If you’re familiar with the old Popeye cartoons, then you well know how spinach can make you strong. While the scrawny sailor turned muscle man thanks to a can of green mush may have been slightly exaggerated, spinach is a super food that should be a staple of your diet.
Why spinach? Well, this green leafy vegetable is low in calories but still packs a wallop when it comes to vitamin and nutrients. Spinach is said to help increase eye health, decrease cancer risks, and keep your ticker in tip-top shape. With this versatile food, you take in a healthy serving of of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, to name just a few.
If you’re not eating any spinach or simply aren’t getting your fill, you might think a salad is the only way to squeeze in more greens. However, there are lots of ways to eat spinach all day long at every meal and even a few snacks. Try these tips to get started.
Breakfast: The first meal of the day may seem best with eggs, cereal, fruit, toast, and bacon (then again, everything seems better with bacon), but spinach can fit right in and not ruin your appetite.
- Omelet: Add about a one-third cup or more of spinach to two to three whisked eggs to start your spinach omelet. Add in other goodies such as chopped red bell pepper, a tablespoon of Parmesan, and diced ham. With the spinach-egg combo as your base, your breakfast can be different and delicious every day.
- Pancakes: Turn what is typically a sweet dish into something more savory by mixing spinach, ricotta cheese, rice flour, and scallions into a great way to start the day.
- Muffins: Need an on-the-go breakfast? Before your work week begins, prep a muffin tin by adding cooking spray, then use a higher volume version of spinach-egg combo from the omelet and pour into the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are firm. Heat and go when you’re ready to eat.
Lunch: A traditional tossed salad with mixed-in spinach is a tried and true way to eat your greens, but when you’re looking for something different, give these midday dishes a try.
- Soup: Whether you’re making it from scratch or from a can, spinach is always a great addition. Add a handful of baby spinach to a bowl, or more to a larger pot, and let wilt. Remember that the spinach will shrink down, so what may seem like a lot in the beginning, will likely be the perfect amount.
- Sandwich: Greens can add an awesome crunch to your lunchtime bread break. Add in some leaves between your slices for a fresher taste and healthier mid-time meal.
- Grains: Mix leftover quinoa with spinach, tomatoes, avocado, a squeeze of lime, and a dash of salt and pepper for a protein-packed tasty lunch.
Snack: Eating smaller meals every two to three hours can help keep your metabolism revved up and ready to burn fat. Instead of reaching for your usual snack, sneak in some extra spinach.
- Chips: Why should kale get all of the roasted fun? Turn baby spinach chips into savory crunchy snacks. Lightly coat them with olive oil and your favorite seasoning blend and bake in the oven until crisp.
- Smoothie: If you’re not really a fan of spinach, blend it with frozen fruit and Greek yogurt to mask the flavor while reaping all the health benefits.
- Dip: While traditional spinach dip is made with heavy amounts of mayo and cream cheese, try a healthier version made with Greek yogurt, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Skip the chips and crackers for dipping, and instead scoop up the baked yumminess with celery sticks and carrots.
Dinner: Spinach can be the main dish attraction or star in your favorite side.
- Meatballs: Sneak in some healthy fare by adding some green leafy goodness to this Italian favorite. Or, add it your marinara sauce and pour on top.
- Pizza: Instead of grabbing carry out, make your own at-home pizzas, using spinach as one of your good-for-you toppings. Or skip the red sauce and top your pizza with pesto made from spinach.
- Side Dish: Spinach sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic can complement many main dishes, such as chicken breasts, salmon, or steak.
- Topping: Take your side dish and top off a burger–be it meat or a portobello mushroom–for an even greater dish from the grill.
Dessert: Yep, spinach can even make its way to the sweet side.
- Ice cream: Hate the taste of spinach? Blend it into a mint chocolate chip recipe with an at-home ice cream maker, and you’ll never even know it’s there.
- Brownies: If you’re a sucker for a chocolate treat, bake up a brownie recipe that uses black beans and spinach for a less guilty pleasure.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends one and a half to two cups of green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, each week. But with all the fun, tasty options available, you could reach that quota every single day.
How do you like your spinach? Share your favorite dish in the comments!