Lettuce is a Quick and Easy Addition to Meals
Lettuce comes in many different varieties that can appeal to a wide range of individuals. You probably will find a large selection of arugula, bibb, butter/Boston, iceberg, mesclun, romaine and spinach. Most can be found during the summer, but many varieties also are available year-round.
According to current nutrition recommendations, most people should try to eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. One cup of leafy greens counts for ½ cup of vegetables, whereas 1 cup of cooked spinach will count as 1 cup of vegetables. You can find more information about vegetable recommendations at www.choosemyplate.gov
To select the freshest lettuce at your local grocery store or farmers market, look for crisp, bright green leaves that do not show signs of being wilted or discolored. Leafy greens should be used within a couple of days of purchase, whereas head lettuce such as iceberg, if stored properly in the refrigerator, can be eaten for up to a week.
Eating a salad before your main dish, or even better, as the main course, can help you reach your goal of meeting the daily recommended intake of vegetables. To make salad the main course, just add a little protein such as beans, chicken or beef.
In addition to having lettuce salads, try including lettuce in sandwiches or wraps, on burgers, or by using lettuce as a serving vessel for fish or seafood salad.
If you are looking for a change, you could try pairing different types of lettuce for more texture and the added benefit of having a wider variety of nutrients. For more diversity, try spicy arugula with romaine or spinach.
Looking for more of a crunch in your salad? Try a combination of iceberg with romaine. Some leafy greens also can withstand different cooking preparations, so they can be put into soups, steamed or grilled.
Lettuce can be flavorful and easy on the pocketbook while packing a punch of vitamins and minerals. The more vibrant green the lettuce leaf is, the more nutrients it will provide.
Having a variety of leafy greens in the diet can provide important nutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Vegetables, such as leafy greens, also could help prevent cancer and fight obesity.
Spinach, in particular, is high in potassium, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Because lettuce is naturally low in calories, it also can help reduce your total calorie intake throughout the day.
When incorporating lettuce into meals, remember these basic food safety techniques to prevent illness:
- Make sure to wash your hands before any food preparation.
- Rinse lettuce with cool, running water prior to eating. A salad spinner is a low-cost tool that can help dry lettuce leaves. Or just dry the leaves with some paper towels.
- Use separate knives and cutting boards when preparing raw meat and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination.
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