Salad-free ways to eat more leafy greens
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.
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!