Cart Smarts: Plenty of good greens beyond romaine

December 19, 2018

At the time I’m writing this column, romaine lettuce remains absent from grocery store shelves, I’ve been encouraging grocery shoppers to try less-common types of lettuce.

There are many different types of lettuces on the shelves, and they all offer different tastes and nutritional benefits. Here is a quick rundown:

1 Butterhead lettuce: The most common varieties of butterhead lettuce are “Boston” or “Bibb.” This lettuce has soft, buttery green leaves and works great on sandwiches and salads. The leaves are slightly sweet and have a mild taste.

Nutritionally, it is high in vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. This variety is sold bagged and ready to eat, as heads, and even as “living lettuce.”

Living lettuce is sold in plastic containers with a small root ball still attached, which helps keep the lettuce fresh longer than other types of lettuce. With proper care and storage, most “living” lettuces can last as long as 20 days.

Living lettuce should be stored in its original container; adding small amounts of water to the root ball will help keep this type of lettuce “alive” for longer. To use, simply remove and wash leaves as desired and store the remaining head in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

2 Crisphead: Otherwise known as iceberg lettuce, this is the most common and affordable type of lettuce. I often hear disparaging remarks about iceberg lettuce — many people believe it is nutritionally deficient or even unhealthy.

While darker varieties are certainly more nutritious, iceberg lettuce is still a healthy choice. It is extremely low in calories (1 cup shredded is just 10 calories) and high in vitamins A and K. Its high water content makes this type of lettuce the most crisp and refreshing of all lettuce varieties, and its mild flavor makes it a kid-friendly choice.

While you should aim to include other, darker varieties of greens in your diet as well, there is no reason to feel guilty about adding this type of lettuce to your salads and sandwiches.

3 Loose leaf lettuce: You will often see this variety in the bulk produce area. Red and green leaf are the most common varieties. This type of lettuce has a mild crunch which makes it great for salads and wraps. It is higher in vitamins A and K than iceberg.

This type of lettuce has a short shelf life, so it should be used as quickly as possible. Discard any slimy leaves.

The following simple tuna lettuce wrap recipe is low-carb, low-sodium, and high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. It uses butterhead lettuce — a great reason to add a container of “living” lettuce to your cart this week and try this nutritious, unique type of lettuce for yourself.

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