Smoothie

In a Pot

When cooking a pot of beans, I chop up a head of greens and add it to the pot once the beans are almost fully cooked and then simmer for another five minutes or so. For picky eaters, this works especially well with finely chopped chard or collards stirred into black beans. Greens reduce in volume when they are cooked, so small pieces of greens virtually disappear in a pot of beans, and are even harder to notice once their green color blends with the rich purplish hue of black beans.

A few of my favorite combos are kale with white beans, mustard greens with lentils, turnip greens with black eyed peas, and beet greens (yes—the top of the beets!) with garbanzo beans. Use cooked beans (and greens!) in dips like Black Bean Hummus, burritos and enchiladas such the Layered Vegetable EnchiladasSimple Black Bean Soup or any dish with beans. Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes and Indian Spices and Swiss Chard with Black-Eyed Peas are other simple ways to pair dried beans and legumes with greens.

Black Bean Hummus Layered Vegetable Enchiladas

In a Pot, Again

Make soup, add greens! Make pasta, add greens! The same goes for stews, chilis and curries. No need to use another pot, just add chopped greens to simmering soup or boiling pasta towards the end of the cooking time. I also do this with most vegetables. Steaming broccoli? Sautéing zucchini? Add greens! Just chop your greens well before adding and season your dish as usual. Experiment with your favorite dishes and try these too: Italian Chowder with Cod and Kale, Chicken and Brown Rice Soup, and Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms and Arugula.

Italian Chowder with Cod and Kale Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms and Arugula

Wrap It!

Use collard greens as your new and improved nutrient-dense tortilla, like in these Collard Rolls. Romaine lettuce also makes a great “taco” shell or “chip” for dipping in your Simply Delicious Homemade Hummus. For good measure, throw a handful of baby spinach into the food processor when making this hummus! Stuffed Collard Rolls Simply Delicious Homemade Hummues

Eat it Raw

Salads are a standby when it comes to eating greens. Spinach Salad with Aduki Beans and Clementine Vinaigrette and White Bean and Spinach Salad pair the ever popular green spinach with beans and are great crowd pleasers. I like to chop my kale very finely and make double batches of Kale Waldorf Salad, Rainbow Kale Salad and Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad. These nutrient-rich dishes hold up well in the refrigerator, as the dressings further soften the kale, making it even tastier. Spinach Salad with Aduki Beans and Clementine Vinaigrette White Bean and Spinach Salad

Kale Waldorf Salad Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad

Don’t Hide It!

As much as I like to slip greens into so many dishes, I also love to feature them. I’ll heat a little stock, juice, white wine, or water in a sauté pan, add a little minced garlic or ginger, and my chopped greens of choice. I give this a few stirs with a wooden spoon, and let it cook until it turns a beautiful emerald green. To this I add a little lemon juice, miso or tamari, lightly dress it with a sauce, or just pile it up in my bowl, adding anything else I’m eating on top or alongside my greens. “Creamed” KaleWilted Kale with Fresh Cranberries and Creamy Sesame Greens are other great ways to get some greens on your plate.

Creamed Kale Creamy Sesame Greens

I’d love to hear: how are you getting your greens?

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Central Restaurant Products says …

I would have never thought to use greens in hummus. I'll have to try it out because it really does sound delicious. Along with your wrap theme, greens are always good in a tortilla wrap. It never hurts to add a few in with some lunch meat and dressing or even in a mexican inspired dish.

TheDailyDish says …

Fantastic tips &amp; gorgeous pix!! I've never had a green smoothie (too chicken) but now I think I'll have to try one. I posted a recipe for <a href="http://thedailydish.us/side-dishes/baked-spinach-and-pea-risotto/" rel="nofollow">baked spinach &amp; pea risotto</a> this morning on my blog. Super easy to make and absolutely DELICIOUS! I also made <a href="http://thedailydish.us/vegetarian/potatoes-kale-with-spicy-garlic-infused-oil/" rel="nofollow">Potatoes &amp; Kale with spicy garlic-infused oil</a> with leftover St. Patty's Day produce. Another super easy dish that is just *so* good!

Tiffany says …

Get your greens in with www.clearyourcells.com antioxidant tea!!!

Janet says …

Thanks for the great ideas!! I really look forward to my daily green smoothie as well...I'm always searching for different ways to enjoy my greens. The Rainbow Kale salad is gorgeous! I can't wait to try it!

