By Kristina Isaac, RD
If you had a dollar for every time someone told you to “eat your greens” or “choose whole grains,” it’s likely that your wallet would be much heavier. However, simply knowing you should eat more (or less) of something isn’t the best motivation. However, having a little nutrition knowledge combined with practical ideas, and most importantly a sense of which foods satisfy you, will get you a lot further. When it comes to greens, grains and pulses, here are some practical ideas and tasty recipes to help erase your list of “shoulds.”
- Buy a bag of spinach – This may be common practice for some of you, but pre-washed, packaged spinach was a recent discovery for me. As a result, the amount of leafy greens I eat has increased, along with the fibre and potassium in my day. Spinach is an easy base for salad or addition to your smoothie, and would also taste great in this Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Crustless Quiche.
- Cook ‘em – Leafy greens don’t only belong in salad. Adding them to cooked dishes such as stir-fry, spaghetti sauce or soup, works well too. Or, try topping your pizza with finely chopped greens. Cooked greens shrink significantly (making it easier to get more in), so don’t hesitate to add a generous amount.
- Try baby greens – Looking for a milder green? Baby greens, such as baby spinach or kale, may be for you. Their smaller size still packs a hefty dose of nutrients, and the fact that they’re tiny makes them easy to add to dishes, no chopping required. Click here for ideas on how to use baby greens.
- Expand your repertoire – If you’re tired of romaine, spinach and kale, it may be time to introduce a new leafy green. Here is a great guide to greens, along with ideas on how to prepare them. Arugula is one of my favourites for its bold flavour.
- Satisfy with salad – If you’re like me, a salad made of leafy greens and chopped veggies will only keep hunger pangs at bay for an hour, tops. Protein will help, but to make salad a meal, the carbs and fibre in whole grains work wonders. Use up leftover grains to make a salad in a jar.
- Look for 100% whole grain – If the ingredients list on your bread, pasta or crackers say whole wheat rather than whole grain or whole grain whole wheat, you’re missing out on the full benefits of the whole grain. Getting more grains in your day may be as simple as checking the food labels in your pantry to see where you can make a quick switch.
- Short on time? – Because whole grains take longer to cook, you might opt for white rice when pressed for time. But having cooked, frozen whole grains available makes them the easiest choice. On an evening when you do have time, try cooking a large batch of grains, such as brown rice or millet, and freeze the extras in a thin layer in a plastic bag or container (check out this link for directions).
- Be adventurous – Eating more grains may be as easy as trying something different. Barley doesn’t only belong in beef barley stew, it tastes wonderful in this Mexican Barley Salad. This summertime grain bowl is a great way to try farro.
If you’re looking for a new grain with a shorter cook-time, you can whip up bulgur in just 15-20 minutes.
- It’s not all or nothing – If the idea of meatless Monday makes you (or members of your family) cringe, keep the meat and add a legume. Lentils are one of the easiest pulses to cook, and they blend well with ground meat, adding a boost of fibre. Try it out with these Sloppy Lennys, a recipe we enjoy in our house.
- Black bean bonanza – Black beans are a pantry staple. Simply drain, rinse and add to salsa, Friday night nachos, chicken enchiladas or a black bean burger.
- Beans in baking – If you’re up for trying something new and different, you can use pulses in baking. Check out these recipes from Alberta Pulse Growers to add some fibre and protein to your snacks.
- Tummy trouble – Does the thought of adding more beans to your meals make your stomach hurt? Any time you add fibre to your diet, start slowly (e.g. ¼ cup of pulses) and be consistent. If you cook pulses from scratch, soak them overnight, discard the water and start with fresh water to cook. You can also try an anti-gas pill such as Beano®. Lastly, when eating more high fibre foods, make sure to drink plenty of fluid throughout the day!
Combine these tips and recipes with what you already know and you’ll be on your way to eating more greens, grains and pulses! This article was originally posted on Nourish Move Thrive as Easy Ways to Eat More Greens, Grains and Pulses.