Spinach is so versatile and easily added to so many dishes you might enjoy it as often as Popeye the Sailorman! Since it is such a delicate green, it does not require much, if any, cooking time. It can either be enjoyed raw or added at the end with the other cooked ingredients so that it becomes just slightly wilted. The pre-packaged spinach is already washed and chopped which makes it super convenient to just pull it out of the bag and throw it into so many dishes.
This tasty green also packs a nutritious punch and contains many vitamins and minerals, including calcium, manganese, and vitamin K needed for healthy bones; vitamins A and C important in immune function; magnesium needed for muscle and nerve function; folate and B6 especially important during pregnancy and brain development; and lutein and zeaxanthin that reduce the risk of eye conditions.
The traditional Mediterranean way of eating includes lots of vegetables. Breakfast is the hardest meal for many to get any vegetables. Adding veggies to an omelet is one way to get at least some at the morning meal. You can cook a bag of spinach and chopped vegetables at the beginning of each week to keep in the refrigerator to make quick vegetable omelets. Sauté a bag of baby spinach in a few teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. You can add lemon zest if you want. Cook chopped mushrooms, peppers, and onions – whatever vegetables you like – and keep them on hand as well.
Vegetable Omelet Serves 1
Olive oil non-stick spray
½ cup spinach
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with the olive oil spray.
Add the spinach and mushrooms. Cook until heated.
In a bowl, beat the egg until well combined and add to the spinach and mushrooms.
Swirl the pan to distribute the egg. Cook until the egg is set.
You can turn it over if you like your eggs more on the well done side.
Fold in half and serve.
Nutrition Information per Serving: Vegetables: ½ cup, Calories: 90, Carbohydrates: 3 grams, Fiber: 1 gram, Protein: 8 grams, Fat: 5 grams and Sodium: 302 mg
Eggs, any style, over veggies is an excellent way to use leftovers. I frequently set aside some of my dinner veggies specifically for this purpose because I enjoy the egg/veggie combo and it makes it easy to take in more veggies when you start with breakfast.
This next salad is super nutritious, looks and taste yummy, too! Quinoa is a popular whole grain thanks to its quick cooking time, high protein content, and nutty taste. It is often found in the grocery store near gluten free food product and gluten free flour. The quinoa really soaks up the dressing in this recipe. Wait to dress the salad until right before serving. You will use about a bag of salad greens total. You can use all spinach, all arugula, or half and half.
Quinoa Strawberry Salad Serves 4
Serving Size: 1 cup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
½ cup dry quinoa
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stacked rolled and sliced chiffonade
2 cups arugula
⅔ cup sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Place quinoa in medium saucepan along with 1¾ cups water. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked.
Remove lid and cook until all water is evaporated. Remove from heat.
Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a bowl or jar.
Place the quinoa, spinach, arugula, strawberries, toasted almonds, and basil in bowl and combine.
Add and toss in dressing just prior to serving.
Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: 1 cup, Vegetables: ½ cup, Fruits: ¼ cup, Calories: 182, Carbohydrates: 18 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 5 grams, Fat: 10 grams and Sodium: 33 mg
Another great way to slide spinach in your diet is by adding spinach to a smoothie. The ingredients in this recipe can be varied according to taste and availability. Kale can be substituted for spinach, and any other fruits can be used as well. Using some frozen fruits will help make a cold, refreshing smoothie. Adjust amount of milk to make it thicker or thinner based upon taste preference.
Fruit Smoothie Serves 3
Serving Size: 1½ cups
½ cup baby spinach
1 tablespoon peanut butter
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup almonds
½ apple, sliced
4 – 5 frozen peach slices
5 – 6 frozen whole strawberries
5 – 6 medium cubes of mango (fresh or frozen)
3 cups plain soymilk
Combine all ingredients in a blender until a smooth consistency is reached.
Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: 1½ cups, Vegetables: 3 tablespoons, Fruits: ¾ cup, Calories: 325, Carbohydrates: 30 grams, Fiber: 5 grams, Protein: 13 grams, Fat: 19 grams and Sodium: 139 mg
Sources for this article NC Extension Food and Nutrition, Meds instead of Meds educational program. For more information about the Foods and Nutrition please contact Louise L. Hinsley, Extension Agent, Family Consumer Science at the Beaufort County Center of NC Cooperative Extension, 155 Airport Road, Washington, NC 252-946-0111.