A friend recently asked me one thing she could do to lose weight. While there is no definitive answer there is something every nutritionist and diet agrees on: eat more vegetables.

What do you think of when I say “vegetables”? Potatoes? Carrots? Bell Peppers? Beets? These vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, but what I want to talk about here is the green leafy variety.

Cancer fighter, DNA regenerator, blood clotter, bone strengthener, skin tightener, hunger fulfiller, bowel regulator; meet my friend the green leafy vegetable. An excellent source of vitamin A, C, K, beta-carotene, folate, calcium, fiber and anti-inflammatory agents, the benefits are broad and encompassing. It is recommended to fill half your plate but these guys are so good go ahead and grab as much as you want.

Adding greens is a simple way you can amplify your health and contribute to overall well-being, no matter your goal.  From inflammation to allergies, the micronutrients available in leafy greens are essential to good living.

Don’t get me wrong, kale and spinach are great. However, the thought of limiting half a plate to them over and over is a dismal prospect. Have no fear! Here are five tips to use more greens and five unconventional greens to try out!

What to Look For

When thinking of the nutrient density of foods- typically the darker the hue the more packed with goodness. For example, iceberg lettuce has little to no nutritional value
(basically just water) while spinach is packed with fiber, protein, and vitamins.

Upgrade your Dish

Making eggs? Add spinach! Tacos? Try a lettuce wrap! Heck, keep your bun and put the whole thing on a giant bed of greens. My boyfriend eats a standard American dude diet but that does not stop us from having meals together. When we make tacos or hamburgers I tweak mine by swapping my bread for a giant collard or dinosaur kale. Other ideas to get more greens:

  • Smoothies
  • Soups
  • Stir-fries
  • Wraps
  • Salads

Explore

When I get tired of the same spring mix blend, I venture to the local international mart to see what off-the-wall greens I can come up with. I leave with dandelion greens, sunflower sprouts…things that my regular grocer does not have. The farmer’s market is another great place to try new things. Farmer’s markets often have heirloom varieties; virtually untouched by homogenizing genetic modification. Don’t be surprised if some vegetables are a different color or shape than you are used to.

Unconventional Greens

  1.     Bok choy

High in vitamins and low in calories, Chinese White Cabbage or “Bok Choy” has long been touted for its weight loss benefits. Bok choy is easy to cook and like spinach, you can incorporate it into almost anything. I like to sauté in chicken broth with garlic and onions.

  1.     Lacinato Kale

Lacinato Kale or “Dinosaur Kale” is traditionally used in Italian cooking. Like regular kale and collards, they have a significant amount of calcium, more than milk in fact. My favorite way to enjoy is raw as a handheld for an omelet or tacos. Bellisimo!

  1.     Broccolini

I always thought this was a cross between asparagus and broccoli. Turns out it is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan, Chinese broccoli. Unlike its stockier cousin, broccolini is sweeter and the stems have a delicate skin that can be enjoyed as is. No need to peel!

  1.      Swiss chard

Praised by home gardeners for its ease and resiliency, Swiss chard is a close relative of the beet. Beautiful hues of green, yellow, orange and deep red make for endless Instagram-worthy plates. A quick boil can release some of the bitterness but I prefer mine sautéed.

  1. Kohlrabi

I impulsively bought this alien-looking vegetable and it stared at me from the crisper until I was able to dig up some information. This weird looking relative of broccoli and cabbage taste like a turnip and is considered a superfood. I roasted it in the oven and will be incorporating into fresh slaw the next go around.

There you have it, five ways to sneak in more greens and five greens to expand your horizons. There are many whole food options in the perimeter of the grocery store. Don’t limit yourself to the familiar. Pick up that weird looking vegetable (I dare you to try kohlrabi) and google a new recipe. There is a whole new world at your fingertips.