Tips for Adding Nutritious Green Vegetables to Your Diet

A salad for lunch, with romaine lettuce, beans, tomatoes of different colours and low fat cheese
A salad for lunch, with romaine lettuce, beans, tomatoes of different colours and low fat cheese | Source

Healthy Vegetables

Green vegetables are very nutritious foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They also contain other chemicals known as phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are chemicals that aren’t essential for our survival but are believed to be very important for our health.

Nutritionists tell us that we should be eating three to five servings of vegetables every day, especially green and dark yellow vegetables. They also say that many of us aren’t reaching this goal.

For some people, the produce component of the diet consists chiefly of fruits. Popular fruits like bananas, apples, oranges and raisins are sweet and delicious. The vegetables in the diet often tend to be the sweeter or starchier kinds, such as tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. All these foods are valuable, but if we avoid or limit leafy greens we’re missing out on many important health benefits.

It's important that adding green vegetables to a meal is quick and easy. If vegetables require a long or complicated preparation before being eaten, it will probably be tempting to forget about them. This is especially likely if someone is rushed or tired when they're getting a meal ready. In this article I describe some tips that I use to “sneak” green vegetables into my diet with very little effort.

Growing Salad Greens at Home

The best green vegetables are those grown at home in a garden or in containers. Local and freshly picked vegetables are a good substitute.

Stocking the Kitchen: Fresh and Frozen Vegetables

Fresh vegetables in good condition are a great purchase when there's time to get to the store to buy them or time to wash and prepare them for eating. When we don't have enough time or energy to do this, though, we still need to eat green vegetables. That's why frozen vegetables and packages of pre-washed greens are so helpful.

Frozen vegetables can sometimes be even more nutritious than fresh ones. Vegetables are frozen soon after they're picked in a process known as "flash freezing", which preserves nutrients. Fresh vegetables have to be transported to a store - sometimes over long distances - and then wait there until they're bought, gradually losing nutrients all the time.

Pre-washed salad greens are very useful because they're so convenient. They don't need to be defrosted, washed or cooked. The greens can be taken right out of the package and eaten. They are perishable and do have a "Best before" date, though, which means a periodic trip to the grocery store is needed to restock. Frozen vegetables stay in good condition for much longer. In addition, the packages of prepared greens cost more than buying greens that you need to wash yourself.

Tasty and nutritious vegetables and herbs can be bought at farmers markets. These vegetables are very fresh and are picked locally. The very best flavour of all can be obtained from homegrown vegetables which are eaten or cooked as soon as they are picked.

Brussels sprouts are very nutritious vegetables. They can bought in a frozen form so that they can be eaten all year long.
Brussels sprouts are very nutritious vegetables. They can bought in a frozen form so that they can be eaten all year long. | Source

Stocking the Kitchen: Canned and Dried Food

I keep canned, unsalted beans and canned, water packed fish available in my kitchen cupboard so that a quick source of protein is always available. One of these protein sources added to microwaved frozen vegetables makes a good snack or meal that is very quick to prepare. Canned vegetables are also available, but these have often been soaked in salty water and aren't the healthiest form of produce.

I try to find canned products without bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining of the can. This chemical is a hormone mimic and endocrine disruptor. Purchasing a set of BPA-free storage containers with secure lids is a good investment, since it allows leftovers to be kept in the refrigerator for a quick meal in the future.

Chopped, dried herbs are an excellent product to keep in the kitchen. Herbs have their own distinct health benefits as well as great flavours and are useful even in small quantities. They can make food - including other vegetables - taste delicious.

How to Grow Microgreens and Sprouts in Your Home

Preparing Vegetables to Eat

Raw vegetables contain the most nutrients. Cooking the vegetables helps to make them more digestible, however, and has the added benefit of helping to kill any harmful bacteria. A gentle cooking method is best in order to reduce nutrient loss.

Steaming vegetables is often considered to be the best way to cook them. Boiling vegetables in water for a long time is the worst way, since water soluble vitamins leach into the boiling water. Although nutrient loss in microwaved food has been a controversial topic in the past, the current thinking is that microwaving is a good cooking method because there is no water to leach nutrients. Like all cooking methods, though, the food should be cooked for a short time if maximum nutrient retention is desired.

In the following tips for adding green vegetables to the diet, I've listed suggestions according to the names of meals. Any food can be eaten at any meal, though. There's no reason why oatmeal has to be eaten only at breakfast or salads only at lunch or supper, for example.

