Spinach Alternatives for Hot Dishes
While they may require slightly longer cooking times, there are several readily available alternatives for spinach in cooked dishes.
Schueller recommends trying chard or kale.
"On top of the fact that both of these greens are nutritionally dense, they can also make your recipe very colorful and creative," he says.
The leaves of red or green chard, when raw, have a beet-like flavor. A half-cup serving of cooked Swiss chard has 18 calories, 2 grams fiber, 39% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 21% for vitamin C, 11% vitamin E, 24% for magnesium, and 14% for potassium. One-half cup of cooked kale contains 18 calories, 1.3 grams fiber, 18% Daily Value for vitamin A, 46% for vitamin C, 9% for calcium, and 12% for magnesium.
Collard or turnip greens can also fill in for spinach in hot dishes. Turnip greens contain 14 calories, 2.5 grams fiber, 57% Daily Value for vitamin A, 26% for vitamin C, 8% for vitamin E, 21% for folate, and 10% for calcium per 1/2 cup of cooked greens. Collard greens contain 25 calories, 3 grams fiber, 42% Daily Value for vitamin A, 23% for vitamin C, 22% for folic acid, and 11% for calcium per 1/2 cup of cooked greens.
And if you're still worried about spinach safety, don't forget about canned and frozen spinach, which were not implicated in the E. coli outbreaks, according to the FDA. The FDA also points out that the strain of E. coli involved (0157:H7) can be killed by cooking for 15 seconds at 160° Fahrenheit.
It's important to use caution to ensure the safety of all your leafy greens, experts say.
"When buying freshly cut produce in general, make sure they are properly refrigerated at the point of purchase, look for an expiration date (if available), and look for obvious signs that it hasn’t been handled properly, like browning or bruising," says Shelly Feist, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety and Education.
At home, Feist recommends rinsing all produce (except the pre-washed bagged type) under clean, running tap water to wash away invisible pathogens.
If you're ready to give spinach substitutes a try, here's a salad recipe that incorporates both escarole and baby arugula.