I’m embarrassed, but I'll admit it: I don’t eat nearly enough greens.

Do you?

Once our calorie needs are met, greens are probably the single most important type of food in our diets — the one food we don't want to leave off our plates for long.

How can I say greens are the healthiest food on the planet?

Well, when you measure nutrients per calorie — the way they do with the ANDI score, a pretty good measure of "healthfulness," in my opinion — greens are the winner, hands down.

Enzymes, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds... all the best parts of a plant-based diet, the very elements that make this diet so great for sports and longevity, are packed into greens.

Just the other day I came across this nugget that my friend Simon Hill (of Plant Proof fame) recently shared:

And yet… as soon as life gets busy — or I'm traveling, or just stressed — the greens are the first food to go.

In fact, it’s not too uncommon for an entire week to go by in which I don’t eat a single, intentional serving of greens.

Sure, I might get some greens here and there in dinners, but I’m talking about a big, legit serving of greens — like a bowl full of salad or a fist-sized portion of cooked spinach or kale.

But I'm far from the only one.

 

How many servings of greens are ideal for your long-term health?

 

In his book How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger recommends 12 servings of greens per week.

Seems like a lot, but it’s not impossible to imagine yourself eating a serving or two of greens every day to get up to 12 per week.

But then he goes on to cite a study showing that only 1 in 25 Americans eat this many servings of greens in a month.

Now hold on, make sure you read that right.

It’s NOT that only 1 in 25 (4%) get his recommended 12 servings of greens per week.

No, that elite one person out of 25 is the one who eats twelve servings a MONTH — a quarter of the amount Greger wants us to actually eat!

Why is it so hard to get our greens? Especially when we know they’re the healthiest foods on the planet?

It’s not that greens are so hard to eat. They taste good (for the most part), and it’s pretty simple to throw together a salad or sauté up a side dish with dinner.

The problem with greens is that while they’re easy to eat… they’re also so easy to NOT eat.

Not a whole lot of meals (certainly not pre-made ones, but not even most recipes) include large portions of greens, the way they might feature onions or bell peppers or something.

Which means you can’t just plan a meal... you’ve also got to plan to get your greens.

 

4 simple ways to eat more greens (and why they're actually not-so-simple).

 

1) Smoothies.

If you're a smoothie drinker, throwing a handful of spinach or kale into the blender is an easy way to knock out a serving (or two).

The problem:

It's easy to ruin the taste.

To get comfortable with greens in your smoothie, try following a formula or recipes.

2) Daily salads.

Arguably the healthiest solution is to eat a daily giant salad. There you can add in a variety of greens, sprouts, and a ton of other good veggies on top.

The problem:

It requires extra planning and a habit change. (The discipline to choose salad over a more exciting lunch, or to prepare and eat the salad before your hot, delicious dinner.)

What works best for me is to actually eat my salad while cooking dinner. Then it's not competing with the dinner itself.

That, and adding a delicious homemade dressing.

3) Greens-heavy meals.

Of course, you can also plan meals that incorporate greens. Last night, after I had written the first draft of post, I sautéed the greens from the beets I use for juice each day, and ate them along with some into beans and farro (with lots of smoked paprika and garlic).

The problem:

Finding recipes that feature a lot of greens can be difficult, as they're not usually the star.

So once you find one of those recipes, bookmark it.

4) Greens powders.

A greens powder or mix can be an easy way to introduce more greens when traveling, on the go, or at the office. Just mix the powder with water and — theoretically — you're good to go.

The problem:

Many greens powders don't contain substantial enough quantities of each green or nutrient to make a real impact. Ingredient lists with dozens of greens and superfoods may sound good, but if the microdoses are too small, there's not much point.

If you're a greens powder user, look for a powder with science-backed dosages.

 

The hardest part? Doing them.

 

All of these methods are easy... if you do them.

But most of us don't. At least not consistently.

So here's a challenge for you: for the next week, keep a tally of how many times you eat greens.

Are you near the 12 servings per week mark?

If not, start small and think of how you can add just one serving per day. Then two.

And eventually, you'll enter the upper realm of greens eaters, blasting past the 96% of people missing out on the recommended amount.

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