A Collard Green Wrap Recipe

Breakfast Tips

  • Add chopped, dried herbs to cooked grains such as oatmeal. Herbs work well in both sweet and savoury grain dishes.
  • Add frozen spinach or chopped vegetables to scrambled eggs and omelets.
  • Add a piece of dark lettuce or kale to a fried or poached egg on toast.
  • Always add salad greens or another green vegetable to smoothies. The fruit will hide the taste of the greens if you use a small quantity of vegetables. In my smoothies, however, I like the taste of a sweet fruit combined with the taste of a salad green such as romaine lettuce or kale.
  • Containers of dehydrated greens powders sold in health food stores are expensive but can last a long time. A scoop makes a nice addition to smoothies.
  • Add dried, chopped herbs to muffins - even to sweet recipes.
  • Strange as it may sound, I like the taste of marmalade and salad greens on toast. Feel free to break the "food laws" to get a taste that you like and to increase your vegetable intake.
  • Eat a salad for breakfast. Load up your salad with healthy extras, such as fruits, nuts, seeds and a protein source, in order to make it filling and even more nutritious.

Avocado, grapefuit and orange salad with red onion, arugula and cilantro
Avocado, grapefuit and orange salad with red onion, arugula and cilantro | Source

Some of the lesser known salad greens have a strong, peppery taste that can perk up a meal. One example is arugula, also known as rocket.

Lunch Tips

  • Add raw vegetables of multiple colours to salads. Add fruit, nuts, seeds and a protein such as low fat cheese, hard boiled egg, tofu "meat" or beans to make a quick meal.
  • Add salad greens, green vegetables and/or fresh herbs to every sandwich that you make. I like the combination of nut butter, banana and chopped broccoli.
  • Try using large pieces of collard greens or kale instead of tortillas to wrap around fillings when you're making sandwiches.
  • Sauerkraut is a good addition to a sandwich, salad or main course. The best kind of sauerkraut is the type that is fermented and needs to be refrigerated, but any form will provide cabbage nutrients.
  • Put shredded salad green leaves or chopped vegetables into your soups, including the dehydrated, almost-instant soups that require only the addition of hot water and a few minutes wait in order to rehydrate.
  • Try making kale chips. Add a little oil to pieces of kale leaves and bake them for ten to fifteen minutes at 350°F, as described in the video below. Seasonings like salt, pepper, paprika, Parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast are nice additions to the chips.
  • Kale chips may not be the healthiest form of the vegetable, but they can be very tasty. If you wish, you can change the identity and amount of oil and salt as well as the cooking temperature and time in order to improve the nutritional value of the chips.
  • Interesting types of salad greens can be found in farmers markets or organic food stores. These unusual vegetables may not be available in supermarkets. Explore the new tastes in these greens.

How to Make Kale Chips

Supper Tips

  • Start supper with a green salad. Remember that salads don't have to be boring!
  • A large serving of microwaved frozen vegetables with canned beans or canned fish for protein makes a good meal when you don't have time to prepare fresh ingredients. Vegetables should be eaten with a small quantity of a healthy oil to promote absorption of the fat soluble vitamins through the lining of the small intestine.
  • Try to use the darker coloured forms of vegetables for added nutrients (such as red or savoy cabbage instead of green cabbage and dark lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce).
  • Add extra vegetables to anything that you are cooking or eating. For example, add green vegetables to spaghetti sauce and pasta.
  • Put chopped vegetables on pizzas.
  • Stir chopped vegetables into grains such as rice.
  • Add green vegetables to beans, chili and savoury pies.
  • Add vegetables to stir-fry recipes and food that is being sautéed.
  • Try roasting vegetables for a new taste that you'll probably find very appealing.
  • Find some healthy salad dressings, or make ones yourself from ingredients such as yogurt, herbs, a flavourful vinegar and a healthy and tasty oil. (My favorite salad oils are extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil.) Keep these dressings available to add to vegetables if you want to change their taste. You can use them as a vegetable dip for snacks, too.
  • Many people like the taste of a cheese sauce on vegetables, but be careful if you like this combination - cheese can be high in fat.
  • Another way to change the taste of green vegetables if you're still getting used to them is to eat the vegetables with fruit.

Garden cress, or simply cress, has a peppery taste and is a great addition to sandwiches. Watercress also has a peppery taste.
Garden cress, or simply cress, has a peppery taste and is a great addition to sandwiches. Watercress also has a peppery taste. | Source

Garden cress is fun and easy to grow. The plant can even be grown indoors on a damp paper towel. This is a fun project for children and may encourage them to eat their greens.

Why Should We Eat Vegetables?

Phytonutrients or phytochemicals are a valuable component of vegetables. "Phyto” comes from an Ancient Greek word that means “plant”. Research is showing that phytonutrients may have very important health benefits. Some are thought to reduce the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. Three major types of phytonutrients in plants are carotenoids, anthocyanins and glucosinolates.

Green vegetables are also important because they are an excellent source of certain vitamins and minerals. In addition, they provide us with insoluble fibre, which helps to prevent constipation.

