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Prairie Fare: Add Some Green to Your Diet

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Fresh herbs add flavor without calories or sodium.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“What do you think of this silly hat?” I asked my 7-year-old daughter.

She looked at the hat and grinned with approval. It was a green clover that she could wear in front of her face or behind her head. She looked like a shamrock with a face.

“I need silly socks, too,” she reminded me as she checked out her reflection in the hallway mirror.

“How about wearing these white socks with green clovers?” I asked.

“Those socks will work. Now I need a striped shirt,” she noted as she pulled the socks over her pants and up to her knees.

“Here’s a green top with green and white striped sleeves,” I said. She slipped the top over her head and danced a little jig.

I really wasn’t trying to dress her as green as a leprechaun. The second-grade classes at her school were wearing silly hats and socks in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. My daughter turned out to be a good representation for St. Patrick’s Day, too.

March features St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. When we turn the calendar page to March, we also know that spring is on the way.

We have a way to go before our landscape has green grass, budding trees and spring bulbs. However, we always can add some green to our inside environment with an herb garden on a sunny windowsill .

To grow herbs, you will need a container that is at least 6 inches deep with holes in the bottom. Use a separate container for each type of herb.

You can use seeds or small plants from a garden shop or catalog. Be sure to use a well-draining, pasteurized potting mix, and leave about an inch of space at the top to allow for watering.

Treat your potted herbs like houseplants. Water them regularly but don’t overwater, which can lead to soggy roots. Snip the herbs so they grow full and lush. For best growth, use liquid fertilizer mixed with water as directed every week or two.

Fresh herbs add flavor without calories or sodium. You can learn more about growing and using herbs from a publication at

Consider adding some leafy greens to your menu, too. Most people do not eat the recommended amount of leafy green vegetables, so they do not reap the potential health benefits.

For example, spinach contains a natural plant chemical, lutein, which works with another natural plant chemical, zeaxanthin, to keep eyes healthy. Lutein also is found in green peppers, peas, cucumbers and celery. Getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin may help reduce our risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

Try some corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, contain isothiocyanates, which are sulfur-containing compounds. These compounds are responsible for some health benefits.

In a study of more than 18,000 Chinese males ranging in age from 45 to 64, eating more cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also are linked with reducing the risk of prostate and stomach cancer.

Even if you regularly shy away from spinach, you won’t know it’s present in this green smoothie. This nutrient-rich smoothie also can be frozen in small cups with a plastic spoon as a handle. You can eat it like a popsicle or let it melt slightly to become a slushy fruit and veggie snack.

Pineapple-mango Green Smoothie

8 ice cubes

1 c. pineapple chunks, diced (fresh or canned in juice)

1 large mango, diced

2 c. fresh spinach leaves

1/2 c. pineapple juice

1/2 tsp. coconut extract

Place ingredients in blender or food processor in the order written. Blend until smooth.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 15 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 10, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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