Chugging green beer and savoring a green milk shake aren't the only ways to eat green on St. Patrick's Day. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) nutrition expert Patti Wooten Swanson has a plan for celebrating the holiday that revelers won't regret the next morning.
Wooten Swanson is the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Diego County. She manages the county's federally funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, in which staff members visit schools and community sites to provide lessons on healthy eating to low-income families and children.
Wooten Swanson offers the following seven-step plan for eating green on St. Patrick's Day:
For breakfast, sauté chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard in a little olive oil, then add a beaten egg to make scrambled eggs. Dark green vegetables are among the most healthful of vegetables, Wooten Swanson said. They are low in calories and high in vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, iron and dietary fiber. “If you eat vegetables at every meal, including breakfast, you can get in the recommended amount each day,” Wooten Swanson said. The USDA's dietary guidelines recommend adults eat 9 to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, with most of those being vegetables.
Mid-morning snack, grab a green apple. Not all apples are red; you'll find several green varieties in grocery stores just right for St. Patrick's Day. Light green Golden Delicious apples are sweet, plentiful, inexpensive and easy to find. Granny Smith apples are deep green, tart and very crunchy. Granny Smith are often used for apple pie, but are also great to eat out of hand. “Put a little peanut butter on apple slices to get some protein,” Wooten Swanson said.
At lunch time, prepare a crisp salad with a blend of romaine lettuce, baby kale, spinach or mixed greens. For crunch add sugar snap peas, slices of green bell pepper and pieces of celery. Artichoke hearts, avocado and healthy green goddess dressing add gourmet flair. To make the dressing, blend 2 green onions, ½ green jalapeño pepper, 2/3 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup cilantro, juice from 1 lime, ½ cup olive oil, salt and a teaspoon of sugar or honey. (Recipe adapted from Oklahoma State Extension.) “When you put a lot of different green ingredients in your salad you get a lot of different nutrients,” Wooten Swanson said. “Many of us eat the same thing every day – like an iceberg lettuce and tomato salad. But with a variety of ingredients, you get all kinds of nutrients, it tastes better and is more fun to eat.”
For an afternoon snack, blend a green smoothie. Put a handful of green leafy vegetables in the blender with non-fat yogurt or almond milk. Add half a banana and any kind of fresh or frozen fruit. For a colder smoothie with a thick consistency, add a few ice cubes before blending, Wooten Swanson said.
Cabbage and corned beef are traditional St. Patrick's Day foods, but Wooten Swanson has suggestions that are greener, healthier and just as festive. Mix cooked spinach fettuccine noodles with prepared basil pesto (made with olive oil), fresh spinach leaves and green olives. Add cooked chicken and some feta cheese. “The meal will offer a balanced blend of whole grains, vegetables, protein and dairy,” Wooten Swanson said.
A healthful and simple green drink to accompany meals is cold tap water with a squeeze of lime. “Water is the best drink for everyone – adults and children – anytime of day,” Wooten Swanson said.
For desert, there's no reason to punish your body with sugary green jello shots. Treat it right with a healthy and delicious green desert. “I layer non-fat Greek yogurt and kiwifruit. Sprinkle pistachios and drizzle a little honey on top,” Wooten Swanson said. Kiwifruit are high in vitamin C and pistachios are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Both are great sources of antioxidants.
Of course, eating a green diet shouldn't be limited to St. Patrick's Day. “Once you start enjoying these green vegetables and other healthy foods, you'll probably want to eat a lot more,” Wooten Swanson said.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Jeannette Warnert/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>