SusieBeeOnMaui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says …

Absolutely agree about the smoothie: http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2010/09/im-believer-shake.html For salad: http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2010/09/asian-chard-salad-with-mushrooms-and.html

Barbara says …

Hi..I've been hearing that cooked greens lose all the antioxidant benefits and that in order to get the maximum benefit, you must eat them raw. Can you please elaborate on this? Currently, I eat them either sauteed or in a salad, but am curious to try the smoothies. thanks, B

robert webber says …

I make a swiss chard sabdwich for my breakfast every morning. After I sautee the greens in olive oil with a combination of Italian or French spices and garlic,I butter two slices of sour dough rye with hummos,add the greens to compleat my sanbwitch.Try this,it will help you feel well nourished until lunch.

Lisa says …

I love my green smoothie! A few kale leaves, stripped of their stems, a green apple chopped,a handful of frozen fruit( mango is really good) and the juice of a lemon. I blend that up with apple juice or water.Mmmmm!

Lucille says …

These are fabulous recipes...I have used many of these ideas but appreciate the variations and use of the spices. Thanks so much and keep them coming. I also recommend the Kale Butter from the Engine 2 book...it is so delicious,tastes good with everything and is so good for you1

Nashville Neuromuscular Center says …

Kale sauteed with onion in chicken broth is a favorite in our house. We just purchased a higher powered blender in order to get even more nutrition at every meal. Thank you for these great ideas! I'm sure we will be referring back to this page many times for these great sounding recipes.

David says …

It's ironic that I just tried the Layered Vegetable Enchiladas that are mention in this article, a few nights ago. They were very good. I took a leftover one for lunch the next day. Also this week, I made a bean and kale soup using cannellini beans. Also a great way to get your greens.

Chris says …

I love these recipes. One way that I get greens is starting off each day with a green juice made of romaine, kale, and lemons.

kristen says …

These are great ideas! Love the beans and greens combos. I've been sneaking spinach into wraps and sandwiches and my son assumes it is lettuce. I can't wait to tell him he eats spinach~ but I'm going to wait!

jelena says …

great suggestions. thank you Mary.

Tari Ambler says …

I absolutely LOVE Whole Foods recipe for Rainbow Kale Salad and I also add grated carrot to it and sometimes broccoli. In fact I just made it yesterday with lactinato kale. I am going to try to plant this variety in my garden this year. Yesterday we had smoothies with spinach. Even my picky son drank his. I grow curly kale and love to make kale chips with it. I season some with balsamic vinegar, dried italian herbs and white cheddar before baking. Yum! another good variation is with lime juice and a little mild chili powder. I also make several other kale salads, one with dried cranberries and cranberry relish.

Star Dant says …

I have been reading everything that I can find about this type of setup. I have been an avid cook all of my life , however cooking for a family and for one with cancer is vastly different. Thank you very much for the time that you have used as with many of these , I am able to even "add to, however did you use all organic foods? We have recently found out that it said organic but "WAS NOT" so I a trying to find a place that Is "All" organic. Thank you so much and May God Bless you all. dantstar@yahoo.com

Bepkom says …

@Star: Thanks for your comment. All products that are labeled 'Organic' are certified organic by the USDA.

Bepkom says …

@Barbara: Greens, like all other vegetables, begin to loose nutrients when cooked above 115 degrees. For maximum nutrients we suggest eating veggies raw. If you prefer your veggies a bit softer, you can flash steam them for a minute or two with just a little bit of water.

Kalake/WF blog fan says …

I think I'll try wrapping it for dinner tonight! Thank you so much for these great ideas/tips on various ways to get our greens on!

Megan says …

One of the easiest ways to incorporate greens into your diet is to put them (fresh) on top of a pizza! When I was very vegetable-averse, this is how I first was able to stomach them. Spinach and arugula work best! Years later I've worked my way to a vegan pizza covered in veggies - and I'm still topping it all off with tons of greens! Stir fry is another good place -- add some kale when you're almost finished cooking. So good! And of course, I also love my green smoothies...

Rafik says …

Well CheaterMan, I put on my mud boots and coat and went out to check the garden. It is not good. While the chard, kale and red sails are alive they are in no coniotdin to eat. The kale put on new growth after the December freeze only to be damaged by this last cold snap. Hopefully it will all live through this next storm and start growing again in February.I have not started any indoor seedlings yet. Yesterday I did start taking inventory of what seeds I already have, so I know what to order. I have been preoccupied with other projects and neglecting the garden.As far as soil amendments, I like leaves and/or compost.