Eat Your Greens

From the WebMD Archives

By Jana Kaplan

Chances are, you grew up in a household where your mother would (over)cook vegetables and you would refuse to eat them. Nowadays, parents often have a different problem: Kids love vegetables... as long as they're deep fried, smothered in ranch dressing or covered with cheese. But here's the deal: All of us -- yes, that means you! -- need to eat some greens on a regular basis (without the unhealthy extras).

So be a grown-up and get over your green-avoiding excuses. Excuses like...

But... they don't taste good. Unless you're severely allergic, there's no reason you shouldn't at least try a variety of greens before banishing them from your plate forever. Everyone's taste buds differ, and our flavor preferences can change over time -- so a food you may have tried and hated when you were 11 might turn out to be your new favorite dish. So give greens a second (or third, or tenth) chance.

But... they're expensive. Let's differentiate between non-organic and organic veggies. Non-organic vegetables can be found at any supermarket and are relatively cheap. Organic vegetables aren't coated in synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, but they are a bit costlier. You don't have to eat organic greens. Do they have less pesticide residue than non-organic? Yes. Are they absolutely necessary to great health? No.

But... I don't know how to cook. Who said anything about cooking? Sure, vegetables (and most everything else) tend to taste better when there's some kind of fat involved, but they're also delicious when eaten raw in a salad or even blended up with some fruit or yogurt in a smoothie. If you feel like you must cook them, try sautéing them in a pan that's been coated with a little bit of nonstick spray. Voila!

But... I don't know which ones have which health benefits. You do know that they all have health benefits of some sort, right? Leafy greens, like romaine, kale and spinach, are low in calories and are a fantastic source of fiber and vitamins A, C and K. Broccoli's rich in vitamins A and C as well, and also potassium.

But... they make me gassy. "Greens, greens, they're good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you..."? Sure, some greens, like broccoli, can cause a little gas, but that's no reason to avoid them -- they're just too nutritious. Instead, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends buffering broccoli's smelly side-effect by eating probiotic-containing foods such as kefir or yogurt.

But... no one else in my house will eat them. Odds are good that the people in your house will follow your lead. It's like Field of Dreams: If you cook it, they will eat. Unless your housemates plan on cooking their own food every night (or ordering in from a restaurant until their budget's blown), they'll most likely eat whatever you make. Just try to mix it up a bit by offering them different options, so no one gets sick and tired of having the same "boring" vegetables every day.

The great thing about greens is that they're so nutritious, yet so low in calories that you can eat as many as you want without expanding your waistline. It might take a few tries to figure out which ones you enjoy, but even if you end up only liking one vegetable, that's one healthy food you can commit to and continue to eat on a regular basis. Hooray!