Phytochemicals

Carotenoids

Medium and dark green vegetables are a good source of vitamin A in the form of an orange or yellow chemical called beta-carotene. Our bodies convert this chemical into the form of vitamin A that we need. Light green vegetables, such as green cabbage and iceberg lettuce, don't contain as much beta-carotene as darker vegetables.

Beta-carotene is a member of a family of chemicals known as carotenoids, which seem to have a variety of health-promoting properties when ingested in food. One of their benefits is maintaining eye health. Carotenoids in food may also decrease the chance of cell damage and reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

Researchers have discovered that taking beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. There is no evidence to show that beta-carotene in food has this effect.

Red cabbage contains health-promoting pigments called anthocyanins.
Red cabbage contains health-promoting pigments called anthocyanins. | Source

Anthocyanins and Flavonoids

Cauliflower is another nutritious vegetable. The cauliflower referred to in the nutrient table below is the common white cauliflower. A rarer orange cauliflower exists, which is much higher in beta-carotene and carotenoids than white cauliflower. A purple cauliflower has also been created, which contains anthocyanins, just like red cabbage. Anthocyanins are red or purple pigments in plants.

Researchers are discovering that anthocyanins appear to have a range of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, protecting nerves and decreasing cancer risk. It's important to remember that the anthocyanins are a large family of chemicals, though. Only certain members of the family may be beneficial. That's why health experts tell us to regularly eat a wide variety of healthy and colourful fruits and vegetables to obtain as many potentially helpful nutrients as possible.

Anthocyanins belong to a larger family of plant chemicals called flavonoids. Some flavonoids appear to have exciting health benefits, such as slowing memory loss as we age. As is the case for other phytonutrients, research into the benefits of flavonoids is ongoing. There is already plenty of evidence suggesting that green vegetables and their nutrients should be an important component of our diet, however.

Helpful Flavonoids

Glucosinolates

The first six vegetables in the table below belong to the family Brassicaceae, which was once known as the family Cruciferae. The members of this family contain glucosinolates. When we eat the glucosinolates in foods like broccoli and its relatives, they are converted into chemicals called isothiocyanates, which are thought to reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

The table below shows some important nutrients which are abundant in popular vegetables. Each vegetable also contains less abundant nutrients which are still present in significant quantities.

A healthy and nutritious collection of vegetables
A healthy and nutritious collection of vegetables | Source

Notable Nutrients in Some Popular Vegetables

Vegetable
Vitamins
Minerals
Phytonutrients
Broccoli
Vitamins C, K, A, B6 and Folate
Manganese, Potassium
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids, Carotenoids
Brussels Sprouts
Vitamins C, K, A, B6 and Folate
Manganese, Potassium
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids, Carotenoids
Green Cabbage
Vitamins C, K, B6 and Folate
Manganese, Potassium
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids
Red Cabbage
Vitamins C, K, B6 and Folate
Manganese, Potassium
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids, Anthocyanins
Cauliflower
Vitamins C, K, B6, Folate and Pantothenic Acid
Manganese, Potassium
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids
Kale
Vitamins C, K, A, B6
Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron
Glucosinolates, Flavonoids, Carotenoids
Spinach
Vitamins C, K, A, B6 and Folate
Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron
Flavonoids, Carotenoids
Romaine Lettuce
Vitamins C, K, A and Folate
Manganese, Potassium
Flavonoids, Carotenoids
These vegetables contain many other nutrients in lower but still significant quantities in addition to the ones mentioned.
Romanesco broccoli or cauliflower
Romanesco broccoli or cauliflower | Source

There are many ways to incorporate green vegetables into a diet and to make them taste even more delicious than they already are. It's important to eat these vegetables every day for their many proven and potential health benefits. By following my tips, or by coming up with ideas of your own, you'll be able to enjoy eating more vegetables and improve your health as well.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

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Comments 35 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Tips for adding the food group I despise! LOL Why am I here? Simply to give you some support. Now, if you do a hub on adding meat to your diet I'll comment ten times. :) Great hub for those who insist on eating veggies.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment, Bill. It was very kind of you to visit my hub, considering your feelings about vegetables! :) Adding a sauce, some fruit or some nut butter to vegetables might make them taste better to you.


Anamika S profile image

Anamika S 4 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

That's some awesome tips here to increase the Green Vegetable intake. However, I have never had a problem eating Green Vegetables for lunch in one form or the other. Personally, I would prefer my fruits and cereal breakfast. However, I love salads for lunch and often go for a spinach and cucumber juice if I get hungry before lunch time or want a snack in between. For dinner, I mostly have grilled chicken/soup. So mostly, I limit my Green Vegetable intake mostly to lunch/in between meals. Good Hub, voted up!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment and the vote, Anamika. Spinach and cucumber juice sounds like a very refreshing drink! I often have a salad for lunch too, and I always have a green vegetable as part of my dinner. I often have a smoothie at breakfast time or for a snack, and I add salad greens to all my smoothies.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Oh yes!!!!! So good. Love your kale suggestions too. You've made eating green fun. Pinnig it AliciaC. Great Hub


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

I especially appreciated this portion of you latest Hub:

"Researchers are discovering that anthocyanins appear to have a range of health benefits, including reducing inflammation and decreasing cancer risk. It's important to remember that the anthocyanins are a large family of chemicals, though. It may be that only certain members of the family are beneficial. That's why health experts tell us to regularly eat a wide variety of healthy and colorful fruits and vegetables to obtain as many potentially helpful nutrients as possible."

