10 Leafy Greens to Love

Use them in salads, stir-fries, and soups

Summer is the perfect time to try out some new greens. Fresh, abundant at this time of year, and permitted on all Phases of the South Beach Diet, greens will not only enliven your salads but many also lend themselves to soups, pastas, stir-fries, and side dishes. Thanks to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients they contain, greens are an ideal addition to your diet. When paired with a non-meat protein such as beans or grains, they make a healthy main course for vegans.

So don’t automatically reach for the same lettuce you always do the next time you’re shopping. Instead, toss one of these greens into your salad spinner tonight.

Arugula
Choose younger, smaller leaves of this slightly spicy green for your salad as they have a milder flavor than older ones. Toss with toasted almonds, goat cheese, and peach slices for a salad that’s dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Belgian endive
With a pronounced bitter-sweet flavor and crisp texture, this green can be used on its own as a dipper or to enliven the flavor and color of a salad. Keep in mind that when endive is exposed to light, it tends to get more bitter and even become brown at the edges, so shop carefully and try to buy heads that have pale green tips and then wrap in paper towels and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

Bok choy
Look for white stems and bright green leaves when shopping for this veggie, which is actually a type of Chinese cabbage. Chop bok choy for salads or stir-fry both the stems and leaves with garlic and a little reduced-sodium soy sauce for a side dish. Add some lean protein, if you like.

Butterhead lettuce
Delicate and sweet, with a soft, round leaf, this buttery-textured lettuce (both Boston and Bibb are varieties) is ideal for salads but can also be used in place of bread for a delicious roll-up. Handle carefully as the leaves are tender.

Napa cabbage
The mildly flavored, wrinkled, pale green leaves of Napa cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked and pair nicely with boldly flavored vegetables such as scallions, red bell peppers, and maybe even a seeded and finely minced jalapeño. Dress with a lively vinaigrette containing reduced-sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.

Escarole
This member of the chicory family has crunchy, curly, light green leaves and a slightly bitter flavor, so mix it with less assertive greens in a salad or use it in a hearty vegetable soup or a pasta dish.

Kale
Sure, it’s so trendy that it’s almost not anymore. But this versatile type of cabbage, which comes in many varieties, can be used anywhere you’d use spinach. Eaten raw and finely chopped, it makes a desirable salad ingredient. It’s also good baked for kale chips. Remember, the longer you keep it in the fridge, the stronger the flavor becomes.

Radicchio
Okay, it’s technically not a green at all, but this pink to deep-burgundy variety of chicory, which grows in heads that range from small cabbage size to elongated and loose-leafed, lends vibrant color to salads. Use it sparingly in salads, however, as the flavor can be strong, or prepare it as a side dish instead. Try sautéing radicchio in extra-virgin olive oil along with some spinach leaves and garlic, then combine with cooked brown rice, a sprinkle of sea salt, and some lemon zest.

Swiss chard
Mildly flavored, with shiny, wavy, dark green leaves, Swiss chard is actually a member of the beet family, but is grown for its stems and leaves rather than its root. Its stalks can be green, yellow, orange, or pink. Use the leaves raw in salads, or chop the stalks and sauté them in extra-virgin olive oil while you wash and tear up the leaves. Add the leaves to the pan once the stems are tender, then continue to sauté for just a few minutes.

Watercress
Its distinctive, slightly bitter, peppery taste makes this green a delightful ingredient in a salad or sandwich, but it’s just as good in a soup. Toss it into a food processor with some other green veggies (think thawed frozen peas, pour in some lower-sodium vegetable or chicken broth to thin it, and add a fresh herb for extra flavor. Purée until smooth, transfer to bowls, and garnish each serving with a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt or, on Phase 2, a few baked whole-wheat croutons.


For ideas for how to use many of these greens, check out our recipes.

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