- Nutrition in leafy greens
- Types of leafy greens
- 1. Green smoothie
- 2. With eggs
- 3. In a wrap
- 4. In quesadillas
- 5. Leafy green or lettuce wraps
- 6. With chili and grains
- 7. Sauteed greens
- 8. Make into a pesto
- 9. Toss with pasta
- 10. Veggie pizza topping
- 11. Tuck into tacos
- 12. Add to soup
- 13. Kale chips
- 14. Green dip
- 15. Coleslaw
A salad is one of the first foods many people think of when it comes to healthy eating. But what to do if you’re in a salad rut or just don’t like salads? Don’t fret. This list of delicious 15 salad-free ways to eat more leafy greens is sure to inspire you with new ideas for your meals and snacks.
Nutrition in Leafy Greens
Low in calories, leafy greens offer fiber and an array of nutrients and antioxidants.
We need fiber to keep the gut and heart healthy. Fiber also helps the body slow down its absorption of sugar, thereby preventing blood sugar spikes after eating. (1)
What’s more, a high-fiber diet aids with satiety or keeps you feeling full for longer. This could be helpful for portion control and weight management. (1)
In addition to fiber, leafy greens are loaded with the following nutrients (2).
- Vitamin A – supports the body’s growth and development and the immune system.
- Vitamin C – a key nutrient and antioxidant that promotes immune function, collagen production, and absorption of iron from plant-based foods.
- Vitamin K – essential for blood clotting and building of bones
- B-vitamins – needed for proper cell function and helps with metabolism and creation of new blood cells.
- Potassium – an electrolyte and mineral that helps with blood pressure regulation, proper nerve signals, and muscle contraction.
Lastly, due to their high antioxidant and nutrient content, leafy greens along with other fruits and vegetables have been linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and premature death (3).
Types of Leafy Greens
You can find many leafy greens year-round at your local grocery store or farmers’ market. Here’s a list of nutritious leafy greens:
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Butter lettuce
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Green leaf and red leaf lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
The following list of salad-free ways to eat leafy greens will show some specific types of leafy greens for an idea.
However, feel free to mix up your leafy greens. For example, using kale instead of spinach for a smoothie. Or swap romaine lettuce for mustard greens in a wrap.
1. Green Smoothie
I’m a big fan of smoothies in the morning, especially as I’m not a morning person and want something filling, nutritious, and quick. As such, smoothie checks off all the boxes.
Even so, don’t limit smoothies to breakfast. They’re perfect for a healthy snack, too.
I prefer smoothies a bit on the sweet side and powered with protein.
When I add a leafy green to my smoothie, it’s typically fresh or frozen spinach along with a fruit such as banana, berries, mango, or a cube of frozen canned pumpkin.
To boost the protein, I use pea-based milk or soy milk since I have an intolerance to cow’s milk. Plus, I’ll add either a protein powder, Greek yogurt, or peanut or almond butter.
Adding a tablespoon or two of omega-3 fat-rich chia or flaxseeds provides additional fiber and protein.
Breeze through the morning without worrying if you’ve got any fresh greens by keeping a stock of frozen spinach for your smoothies.
2. With Eggs
Eggs are a good source of protein and vitamin B-12 and pair well with all kinds of vegetables, including leafy greens.
To boot, you can eat eggs for lunch and dinner, too, not just for breakfast.
My lazy way of eating eggs with leafy greens is to simply cook eggs sunny side up, season, and serve over a bed of greens with toast, in a wrap, or with leftover grains such as quinoa or rice.
Another fantastic and simple way to eat leafy greens with eggs is to cook an omelet or frittata. This also helps you get through any veggies lingering in your fridge as you could add them, too.
3. In a Wrap
Take a break from the same old sandwich routine and make a wrap instead.
What’s more, a wrap can fit a good amount of protein, leafy greens, other veggies, and condiments.
Like bread, there’s an assortment of wraps to choose from to suit your taste. You can find flavored varieties, whole grain, low carb, as well as grain- and gluten-free wraps.
My no-cook way to do wraps includes rinsed canned beans, leafy greens, and chopped veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, or radishes. Salsa, avocado sauce, or hummus are my go-to condiments.
Alternatively, you can add coleslaw for a simple wrap filling.
Leftover cooked chicken or prepared egg, tuna, or salmon salad are fantastic protein choices, too.
4. In Quesadillas
Quesadillas with good melting cheese and leafy greens make yummy, quick comfort food.
As an alternative to a grilled cheese sandwich, I’ll do a quesadilla served with a bowl of soup like tomato or lentil soup.
In addition, you can boost the protein by adding chopped scrambled eggs, beans, or leftover cooked meat to your quesadilla.
Not to mention, quesadillas are a crowd-pleaser and easy to customize for your family or a gathering. Serve them with a side of guacamole and salsa.
5. Leafy Green Wraps
Lettuce wraps are a great substitute for regular wraps and tacos, particularly if you’re trying to watch your carb intake. Anything that you would put in a taco or wrap can go in a lettuce wrap.
Use wide lettuce leaves such as butter lettuce or hearts of Romaine for your wraps.
However, don’t limit yourself to lettuce. Kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard would work just as well.
Here are a few ideas for wrap fillings.
- Egg salad
- Salmon salad
- Tuna salad
- Cooked shrimp with cilantro and slices of avocado, cucumber, and carrots sliced lengthwise and served with peanut dipping sauce
- Buffalo chicken wraps – buffalo spice seasoned ground chicken with diced celery and blue cheese
- Mexican lettuce wraps – a mix of black beans, chopped red onion, corn, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, chopped avocado, mayo, and taco or chili lime seasoning.