An added tip: Romain lettuce cooks well and with a mild taste. If you are tired of poached eggs sticking to the pan and making the pan hard to clean, slice a cross section of Romain lettuce into a small pan, bring the water to a boil and drop an egg or two on top, partially cover (checking often) to cook the egg(s) and voila! an easier to clean pan, green vegetable to accompany the egg(s). Great with wheat toast "buttered" with a canola butter-substitute and some real strawberry jam, a piece of cantaloup, and beverage.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the visit, the comment and the pin, GoodLady! I appreciate them all!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for comment and the great tip, Perspycacious! This sounds like a delicious and healthy breakfast and an excellent way to prevent the egg from sticking to the pan.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi my friend, i love vegetable and your hub about how important they are to us. Broccoli and Spinach are my favorites !

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the votes and the share, Tom! My favorite green vegetables are broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I like their health benefits and their taste. I think they're delicious when they are mixed with extra virgin olive oil and herbs!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Well done and detailed for all to understand how to do this and why. I love greens and do take a Supergreen food every morning. I can tell the difference a few minutes after I have taken it and it does help to regulate the blood sugar. Voted up!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, teaches! It's very interesting that you can feel the effects of a greens supplement so quickly. I add this powder to my smoothies sometimes, although not every time. I like to get any benefits that I can from greens!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois

Great info here and lots of good ideas on how to sneak veggies in when you don't want to eat them. Fortunately for me, I'm a pretty good veggie eater and love salads (and love the convenience of the bags of washed greens). Since I've been a member of La Vista CSA, I've discovered some "new" veggies too such as kale and turnips.

Unfortunately, my husband isn't much of a veggie eater and prefers sauces on his, which I refuse to do. Voted up, useful and interesting.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Danette. I can understand why you like La Vista CSA! I find the greatest variety of greens at farmers markets. I often feel sorry that people who only visit their local supermarket or produce store are missing out on all these greens with interesting tastes. I like the peppery ones best of all! Thank you for the comment and the votes.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Fantastic ideas and photos!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Maren Morgan! I appreciate your visit and comment.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

What a fabulous look at adding green veggies to our diet. I love your idea of breaking the food rules. It will help me think outside the box and I love that!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, RTalloni. Thank you very much for the comment. I like to break the food rules - it helps to make meals fun!


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

I meant to mention the fine quality of your photos for this article. Good job.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Perspycacious!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Excellent information even tho I am not a veggie person. But I do have a large salad with dinner every evening. So I am not entirely veggie-averse.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, drbj. Thanks for the comment. Eating a salad is a very nice way to start dinner!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

So much interesting information and ideas here - Love this hub!

I am a big veggie lover and will be bookmarking and using again and again!

A big vote up from me, thank you, Lesley


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Lesley. Thank you very much for the comment and the vote! I like eating my veggies too. I enjoy looking for new varieties that I haven't tried before.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

Great ideas and tips. As someone from a family of type 2 diabetics, I always make sure I include plenty of vegetables in every meal. I like your idea of putting marmalade and salad greens on toast. It does sound odd but in a good way :)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Om Paramapoonya. I like experimenting with unusual food combinations. I often discover interesting and enjoyable flavors when I do this. Thanks for the comment!


MCStro profile image

MCStro 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

I love veg- ta- bles


MCStro profile image

MCStro 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

The carrots all the way to the broccoli


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I enjoy eating vegetables too, MCStro! Thanks for the comments.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

great tips alicia.

I would love to add vegetables to my daily diet and your hub makes the mark. voted up as useful


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Ruchira. I appreciate your comment and the vote. It's nice to meet you!


daisydayz profile image

daisydayz 4 years ago from Cardiff

Kale crisps sound yummy. I am a big veg eater so I'm ok but my hubby is really fussy so getting more into him will be helpful!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, daisydayz. Thanks for the visit. Yes, kale chips are yummy. They're a great way to sneak vegetables into the diet!


moronkee profile image

moronkee 2 years ago

What are the side effects of eating raw vegetables except for lettuce?

Thanks and I tweet your hub.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment and the tweet, moronkee! Eating raw vegetables can have both advantages and disadvantages. Raw vegetables contain more nutrients, but these may not be as absorbable as they are in cooked vegetables. In addition, some people find raw vegetables hard to digest.

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