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Salad-free ways to eat more leafy greens

November 15, 2012

This article appears in the fall 2012 issue of Chickpea Magazine
as ‘More Than Just Rabbit Food.’

I have a confession to make (though many of you know this already): I am a raw/vegan chef and cookbook author and a high-raw foodist, and I don’t care much for salads.

It’s true! For my entire life, I’ve had a hard time stomaching the bare taste and, especially, texture of most leafy greens, at least in salad form. As much as I’d like to, I just don’t often delight in a big pile of greens the way other raw foodies do.

Kale-Tahini Salad from Practically Raw: a salad I LOVE!

On the bright side, this “leaf aversion” of mine has led me to find numerous other ways to incorporate the stellar nutrition of greens into my daily diet. From the basics to a few unusual ideas, here are some creative ways to eat more leafy greens without chomping on salads all day long.

Smoothies This one’s a no-brainer—every time you make a smoothie, be sure to throw in a handful of spinach or a couple destemmed kale or chard leaves. If you’re worried about altering the taste of your smoothie (especially when using tougher greens such as kale), include a handful of fresh or frozen berries. I find that seedy varieties, such as raspberries and blackberries, do a particularly excellent job of covering up the taste of greens.

Juice When I first started juicing, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed green drinks! I love to make myself a tall glass of green juice first thing in the morning. My favorite blend is romaine lettuce, kale (stems and all!), cucumber, celery (include the nutritious leafy tops), green apple or pear, lemon, and ginger.

Pizza Kale Chips
 from Practically Raw

Kale Chips Is there anything better than crunchy, snackable raw kale chips? When encased in a delicious coating and dehydrated until crisp, kale morphs from a fibrous leafy green into delectable finger food. Eating a whole pile of greens can be as easy as picking up a storebought bag of raw kale chips, or – even better – making your own! (I included an entire chapter of kale chips in my cookbook Practically Raw.) Using cashews, sunflower seeds, or hempseeds as a base, blended together with vegetables, herbs, spices, or even sweeteners, the possibilities for kale chip flavors are endless.

Wraps Discovering raw wraps was a green revelation for me. Dollop some of your favorite ingredients or fillings onto romaine leaves, destemmed collard or Swiss chard leaves, Belgian endive, or cabbage leaves, and you have handheld party food at its finest. A couple of my favorites are raw taco nutmeat, nacho cheeze, and salsa in romaine leaves, and raw hummus, sundried tomatoes, diced cucumber, and Kalamata olives in collard leaves.

Soups and Sauces Similar to smoothies, puréed raw soups and sauces are a great vehicle for leafy greens. Sure, it’ll change the color a little, but the added nutrition will more than make up for that. Blend one or two destemmed kale or chard leaves into your next savory raw soup, or include a handful of spinach or beet greens in a batch of raw marinara sauce.

Spinach-Walnut Pesto Pasta from Practically Raw

Pesto Pesto can be made with more than just basil! Replace half (or more) of the basil in any pesto recipe with the leafy green of your choice. I find that tender baby spinach leaves taste best to me, but feel free to get adventurous and experiment with stronger-tasting greens such as arugula, watercress, or mustard greens. (Hint: change up the nuts and herbs too! Instead of pine nuts, try walnuts or pistachios, and/or use parsley or even cilantro in place of basil.)

Hummus and Guac Just half a cup of spinach in your next batch of hummus will lend it a lovely green hue (not to mention bonus micronutrients) without adding any unwanted bitterness. Similarly, if you purée your guacamole (as opposed to fork-crushing it), a handful of leafy greens makes a great addition. I also love to use romaine or butter lettuce leaves in place of chips or crackers to scoop up my hummus and guac.

Kimchi Cabbage definitely counts as a leafy green! Get your daily dose in the form of kimchi, an often-spicy fermented Korean condiment commonly made of napa cabbage. Scoop some into a wrap or on top of raw “stir fried” vegetables. Sauerkraut and coleslaw are two more great ways to enjoy this nutritious crucifer.

Garnishes A great way to hide leafy greens in plain sight is to very finely shred them and sprinkle them into or on top of other dishes. I combine broccoli stems, watercress, and flat-leaf parsley in my food processor and pulse them to oblivion, then use them like a garnish. Include a bit of nutritional yeast, fresh garlic, and/or sea salt for extra flavor.

Cocoa Corruption Smoothie from Practically Raw

Chocolate Yes, seriously! A mild green like spinach will blend seamlessly into chocolate desserts, where the assertiveness of the cacao will disguise any hint of leafiness. Try adding a handful next time you make chocolate mousse, a chocolate milkshake, or even raw chocolate frosting or ganache.

As you can see, despite living a relatively low-salad lifestyle, I still provide my body with plenty of leafy green nourishment on a daily basis. Even if you’re a bona fide salad lover, try adding a few of these ideas into your rotation—the fact is, when it comes to greens, there’s no such thing as too much!

16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2012 11:35 am

    Awesome, thanks!! I also do not orgasm over raw kale salads (although the one from your book sounds pretty tempting…). I’ve tried, I really have. I just don’t get how bitter greens make people’s mouths delight in joy. I LOVE the cooked versions of many greens, but unfortunately not so much the raw, unless it is the milder-tasting leaves like romaine, butter, etc. I did grow up on fresh sauerkraut, so I guess that counts. 🙂 I really like your ‘garnish’ idea toward the end. I’ve NEVER thought to do that. (And I don’t think I ever would have thought that up on my own.) I thought I was being innovative by slicing my broccoli stems into medallions and sauteing them with garlic, onions, and julienne-sliced collards. 🙂 I enjoyed quite a bit of raw kale-pineapple-lemonade juice over the summer, but I had to cool it on the raw kale. Does your thyroid react to it? Mine sure did. I could actually feel that area ‘tingle’ after a few glasses of juice over the course of a few mornings. Oh, well. It was good while I had it!

    • November 15, 2012 2:13 pm

      Kale doesn’t seem to bother my thyroid, luckily…
      Glad you like my garnish idea! 😀

  2. Hilda Quintanilla permalink
    November 15, 2012 11:41 am

    Amazing! This weekend, we were given 3 FREE bags of organic Swiss chard. This morning I was wondering if I could use them in smoothies. I was even going to post it on Facebook – and today you answered my question! Thank you!

  3. November 16, 2012 5:24 am

    Some fantastic ideas! I love a big plate of sald but I also love the idea of sneaking greens into every meal. Thanks for the great tips!

  4. November 16, 2012 9:00 am

    This is a great article, I have a leaf aversion myself so smoothies, soups and sauces I feel are the best way to get the veggies I need.

  5. November 16, 2012 1:41 pm

    Great in depth post for non salad lovers. I usually start my day with a giant green smoothie then a big salad for lunch and then dinner varies. Thanks for new twists on the classics! Looking forward to your un-cookbook. Your pics are amazing!!!

  6. November 16, 2012 5:11 pm

    I’m so glad you shared this. I’m a nutritionist, and though I love greens, I hate raw salads too! Blech. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  7. November 19, 2012 2:02 pm

    What you say is quite funny, and I can relate in a way because I generally avoid salads. Not because I dont like vegetables, but because I generally find them boring in taste!

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