March 13, 2015

Vanderbilt nutrition educator says St. Patrick’s Day green is the luckiest color for our diets

The green of St. Patrick’s Day is a symbol of the luck of the Irish, and Vanderbilt nutrition educator Stacey Kendrick says when it comes to good food, green can bring good luck to our health, too.

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans wants you to eat your green stuff,” she says. The recommendation is that adults eat about 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day—preferably with lots of color.

“Green vegetables pack a punch of vitamins and nutrients,” Kendrick says. “At a time of year when some of us are thinking about getting back in shape after a long, cold winter, it’s good to know that most green vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, so they fill you up and keep you full longer which aids in maintaining a healthy weight.”

It may be just a coincidence that St. Patrick’s Day occurs just before a lot of greens become available, but some of the earliest fresh vegetables of the season are greens, with turnip greens among the first, and asparagus and kale not far behind. Kendrick advises checking local farmers’ markets or the Tennessee Seasonality Chart at the Nashville Farmers’ Market website to see what is available.

“As they come into season, choose the vegetables with the brightest colors such as broccoli, spinach, peppers, asparagus, romaine lettuce, kale and Brussels sprouts,” she says. “They are richer in nutrients than their less colorful counterparts such as mushrooms, celery and cucumbers.”

What about vegetables that aren’t in season?

“Overall, with vegetables, fresh is best,” Kendrick says. “But frozen and canned vegetables can still be a good choice and are often most convenient. Try to buy those without added salt, and remember you can also rinse canned vegetables by running them under water.”

Here are some of Kendrick’s ideas for getting more green into your diet:

·         Add some kale to your fruit smoothie (you won’t even taste it!)
·         Pile the sliced green peppers, cucumbers, and leafy green lettuce on your turkey sandwich.
·         Choose a green side salad over fries with your burger
·         Add some sautéed zucchini to your pasta
·         Top your pizza with spinach, and green peppers
·         Add some steamed broccoli to your baked potato
·         Pack a bag of crunchy green veggies to dip in salsa or hummus to munch for an afternoon snack at your desk

And here are some of her preparation tips:

·         Sauté—cut Brussels sprouts in half and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a non-stick skillet until tender. Add a drizzle of fresh lemon juice before serving.
·         Roast—place asparagus on a tray and brush with some sesame oil (about a tablespoon) and sprinkle with sesame seeds for an Asian flair. Roast at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.
·         Steam—Cut green beans to desired size and place in about ½ cup of water in a pot. Add the green beans, cover tightly, bring to a boil and steam until crisp tender about 5-7 minutes). You can also place them in a steamer basket. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkle a bit of garlic powder on top. Toss.
·         Grill—March is warm enough to start grilling again. Brush some sliced green peppers with olive oil, some fresh or dried herbs (oregano and rosemary work great) and a bit of salt and pepper. You can put them right on the grill grate or skewer them, and grill until soft-tender.