Green Vegetables for St. Patrick’s Day

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The latest statistic I heard was that only 13% of all Americans eat the recommended number of vegetables every day. You may ask…well what is this recommended amount?

According to the most recent 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans we should be eating at least five servings or 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day. They break this down even more by kinds and colors to 1 1/2 cups dark green veggies, 5 1/2 cups red and orange vegetables, 1 1/2 cups beans peas and lentils, 5 cups of starchy vegetables and 4 cups of “other” vegetables each week.

Do you even get close to eating this many?

We try to encourage folks to vary their vegetables by eating all colors of the rainbow. But this week, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m thinking about green veggies.

Green vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain
cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium. They are full of vitamin A and fiber. Dark green leafy vegetables provide folic acid for pregnant women to aid in preventing birth defects. Greens in the kale family contain as much calcium as milk.

Many of the health benefits that leafy greens provide come from phytonutrients, unique compounds that provide protection for plants. These compounds are becoming recognized as part of a nutritious diet that promotes long-term health including reducing the risks of heart disease and colon cancer.

Here are NINE ways to add green veggies to your meals and snacks:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, be experimental. Choose a new fresh green vegetable for your family to try. There are over 60 different green vegetables. Green is the most common vegetable color. So, you have plenty to choose from. Who knows it may become a new favorite.
  • Serve broccoli with cheese as a side dish. Better yet, double up on the vegetables at a meal.
  • Add spinach to your scrambled eggs. Or make a frittata with spinach, kale or asparagus—or all three.
  • Add spinach or other dark-green leafy vegetables to your smoothies. A good combination is spinach, banana and kiwi with low-fat milk or yogurt.
  • Use spinach instead of basil leaves in your pesto recipe—or go half-and-half—they are both green.
  • Asparagus screams “it’s spring”. Affordable fresh asparagus should be available soon. Toss the spears with tarragon, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Snack on an old favorite–celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter.
  • Guacamole is green! Serve fresh quac with celery sticks or your favorite tortilla chips. Put avocado slices on your sandwiches, in salads or toast.
  • Add green cabbage to your St. Patrick’s Day meal—not just as boiled cabbage but add a green slaw, too!

Think green (vegetables) not just St. Patrick’s Day, but year-round as part of a healthy diet.

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at