Today’s guest blog post comes from Deb Glasser, MS, RD, Nutrition Coordinator, School Nutrition Plus.

As one of California’s premiere school food caterers, we work hard to promote “Eat More Greens.” We wear it on our T-shirts, we incorporate greens into our menus, and we bring several nutrition events to our students built around this mission, including our Epic Green Smoothie and Epic Green Hummus tastings.

But why? What’s so important about eating green vegetables?

Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and arugula are bursting with healthful nutrients. Greens are packed with vitamins A, C, E, and K, minerals including calcium and potassium and they’re high in fiber. Greens also contain an abundance of powerful phytochemicals that help maintain immune health, good vision and can decrease cholesterol levels. Dietary guidelines recommend children and adults eat roughly 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, with at least 2 cups of greens per week.

Yet, many children are hesitant to eat greens, we get it. Here are School Nutrition Plus (SNP)’s tips on preparing green vegetables in a kid-friendly way:

  • Make them fun! Vegetables like broccoli and spinach seem much more exciting when they’re exposed to them during a fun activity, like our Alphabet Produce Train™ (APT)! A six-foot replica of a train engine and its “cars” form our Alphabet Produce Train which we “chug” along from school to school. We encourage kids to jump on board and try fruits and vegetables from every letter of the alphabet. While you obviously won’t be able to do this in your own kitchen, think of similar scaled-down activities you can try out at home.
  • Mix them with more familiar fruits and vegetables. We pair arugula with blackberries, sliced cucumbers, and fresh dill for our “ABCD” salad on our APT. The sweetness of the berries mixes perfectly with the peppery arugula and the freshness of the cucumber and dill brightens the whole combo.
  • Add spinach to any smoothie for a green veggie punch. SNP’s Epic Green Smoothie loads in the spinach and tastes amazing. The fruitiness of the mango, banana, and pineapple mask the earthiness of the greens.
  • Braise collards at a low temperature for 30 to 40 minutes in low sodium vegetable or chicken broth for a hearty side.
  • If your child is reluctant to try something new, make a mixed green salad incorporating spinach or baby kale with a more recognizable leafy green such as iceberg lettuce. Our chefs combine iceberg, kale, jicama, and roasted cremini mushrooms for our “IJKLM” salad. Its tossed lightly with a lemon vinaigrette and is always a hit with the teachers on APT day.
  • Roast kale leaves with some olive oil and salt for a delicious and crunchy “chip”.

Here’s the challenge for you and your families: “Eat More Greens!” Try some of the above tips and don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen. Tag us: @schoolnutritionplus and @ProduceForKids, and use the hashtag #EatMoreGreens when you share your scrumptious creations!

Looking for more delicious, kid-friendly recipe ideas? Check out our recipe for Black Bean Hummus with Green Pepper Triangles in our soon-to-be-released cookbook, A Chef Walks Into A Cafeteria…!

About School Nutrition Plus:

Based in Los Angeles, California, SNP is made up of a team of food lovers who believe in feeding children health family favorites. With professionally trained chefs and a registered dietitian at the helm, SNP has grown to serve more than 20,000 made-from-scratch school meals every day. Follow SNP on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as SNP’s founder, Emily Burson, RD on Twitter & Instagram @emilyburson_RD.