Twelve “not-so-healthy” ways to eat spinach

Followed by one fairly healthy way from my own kitchen

Mark Bittman is clear about what he enjoys eating---but often confusing when it comes to helping his readers learn about healthy eating.

Breaking news: Jason, Lisa and I will have a 4Leaf table at the VegFest in Worcester, MA, this Sunday, April 15, from 11 to 5. Dr. Campbell and Kathy Freston will be speaking. Spread the word.

Mark Bittman has done it again. Although he has an incredible amount of knowledge about the harmful, inefficient and unsustainable nature of our typical Western diet, he rarely offers his readers any clarity as to what they should be eating to be healthy. He knows that we’re digging our graves with our knives and forks AND destroying our planet, yet he continues to shamelessly promote animal-based foods in most of his work.

The latest is an article in last week’s New York Times about spinach—and his suggestions for how best to prepare this super-healthy food. He likes spinach but not necessarily eaten raw in a salad. So he offers four ways to cook the spinach along with three suggestions for each method: wilted, steamed, braised and super-slow cooked. From the article:

Here, spinach undergoes four completely distinct treatments: superfast wilting in a pan; not-much- slower steaming in a pot; braised and almost a full meal; and superslow, a technique I really love, and one that results in astonishingly fine creamed spinach and the like. (These are generally so high-fat that they effectively neutralize spinach’s supposed health benefits, an interesting paradox.)

Here are Mark's three wilted options: with steak, bacon and chicken going left to right.

His list of 12 spinach dishes, all of which have oil, most of which have butter and half of which have meat, eggs or mussels. Notice that I labeled the three without butter as “healthier options.”

  1. Wilted with skirt steak
  2. Wilted with bacon
  3. Wilted with chicken
  4. Steamed with parmesan (and butter)
  5. Steamed with anchovies (and butter)
  6. Steamed with cashews (and sesame oil) Healthier option. 
  7. Braised with eggs
  8. Braised with mussels
  9. Braised with soy and ginger (and sesame oil) Healthier option.
  10. Slow-cooked with cream (and butter)
  11. Slow-cooked with Indian spices (and oil) Healthier option.
  12. Slow-cooked with rice & carrots (and butter)

Joseph's brand---about the healthiest packaged bread that I have found.

Want a really healthy spinach option? This is what I often prepare as a light dinner or as a healthy item to take along on the train or while sailing for the day. It started out as part of my Sailors Super Lunch; this is the “spinach-pita” portion of that lunch. Here’s the way I do mine. (If you’re nervous about microwaves, then you can use Mark Bittman’s method of wilting described above.) 

  1. Fill a large salad bowl with raw spinach. Squeeze some lime or lemon juice on top, spray with a bit of Braggs Liquid Aminos and sprinkle some Kirkland organic no-salt spice on top. Microwave for 30 seconds.
  2. Slice a whole wheat Joseph’s Pita in half and warm both halves along with the spinach for about 15 seconds. Spread a little hummus (preferably homemade) inside the two halves of pita.
  3. Start stuffing the pita with spinach; add a row of sliced avocado and olive, finish stuffing with more spinach.
  4. This meal can be a little high in fat if you’re liberal with the avocado and olive. I try to use just 1/4 of an avocado, which will take care of both half-pitas.

As for the Joseph’s bread. One full round of pita contains 230 calories, with less than 10% from fat. It’s not a whole plant, but it is made from 100% stone ground whole wheat flour. It has 8 grams of fiber and has slightly more sodium and a few more ingredients than I would prefer.

While this is not a super-healthy 4Leaf dish, this great little meal can be prepared in five minutes and is a much healthier spinach option than any of Mark’s oil-soaked, animal food medleys shown above. For more details on Mark’s cooking options, see the link below.

Spinach---the King of Greens

Spinach Salad? Finally, I disagree with Mark about the spinach salad. I think that there are many options for a highly delicious raw or slightly wilted version with the right mix of veggies, legumes, grains, seasonings and color. Just remember that if you’re going to call it a meal, you’re going to need more than just the spinach—anything from avocado to zucchini to make sure that you get the 400+ calories that you need. Enjoy!

So what’s the story with Mark Bittman? He probably knows more about the need for plant-based eating than any prominent journalist in America—yet his work is often confusing, misleading and lacking clarity. He is referenced many times in our book and mentioned often in this blog. Just a few weeks ago, I featured him in a blogpost: Mark Bittman. Does he ever take a stand on anything? As for the article about spinach….

 Spinach Is a Dish Best Served Cooked –

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, Board of Directors…

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to Twelve “not-so-healthy” ways to eat spinach

  1. Leo S. says:

    Dr. Greger’s video comes to mind when spinach is mentioned.

    This is one we might want to save and forward to others. We should learn to eat more of these greens without subjecting them to various forms of heat. They can be tasty just by themselves. Many physicians state that our tastes may change in 21 days after introducing foods to our menu which we don’t normally eat. How many people remember what Popeye ate to give him strength? How many people today, especially kids, know who Popeye was?

    Many people today do not know who Dr. Albert Schweitzer was. He was cured of diabetes at the age of seventy-five by resorting to a live-food diet by Dr. Max Gerson. He lived into his nineties. Many physicians today advocate the use of whole-plant foods and the nutrients they provide that
    our cells need to function at their best.

  2. Lisa says:

    I love spinach! I use scissors to ribbon cut the leaves. For me, it makes it easier to eat and to incorporate into dishes. We add raw spinach to many dishes – on top of whole wheat pasta before adding cooked mushrooms, tomatoes, artichokes, and cannellini beans. We also mix it with rice or quinoa. We add it to hearty soups just before serving, and of course mixed in with other salad greens or even as the main salad green. I use the Joseph’s pitas also. We sometimes use it as pizza crust – topping it with Local Foods pizza sauce, spinach, and sautéed mushrooms, baked just until warm. I’m having a spinach salad with my lunch today topped with strawberries, red onion, and a little balsamic vinegar. The red and green colors compliment my curry carrot soup nicely.

  3. Debbie says:

    I find that the most nutritious package bread is ezekiel sprouted grain flourless bread. It also comes in buns for my veggie burgers, bread slices and even in Hot Dog Buns for the occassional vege hot dogs I may have at a picnic. They are very high in fiber, low in sodium and so good for you. I find here on the East coast, many regular supermarkets carry the sliced bread in the freezer section where they sell the Natural foods. The buns usually are sold at local health stores and Wegman’s.
    I so agree with that Mark Bittman doesn’t take a stand.

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