Cooking for one: 10 easy ways to add greens

photo: sleepyneko via Flickr

If there’s anything my colleagues all agree on, it’s this: eat more vegetables.  Whether dietitians advocate low fat, Mediterranean, diabetic, lower calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian or even low carb, more vegetables is a universal theme.  Greens are particularly nutritious, but sometimes we get into a rut, thinking they’re just for salads.  It’s easy for some people to get bored with salads.

There are plenty of ways to cook greens, but sometimes cooking greens seems like a lot of trouble, especially if you’re a single person, cooking for one.  According to data from the 2010 US Census, more people are living in single-person households.  Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to add more greens to your diet, even if you are cooking for one.

Your first decision is whether to use frozen greens or fresh greens.  Honestly, they’re nutritionally so similar, the decision needs to be based on how long you store food before using it, as well as your flavor preferences.  Obviously fresh greens are the choice if you’re making a salad or otherwise using greens raw, such as on a sandwich or in a wrap.  But for cooking, either one is fine.

You can find bags of frozen chopped spinach and other greens like chard, collards, beet and kale in most grocery stores.  Unlike the old style brick packs which had to be completely defrosted to use, frozen vegetables in bags are easy to use in small amounts, so they’re ideal if you’re cooking for one.  You can just use as much as you need for one meal, and put the rest back in the freezer.

With fresh greens, you have more options, such as dark lettuces, endive and arugula which can’t be frozen.  The drawback for some people is storage.  Fresh greens should be used a few days after purchase.  Frozen lasts indefinitely.  Fresh greens also have to be washed and picked over, which might be too time-consuming for some people.  Solution: buy pre-washed greens, which make salad preparation extremely easy.

Now that you’ve got your greens, what to do with them?  Here are some easy ways to add greens to your meals:

  1. boil or steam a portion
  2. add a handful to a canned or prepared soup while it’s heating up
  3. add to a grain dish, such as rice or quinoa
  4. saute with onions, mushrooms and other fresh vegetables
  5. add to a cheese pizza before baking (thaw frozen greens slightly beforehand, draining out excess water)
  6. add to a dish made with a sauce, such as mac and cheese or a coconut curry
  7. add greens to a bean dish.  Greens go well with white kidney beans.
  8. top sandwiches and wraps with fresh raw greens
  9. toss greens with cooked pasta, olive oil, diced canned tomatoes, parmesan, herbs and garlic
  10. and of course, there’s salad.  Ditch the iceberg lettuce habit, and go for a variety of dark-colored greens.

So single cooks, there’s no excuse for not adding more greens to your diet, and you don’t have to eat salad everyday to do it.

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