Love Those Leafies: Easy Ideas to Get More Greens in Your Diet

Leafy greens are something we should ALL be eating more of—pregnant or not.

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You gotta love those leafies! Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and proven disease-fighters; leafy greens are something we should ALL be eating more of—pregnant or not.

This is the first in a series of posts I'll be doing on leafy greens to help you incorporate more of them in your diet for your own and your baby's benefit.

Summer is the perfect time to start. Not only is salad season in full swing, you can also hit your farmers market for whatever looks greenest and freshest (avoid bunches with yellowing wilted leaves). In general, the darker the leafy green-the more nutritional wallop it packs. Some of my faves include spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and kale.

These particular greens are flexible to keep on hand because they can be eaten raw in salads or tossed into sautés, stir fries, frittatas, and soups. Another bonus: Since these greens can all be cooked you can stash unused leftovers in the freezer to use later in cooked dishes.

I like to give my greens a little TLC when I get them home so they stay fresh as long as possible. Here's how: Tear or chop into bite sized pieces (if you're using a tougher green like kale or Swiss chard tear the leaves away from the center rib and reserve rib for another use).

Next, fill a large bowl or pot with cold water, gently submerge greens, and swish around with your hand to remove any grit from the leaves. Allow grit to settle to the bottom of the bowl, pull greens from the top, and place in a colander to drain. Repeat this process until you don't see any grit remaining in the bottom of the water. Next give greens a quick spin in a salad spinner to dry.

Finally, transfer washed and dried greens to a paper towel lined storage container or large storage baggie. They should last up to 5-7 days in the fridge and having them at the ready makes it that much easier to use in your meals.

Of course most supermarkets have a wide selection of pre-washed leafy greens available too—baby spinach is a staple in my house and lately I've also been seeing (and loving!) baby kale salad mixes.

Speaking of kale; this week I've got two fun things to make with the Superhero of all leafy greens. It just depends on what you're in the mood for!

Keep Reading: 3 Ways to Make Kale Chips

Are you craving a crunchy and salty snack?

Try making kale chips—it's ridiculously easy if you haven't tried yet. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

(You'll hear me wax poetic about how much I love roasting on parchment—it absorbs liquids for a crispy finish and creates a nonstick, easy cleanup surface with very little oil. Please try it!)

Next, toss torn kale leaves (I prefer curly kale for texture) in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and spread evenly across parchment.

Roast for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until lightly browned on the edges. You can serve kale chips as is or sprinkle with one of these easy spice blends:

Ranch Chips

2 tsp dried buttermilk (available in the baking section of all supermarkets—makes everything taste "ranch" flavored)

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

Vampire Style

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp cumin

Pinch cayenne or smoked paprika

Looking for an easy no-cook summer dinner?

Try my Lemony Shredded Kale Salad with Parmesan Curls. The slight bitterness of raw kale is tempered by lemon and honey in this simple, flavorful vinaigrette. Just top your salad with grilled chicken or shrimp for a super healthy supper.

Get the recipe for Lemony Shredded Kale Salad

No matter what you crave during your pregnancy, be sure to add more leafy greens to your diet this summer for a super nutritional boost!

Julie Hartigan left a career as an engineer/tech consultant to pursue her long-standing dream of attending culinary school. A fun loving person and natural born teacher, she loves her new career and sharing what she's learned with others. Julie currently develops recipes, writes, and blogs about cooking, health, and entertaining for Weight Watchers, Bed Bath Beyond, and others. She teaches healthy cooking classes for adults and children, has been a personal chef, and has also worked at Saveur magazine and Food Network. Part gym rat, part party girl, her approach to cooking and life is finding the sweet spot: "Where Healthy Meets Happy".

Julie lives in Hoboken, NJ with her two little girls, two chubby guinea pigs, and an extremely patient husband.

For more healthy cooking ideas and recipes follow Julie on Twitter @cookingwjulie and check out her Weight Watchers blog: "What's Cooking with Julie".

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