6. With Chili and Grains
Add a handful of leafy greens to a bowl of chili and grains to make a completely balanced meal. You could also do this with stews, too.
Let the leafy greens soak up all the savory and spicy flavors of the chili.
Need a quick no-fuss chili recipe? Check out this easy 3 ingredient chili recipe with variations.
Consider cornbread, toast, or ready-to-serve rice or quinoa for an effortless carb.
For a carb alternative, you might also find minute mashed potatoes next to potatoes in the produce section.
7. Sauteed Greens
Make sautéed greens like collard greens in a snap. This side dish goes well with a variety of meals such as barbeque, pasta dishes, meat and potato, and casseroles.
Find chopped collard greens to save time.
Here is a quick and simple way to sauté collard greens. You can also try this with kale, spinach, turnip greens, and Swiss chard.
- Rinse greens and cut off the center rib of each leaf and discard the rib.
- Cut the leaves lengthwise in half, stack them up and make 1-inch cuts.
- Heat a skillet to medium and add 1-2 teaspoons of oil. Add 1 minced garlic if you’d like. Then add the greens and cook until they shrink and brighten in color, no more than 3 minjutes.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for about 30 seconds, until just tender.
- Season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon and crushed red pepper flakes if you’d like before serving.
8. Make into a Pesto
Do you have a food processor or blender sitting around? If so, put it to use and make pesto using leafy greens such as arugula, spinach, or a spring mix.
While pesto pairs well with pasta, you can add it to these other foods, too.
- Spread it like a sauce on top of grilled or baked fish or chicken
- Add it to sandwiches and burgers like a condiment
- Mix with sour cream or plain yogurt and add to a baked potato or use as a dip for baked fries
- Mix a dollop of pesto with soups and grains
Check out this easy pesto recipe.
- Combine 2 loosely packed cups of leafy greens along with a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds of your choice, 1/2 to 1 clove garlic (more if you like a garlicky flavor), and about a 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor or blender.
- Process and stop occasionally to scrape down the container sides as needed.
- Add more olive oil if you’d like a thinner mixture and process.
- Stir in optional 1/2 cup of grated hard cheese like Parmesan, pecorino Romano by hand.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two. You can also freeze pesto for several months.
9. Toss with Pasta
One of my favorite easy ways to eat leafy greens is in a pasta dish.
What I do is add a handful of leafy greens onto my plate of cooked pasta and combine it so that they still have a bit of their texture and not wilted.
However, you can also sauté leafy greens separately like in the recipe above for sautéed greens, then add them to your pasta. Or you can add them to the pasta pot in the last couple minutes of cooking.
In addition to cooked pasta dishes, add a handful of leafy greens to a cold pasta salad.
10. Veggie Pizza Topping
Personal pizzas that you can make at home give you control over ingredients.
No need to cook separate meals when you can customize personal-sized pizzas to suit different tastes in your household. Or do a half and half pizza—one side with leafy greens and other veggie toppings and the other side with meat.
11. Tuck into Tacos
For another quick way to add leafy greens, tuck them into tacos. Like personal-sized pizzas and quesadillas, tacos are simple to customize.
Do a taco night with ground meat or turkey, beans, or fish; chopped leafy greens; and assorted add-ons such as sliced avocado or guacamole, salsa, jalapeno, fresh chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon or lime.
12. Add to Soup
In addition to tossing with pasta, soup is my other favorite easy way to eat more leafy greens in a hot meal.
Leafy greens go well with noodle soup, bean soup, lentil soup, tomato soup, and just about any other soup.
Add a handful of your choice of leafy greens to a bowl of soup and you’re done!
13. Kale Chips
Craving a crispy snack that’s not a bag of chips? Give baked kale chips a try.
All you need is kale, olive oil, and salt to make the following recipe. Use a bag of chopped kale for convenience.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl, combine 4 to 5 cups of chopped kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Add other flavors such as a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and paprika if you’d like. If you’re using kale leaves, make sure to dry them well after washing, de-stem, and chop into bite size pieces.
- Spread kale pieces onto a baking sheet, making sure they don’t overlap.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until kale is crisp.
- Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an air-tight container and consume them within 1 to 2 days.
14. Quick Leafy Green Dip
Clean out your crisper drawer with a leafy green dip made with spinach, arugula, microgreens, or watercress.
Not only will a delectable dip get you to eat more leafy greens, but you’ll eat more dip-friendly veggies like carrots, bell peppers, and celery sticks, too.
Recipes abound for cold and hot spinach dip.
But I like to keep my dip recipe on the quick and healthy side by mixing plain Greek yogurt with mashed avocado, finely chopped greens, optional minced garlic, and seasoning.
Along with crudites and crackers, use the dip as a condiment for wraps, sandwiches, and burgers.
I would be remiss to not include coleslaw in this list. While some may consider coleslaw a cold side salad, I prefer to eat it as a condiment instead of lettuce in sandwiches, wraps, and tacos.
What’s more, you can get creative with a basic cabbage coleslaw recipe or store-bought coleslaw and doctor it up with these other ingredients listed.
- Other leafy greens chopped up
- Bell peppers
- Fresh herbs
- Chopped nuts
- Lemon or lime zest and a squeeze of lemon or lime
With all these salad-free options to incorporate leafy greens into your diet, you can continue to reap their health benefits plus satisfy your appetite in new ways.
What’s one new way you’d like to try adding leafy greens to your meals or snacks? Share in the comments what’s working for you.