Eat green and healthy on St. Patrick’s Day

A variety of green fruits and vegetables are on display. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by eating healthy green foods, many of which are “superfoods” that contain lots of nutrients.
A variety of green fruits and vegetables are on display. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by eating healthy green foods, many of which are “superfoods” that contain lots of nutrients. Michilea Patterson Digital — First Media
A small bowl of pistachios are on display. Once you open up the shell, the actual pistachio is green. Pistachios like other nuts have healthy fats and protein.
A small bowl of pistachios are on display. Once you open up the shell, the actual pistachio is green. Pistachios like other nuts have healthy fats and protein. Michilea Patterson Digital — First Media

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday that celebrates Irish culture — and all things green. March also happens to be National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “put your best fork forward.” This is the time of year where celebrating healthy food and St. Paddy’s day can easily go hand in hand by eating green.

Cierra Robbins, Hatfield ShopRite registered dietitian, said leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach are full of minerals, vitamins and disease-fighting properties. These kinds of foods offer a variety of benefits, she said. Calcium is great for bone health. Potassium helps manage blood pressure. The Vitamin B6 helps maintain a healthy nervous system and is important for blood health. Vitamin C is important for overall health. Some vegetable like collard greens contain beta-carotene which helps protect the skin from sun damage.

Jessica Garnett, registered dietitian at Creative Health Services in Pottstown, said a lot of those green leafy foods are known as “superfoods” because they have so much good stuff in them. She said naturally green foods usually have a lot of folate which helps with cell division, something that’s very beneficial to pregnant women.

“Whenever you’re trying to eat nutritiously, it’s good to include a lot of different colors especially colors of the rainbow,” said Margaret Moses, a registered dietitian of acac Fitness & Wellness Center in West Chester and Exton.

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Moses said many green foods contain substances that go beyond some of the minerals and vitamins that are often found in food such as antioxidants.

“Antioxidants actually work like a little Pac-Man inside of our body and they help us get rid of free radicals,” she said. “Antioxidants help you look beautiful on the inside.”

Garnett said another great benefit about green vegetables and vegetables in general are that they are naturally low in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, salt and fat.

“So they’re like a natural diet food,” she said.

“All of your vegetables contain the least amount of calories with the most amount of nutrition of anything else you can eat,” Moses said.

When it comes to getting kids to eat their green vegetables, it may take some time. Moses said a lot of the green vegetables may taste very bitter to children in their raw form because their taste buds haven’t evolved yet.

“You have to offer a new food to a child on average seven times before they say yes,” she said.

Robbins said a child most likely won’t eat something that’s unfamiliar and mysterious to them.

“Ultimately the child needs to be comfortable with something before they voluntarily eat it,” she said.

Preparing green vegetables in different ways can also help to encourage children to give them a try.

“When you roast vegetables, it brings out their natural sugars so things that are roasted tend to have a little bit less of that bitter taste,” Garnett said.

Robbins said a lot of times people think the only way to eat green leafy vegetables are in salads but there are plenty of other methods. They can be used as wraps instead of using sandwich bread. The vegetables can also be added to soup, steamed or even turned crunchy such as in kale chips.

Moses said an important thing to remember when cooking vegetables is that they contain B vitamins which are water soluble. This means when vegetables are cooked in water then the nutrients are released into that water. She said if you do cook them in water, try to eat it as a soup so you still consume those nutrients.

Below are some naturally green foods that include lots of healthy minerals and vitamins.

KALE

Garnett said Kale is a good source of lots of vitamins and minerals which is why the green leafy vegetable has become so popular in recent years.

Ways to use: Garnett said speaking of St. Paddy’s Day, there’s a dish called colcannon that incorporates kale. Mashed potatoes are cooked with kale, leeks and cabbage.

“I actually make a colcannon soup that uses a lot of kale, cabbage and all these green veggies with the potatoes. It’s so yummy.”

Nutrition Facts: One ounce of kale has 14 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 11 milligrams of sodium, 139 milligrams of potassium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 1 gram of protein. Kale also has Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper and magnesium.

PISTACHIOS

Garnett said nuts have good healthy fats in them and have a good amount of protein.

Ways to use them: Garnett said she puts pistachios in pasta. You can crush them up and put them in a sauce, she said. You can make pistachio cookies, you can put them in yogurt or on salads.

Nutrition facts: A half cup of pistachios with shells have 170 calories, 14 grams of fat (7 grams of that fat is monounsaturated, the healthy fat), 0 grams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 190 milligrams of potassium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein.

GRANNY SMITH APPLE

Garnett said apples have lots of fiber in them especially if you eat the skin. Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. The apple tree originated in Central Asia but are now grown all over the world.

Ways to use them: Garnett said apples can be baked or diced up and put into a salad. Apples also pair well with pork so you can add apples, sweet potatoes and pork in a crock pot then cook it all together. You can also sauté apples and that’s basically how you start to make applesauce.

Nutrition facts: One apple has 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 0 grams of sodium, 0 grams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein.

AVOCADOS

Moses said avocados are high in fat but it’s the good kind of fat. They don’t have a lot of saturated fats, trans fat or cholesterol which are things that increase your risk of heart disease or cardiovascular disease. The fatty fruit has a smooth and creamy texture.

Ways to use them: Garnett said one of her favorite ways to use them is to put them in her smoothie. The fruit can also be used to make avocado ice cream or pudding. Avocados are commonly used to make guacamole and can be used as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.

Nutrition facts: One medium avocado has 234 calories, 21 grams of fat (14 grams of that fat is monounsaturated, the healthy fat), 0 grams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 708 milligrams of potassium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 3 grams of protein.

For a more extensive list of healthy green foods and how to use them, visit the Fit for Life website at www.pottsmercfit4life.com.