How to Include More Leafy Green Vegetables in your and your Child’s Diet


Read time: 3 minutes

What to know about getting more greens in your diet

  • Benefits of dark leafy green vegetables during every stage of life, including breastfeeding and pregnancy

  • The recommended amount of dark leafy green vegetables to eat

  • Ways to incorporate these vegetables in your and your child’s daily diet

Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits helps ensure we are getting many different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients in our diet.

Especially while pregnant or breastfeeding, eating a variety of produce helps support your baby’s lifetime taste acceptance for produce.1

How much dark leafy green vegetables should I be eating?

Many of us could benefit from including more vegetables – including dark green leafy veggies – in our daily diet, as most Americans are not meeting the recommended amount.2

The Dietary Guidelines recommend adults get at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day with 1 ½ cups coming from dark green vegetables.4,5

The dark green category of vegetables may oftentimes be overlooked, as it tends to contain more bitter vegetables such as broccoli or leafy greens. But the health benefits of dark green veggies are plentiful, and with different cooking techniques and preparation methods for dark green vegetables, you may find it easy to include more in your diet!

Need help incorporating more produce into your or your child’s diet? Come chat with our team of registered dietitian nutritionists, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET). Chat now!

Why is eating vegetables during pregnancy and breastfeeding important?

Not only do vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but did you know that what you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding can influence your baby’s taste preference for years to come? During pregnancy, baby tastes the flavors of what you eat through amniotic fluid, while during breastfeeding the flavors come through breastmilk.13,14

Studies have found that foods eaten while baby is in the womb and while breastfeeding are then accepted more readily once the infant begins eating solid foods.1 And keeping that food in your child’s daily or weekly rotation of foods will help them continue to be more accepting of it through childhood and often into adulthood.15

This is why eating vegetables throughout pregnancy, breastfeeding, as well as feeding them to your child and modeling them being eaten by yourself is so important to your little one beginning to like and eat them more often. Exposing your child repeatedly to these foods is important!

Examples of dark leafy green vegetables

  • Bok choy

  • Collard greens

  • Dandelion greens

  • Kale

  • All lettuces (romaine, arugula, mesclun, baby spinach, etc.)

  • Mustard greens

  • Spinach

  • Radish greens

  • Watercress

  • Turnip greens

  • Swiss chard

Health benefits of dark leafy green vegetables


Most vegetables, including dark leafy green vegetables, are low in calories and high in fiber.6 High-fiber foods promote the feeling of fullness and can support heart health.3,7 They also help promote bowel movement regularity and help manage constipation, a common side effect of pregnancy.8

Also, high-fiber foods support normal blood sugar levels, which is especially important for women with or at risk for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.7,12

Vitamins and Minerals

Dark green vegetables are good sources of vitamins A, C, K, folate, and the minerals iron, potassium, and calcium.6,9

These nutrients perform a variety of different functions in the body, including:

  • Promoting good eye health

  • Supporting your immune system

  • Acting as antioxidants

  • Help promote heart and bone health6,11

Consuming a small amount of fat, such as from olive oil, avocado, nuts or nut butter, with dark leafy green vegetables can help the body absorb some of these nutrients.10

Introducing dark leafy greens into your child’s diet


It can seem daunting to add leafy greens into your infant’s diet since these foods can be fairly difficult to chew and swallow for a little one just learning to eat.

Rather than offering the vegetables in their leafy form, try steaming then blending them with another vegetable to form a puree, such as:

  • Kale + sweet potato

  • Spinach + broccoli + butternut squash.

Or try these recipes:

Broccoli, Spinach, Avocado Baby puree

Avocado Green Smoothie for Baby (you can make this a bit thicker for a puree)

Soft finger foods

Once your infant is able to handle soft solids and finger foods, you can cook the greens and finely chop (or puree) them to add to finger-food recipes.

Or if you feel your infant is ready, sauté them with seasoning, cut into finger-food-sized pieces, and let your infant eat them straight from their plate.

Try these recipes:

Freezer-Friendly Spinach Waffles

Pasta with Kale and Spinach Pesto

Toddler foods

As your child becomes more and more proficient at eating, you can begin to introduce greens in their leafy texture alone.

For a toddler, try sautéing spinach or kale with garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkle of seasoning. Or you can even try kale chips! Some toddlers feel comfortable eating appropriately cut salad greens, such as romaine or baby spinach, tossed with or dipped into an oil-based dressing.

Try these recipes:

Green Parmesan ‘Chips’

Kale Pesto Chicken Quesadilla

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Bites

Here are ideas for simple ways to add dark green leafy vegetables into your own daily diet

1. Eat them raw in a salad

Romaine, arugula, mesclun, baby spinach, kale, watercress, and radish greens make a great salad base.

Top it with chopped bell pepper, cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped broccoli, sunflower seeds and perhaps even some parmesan cheese, chopped apple or roasted cubed butternut squash.

Toss with an oil-based dressing.

2. Sauté them with olive oil, salt and pepper

Cook some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in the hot oil before adding the greens, or finish them with a squeeze of citrus juice or vinegar for extra flavor.

Bok choy, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens and Swiss chard are popular choices.

Sautéed dark green vegetables can be added to pasta, lasagna, omelets or frittatas, grain bowls, casseroles and meatballs. Or use them to top pizza.

3. Add them to soup during the last few minutes of cooking

Bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, and spinach are popular leafy green choices. A large handful will wilt down to nearly nothing. Broccoli is also a nice addition.

4. Use dark leafy greens as wraps instead of tortillas or pita bread (or IN your wrap!)

Collard greens, Swiss chard, and butter lettuce work well as wraps. Try filling a collard green leaf with hummus, shredded carrots, tomato, olives, and feta cheese and roll it like a burrito for a filling and nutrient-packed lunch.

5. Blend them into smoothies

You can add a cup or two of mild leafy greens such as spinach or kale to your smoothie. Add a scoop of Greek yogurt to make it more satiating with the addition of protein and fat.

6. Make a pesto sauce

Basil pesto is the most well-known variety, but a pesto can be made with any dark green vegetable.

  • Using a food processor or blender, blend 4 cups of greens of your choice (or a mix of different greens) with 1 garlic clove and ½ cup nuts until finely chopped.

  • Next, drizzle in olive oil while continuing to process the pesto until it is the consistency you like.

  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and add Parmesan cheese if you’d like.

Let's Chat!

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Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

7 Ways for Your Baby to Learn to Like Veggies

Why does Fiber Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?

Picky Eating: Taste Imprinting During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Helping Your Child Build a Taste for Healthy Foods