It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day! If this annual holiday makes you think of green beer and the luck of the Irish, that’s great. But luck and green beer aren’t going to keep you healthy long term!
So, how can we use St. Patrick's Day to help your clients eat healthy?
A St. Patrick’s Day Primer
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He lived in the 5th century, and though he was born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland. Though he later escaped, he returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people. It's said that he died on March 17th, hence the holiday.
Legend tells us that St. Patrick used a shamrock as an analogy for the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This Irish began celebrating the March holiday in the 10th century, but it became a global holiday in the 17th century.
Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish Catholic families would attend church in the morning and were allowed to eat meat, dance, drink, and celebrate in the afternoon. Many consider the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal to be Irish bacon and cabbage, but even without this meal, the holiday is celebrated worldwide with parades, green clothing, green beer, and green food!
Yet many of these "green" ways to celebrate aren't particularly healthy -- most owe their hue to food coloring rather than micronutrients. Encourage your clients to incorporate seasonal, naturally-green foods like asparagus, kale, spinach, leeks, and fennel, into their festivities this year.
After all, green and leafy vegetables provide ample potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and other nutrients to keep our hearts healthy, skin glowing, and risk of cancer low. They add color, taste, and texture to lots of dishes.
Here are some simple ways to enjoy naturally- green foods.
- Toss chopped spinach or broccoli into eggs, pasta, rice dishes, and soup.
- Add arugula, spinach or kale to salads, sandwiches and wraps.
- Use bagged coleslaw for stir fries or side salads
- Roast, grill or air fry asparagus or try it raw with dip!
- Use leeks or fennel in soup or stir fries.
Remember, 9 out of 10 US adults don’t meet the suggested fruit and vegetable intake for overall health. Use St. Patrick's Day to help your clients change that.
If cost is an issue, here are some tips to “save green:”
- Look for specials and markdowns at the store. Blemished or bruised produce is still edible and nutritious.
- Use frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables. Look for options without added salt, sugars, or syrups.
- Store your produce in the fridge in a zip lock bag to extend its shelf life. (But don't do this with tomatoes -- those should stay on your counter, or potatoes, garlic, and onions, which should be in a cool, dark place).
- Prep your produce ahead of time for quick use. Chop peppers, onions and other veggies for quick roasting or grilling. Wash, spin and dry salad greens and store them in the fridge so that they're ready when you want them.
One final note for St. Patrick’s Day. If the weather is suitable -- get outside and move. Join a parade, take a hike, go for a bike ride, cut your grass, or get your garden going. Take advantage of this lovely, green holiday.
By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
PDF Handout: St Patricks Day
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/