Confession time: I used to be afraid of kale. Well, more like the idea of kale. The idea that as a dietitian, I was supposed to be absolutely, head over heels, madly in love with kale. Kale all day, everyday. But I didn’t! I didn’t know how to fall in love with kale.
The texture was tough in salads. The stems were hard to chew through in soups. “Green smoothies” took on another meaning when it reflected the color of my face. I just figured kale and I were not meant to be friends. That is, until I actually took the time to really get to know kale.
We took things slowly and learned a lot about each other. After taking some time experimenting with different recipes and methods of preparation, I found myself really enjoying it in most of my meals. It has been a little over a year and I am still loving kale!
I even used it in one of my most recent farmer’s market food demonstrations (Lean Green Mean Honey Sesame Salad) because I want everyone to know how easy it is to fall in love with kale and include it in your meals often.
Before I get into my tips on cooking with kale, let’s talk about why kale is considered one of the top ten super foods to include in your healthy diet:
One cup of raw kale offers a low 33 calories and a generous 3g of protein (yes, plants can offer protein, too!) It offers 133% of daily value of both vitamin A and vitamin C, and it offers 10% daily value of calcium. So for those who choose to omit dairy from their diet, regularly adding kale to meals can assist in meeting their calcium needs.
Follow these helpful tips when using kale, to ensure a long-lasting loving friendship:
1) Remove the stems!
I hate wasting food, believe me, but kale stems are just too tough to eat sometimes. Let us not be heros over here! Remove the stems and feed them to your pet rabbit, or you can boil them into oblivion and add them to soups or stews.
2) Give kale some TLC by giving it a little massage
I promise I am not making this up! Massaging kale with a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes helps break down the fiber and tough membranes throughout the leaves. This is a great method to apply when adding kale to a salad. Throwing kale straight into a salad can give the whole meal a dry, rough texture. However, giving it a little rub-a-dub-dub before you toss it in a bowl will soften the texture and make the meal more palatable.
3) Add kale to soups
Adding some fiber-rich greens to a soup offers such wonderful, chewy texture. The heat will soften the leaves nicely, so it’s a wonderful addition to a hearty, rich soup.
4) Drink your kale in green juices or smoothies
Adding leafy greens to a juicer or blender is a great way to get some veggies in your diet. However, let us take note that this is not an open invitation to see who can stuff the most amounts of leafy greens in a juice or smoothie. This is a case where less is more. A handful is enough to get the benefits of kale, without ruining your beverage.
5) Have fun and explore different varieties of kale
My online farmer’s market has at least three different varieties. I once purchased their Russian kale, and I absolutely loved in it my potato leek soup recipe. So chewy and fiber rich. Yum!! Besides, the rich purple color was so pretty!
By choosing different varieties, you will notice the difference in textures and taste. Some may be better suited for salads and others better suited for soups or stir frys. Do a little research and dare to be brave.
Good luck! I know with these tips, you are bound to find yourself liking kale in at least one of your favorite meals.
Michelle Hill, RD, CDN, CDE, CLC is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator , and certified lactation counselor—as well as as a food-lover, optimist and motivator. Michelle has experience working with clients who experience various nutrition-related diseases and conditions—particularly obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and women’s health. Michelle believes that a diet is a temporary fix, whereas a healthy lifestyle is the permanent solution. Learn more about Michelle and how to work with her here.