12 Months to a Healthier You – Challenge #1

Have you read about the 12 Months to a Healthier You challenge?  If not, you can read more of the details here, but basically we’re joining together to tackle one simple challenge a month that will us all to make healthier choices and feel our best.  This month our goal is to add more dark leafy greens into our diet. I’m starting with this challenge because greens are the #1 food missing from our diets today.

Why do we need them?

Dark leafy greens are cleansing vegetables.  They help our body break up and clean out toxins, loosen up mucus,and strengthen our blood and respiratory systems.  Because they’re an alkaline food they help us to be more alkaline.  This is good because bacteria, viruses and other unwanteds need an acidic environment to grow and flourish.  By eating greens we strength our bodies and make it difficult for things that make us sick to get a leg up.

Adding more greens to our diet also helps us to fill up and nourish ourselves with food that makes us strong while crowding out foods that aren’t so good for us.

Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Although choosing organic is recommended, eating non-organic greens is still preferable to not eating any greens at all!

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming dark leafy greens are:

  • blood purification
  •  cancer prevention
  • improved circulation
  • strengthened immune system
  • promotion of healthy intestinal flora
  • more energy
  • improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function
  • cleared congestion, especially in lungs by reducing mucus

How can we get more of them in our daily diet?

  1. Use a blender or juicer to make smoothies and juices.  Try starting with a small handful of greens (spinach has a light taste, but kale is nutritionally superior).  Mix in some pineapple or another sweet fruit until you and your family start to acquire a taste for the greens.  Pineapple and apples work well as well as strawberries and blueberries.  Try to work your way up to a 3 to 1 ratio of greens to fruit.  If you’re making smoothies in a blender try adding natural sweeteners like cinnamon, honey, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or Greek yogurt.
  2. Add a dinner salad to your nightly meal.  This is the perfect way to add greens to your family’s diet because it’s extremely customizable.  There are dozens of greens to choose from so there’s something out there for everyone.  From taste neutral varieties like crunchy romaine or dark green spinach to nutty arugula to bitter endive.  There’s also kale, bok choy, swiss chard, broccoli, beet leaves, watercress, collards, mustard greens, dandelion and broccoli rabe.  Start with a base of greens that you know everyone likes and then try mixing in a small handful of different varieties to find a nutritious mix your family will love.  You can mix in nuts, seeds, other veggies, fruit.  Our favorite salad dressing is a mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar (Eden’s organic makes the best), sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder.  We also like to add a little cilantro.  Choose a healthy fat dressing like olive oil because the vitamins and minerals in greens are fat soluble, which means you’ll absorb them better if you eat them with a little healthy fat.
  3. Add finely chopped greens to soups, pasta, sandwiches and wraps.

A few tips and recipes:

  • When you using kale in a salad try massaging it in your hands before tossing it in.  Really work it until it turns a bright, dark green.  It will be softer and easier to chew and taste sweeter.  Try my favorite kale recipe – garlicky kale.
  • If you’re family (or you) or just warming up to greens try chopping them up into small pieces and mixing them in with soup.  They look more like herbs and their easier to get down with out all the chewing required for salads.  Try my white bean kale soup.  It’s easy to make and a big hit in our house.
  • Try a variety of greens other than lettuces – this “cheesy” broccoli is an excellent choice.  It’s kid friendly and the cheese flavor of the nutritional yeast makes even the biggest broccoli critics come around.
  • When all else fails – make smoothies!  Here’s my four year old’s favorite green smoothie recipe.

Now it’s your turn to share. Link up to a favorite greens recipe.  Tell us what you love (or hate) about greens and how you’re getting more of them into your daily diet.  Don’t forget to stop by our Facebook page for links to more recipes and ideas from me and the other members of the 12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge!

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