Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Simple Ways to Enjoy Leafy Greens

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, January 22, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith


Leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses, so it’s a good idea to eat more of them — the darker in color the better!

Low in calories and high in nutrients, leafy greens really give you bang for your buck. Add kale, collards, watercress, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, arugula, cabbage, romaine lettuce and more to your plate to give your new year a healthy kick start.

Eat a large green salad every day! Mix and match your favorite lettuce with greens like kale, spinach, arugula and watercress, adding a colorful mix of other vegetables for visual and flavorful variety.

Here are a handful of other simple ways to incorporate more leafy greens into your daily menu:

Serve your favorite soup, beans or chili (canned is fine) over a bowl of raw tender greens such as spinach, watercress, Napa cabbage or arugula. The warmth of the soup will wilt the greens and make them more tender.

  • Blend fresh or frozen greens like spinach or kale with your favorite fruit and almond milk, soy milk or yogurt for a smoothie.
  • Add chopped greens like bok choy, chard, kale or cabbage to a stir-fry.
  • Sauté onions and garlic in a bit of broth or olive oil, add kale, chard, broccoli rabe, mustard greens or collards and cook until tender.
  • Add leafy greens to sandwiches — go for tender greens like watercress, baby spinach or arugula or simply wilt heartier greens first.
  • Use large, flat-leaf greens like romaine lettuce or steamed collards as you would a tortilla to create healthier wraps.
  • Add sautéed greens like chard and broccoli rabe to cooked whole-grain pasta dressed with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and a light grating of Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Chop and stir greens like spinach, kale, collards and bok choy into soups, stews and pasta sauces, cooking until tender.

Bonus tip: Leafy greens top the ANDI chart with the highest ANDI scores. (ANDI scores measure nutrient density — how many nutrients you get for each calorie.) Eating plenty of leafy greens is your best bet for packing more nutrients into your diet.

We've picked a few of our favorite recipes to help you get more leafy greens into your diet each day.

Do you have a favorite leafy greens recipe? We'd love to hear it.

Category: Food & Recipes, Produce




Mary Ann MacKay says ...
I like lots of homemade soup and always through in some dark leafy greens. I like to buy varieties at the farmer's market in the summer that you don't usually get in thee grocery store. It adds great flavor and I like using something new. I also have a green smoothie every morning with spinach, collard greens (from the garden, even in Michigan in January!) cucumber, lime, ginger root and cinnamon. Salads are a variety of greens, not just romaine or spinach. I like to eat as many different greens as I can, to get a variety of nutrients. Plain old wilted greens are easy and delicious - saute in olive oil with some sliced garlic. Yum! Add a layer of greens to lasagna or pasta dishes. So many tasty ways to add greens to your menu.
01/22/2012 2:16:08 PM CST
Kris Wood says ...
Try Kale chips! Quick and easy and so good!
01/22/2012 4:39:26 PM CST
Jackie Vetter says ...
I love to take romaine lettuce leaf, spread some fresh peanut butter on it and place a banana slice on it with a couple of sliced medjool dates. Wonderful as a breakfast, snack or dessert! it really is delicious!
01/22/2012 7:56:16 PM CST
Jenn says ...
dear wh: instead of pushing readers to always cook the greens, can you please offer the suggestion of what us raw foodies do to wilt our greens? sprinkle with salt (I suggest black Himalayan) and drizzle with your choice of oil. then massage the leaves until they have reduced and tenderized. that way you can still have tender leaves without the harmful nutrient stealing cooking procedures you suggest here in this article to many different times.
01/23/2012 10:23:30 AM CST
Jennifer says ...
Yes, great topic! And I think #1 is the fastest, easiest and tastiest way to get more greens. You can pack a TON of spinach or kale into a smoothie that is still creamy and sweet-tasting. This morning I made one with spinach, soy milk, soy protein, peanut butter, frozen banana and frozen strawberries. Another favorite recipe (with how-to-video) is this one - http://www.spotlightonhealthyliving.com/doesnt-taste-green-smoothie.
01/23/2012 10:30:19 AM CST
Isabella Whooley says ...
This is a tasty, really easy one - Saute half a chopped red onion in a bit of olive oil until soft, add half a cup of raisins, saute until they plump, then add chopped sections of chard or kale and cook until wilted. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts. Yum!
01/25/2012 3:01:17 PM CST
ogabes says ...
A quick and easy salad can be made with baby spinach and mango topped with balsamic vinegar.
01/25/2012 6:23:27 PM CST
Elsie says ...
Greens are best eaten as raw greens. When you put them in smoothies, you're stripping the nutrients. And drizzling oil on them is just as unhealthy as cooking them - oil is 100% fat no matter what you do with it. Don't think olive oil is a 'healthy' fat, it's oil - 100% fat going to your arteries. Yes, we need fat, but not oil fat. Try nuts and avocados - those are healthy fats. Try fresh lemon, orange, and/or grapefruit juice on your greens (kale is very good this way) Drizzle some balsamic vinegar on your greens. Toss them with mangos, pineapple, or grapes - a juicy fruit so you don't need to 'dress' them. Toss fresh raw spinach in your whole wheat pasta - after you drain it and before you put on that yummy red sauce! Be creative and skip the oil!
01/26/2012 8:06:13 AM CST
Donna says ...
See what Dr. Mercola (mercola.com) has to say about soy milk. Use coconut or almond instead. Contrary to popular belief soy products, unless they are fermented are very bad for you.
01/27/2012 1:59:43 PM CST
Donna says ...
Elsie, I disagree about the smoothie. When you put greens in a vitamix your cells are able to utilize the greens more efficiently. Also, olive oil and coconut oil are both good fats.
01/27/2012 2:02:07 PM CST
Donna says ...
Here's my favorite way to cook greens. Saute collards, mustard greens, kale and spinach with olive oil and crushed garlic and salt and pepper Add a can of diced tomatoes Add some kalamata olives sliced Add some pine nuts (toasted) or not Cook until soft and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
01/27/2012 2:08:05 PM CST
Kenlie says ...
I eat a lot of leafy greens too...I just finished a big salad of greens - baby spinach, cabbage, romaine, carrots and cucumber. I also eat spinach in a smoothie almost everyday. Yum...
01/28/2012 2:19:37 PM CST
howtomakeasolarpanel says ...
As a health coach I have heard so many different arguments about the best ways to eat your greens. I feel like a smoothy is a great way, if thats what it takes to get it in your diet I am all for it. Its better than not having it at all. And the argument about fats- Unsaturated fats are very unlikely to get stored as fat and clog arteries.
03/16/2012 4:54:48 PM CDT
Debra Brooks says ...
My favorite green recipe is stir fried greens and onions, topped with whipped eggs (little water) & scramble, then add bell peppers & tomatoes, so that they are just slightly heated.
12/13/2015 6:34:13 PM CST
Michele says ...
Question! How much folate is found in leafy greens if they are cooked, please? For instance arugula? Cilantro?
01/28/2016 9:33:07 AM CST