All romaine lettuce in the U.S. is unsafe to eat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said in a warning that may alter some Thanksgiving menus across the country.
The CDC has asked people to discard the leafy green as it investigates an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that has so far infected 32 people. As the agency investigates the outbreak, it’s asked people to throw out any romaine lettuce they have and requested restaurants stop serving it to customers. The warning includes all forms of romaine, including whole heads, hearts and lettuce pieces that are added to salad mixes.
The romaine warning, however, shouldn’t mean a moratorium on all leafy greens, says Allison Knott, a New York City-based registered dietitian.
“There are so many leafy greens that are available and are just as good, if not better, for you than romaine,” Knott says. “All leafy greens are good, so however you can get them in, the better.”
Leafy greens are a nutritious option because they contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as nutrients such as folate, potassium and calcium. And though “there’s really no leafy green that’s bad for you,” Knott says the darker the veggie, the more nutrient-dense it typically is.
For that reason, she says, kale is a great choice. If you’re used to eating romaine, however, you may not love the plant’s strong, bitter flavor. If that’s the case, Knott recommends arugula, spinach or butter lettuce — the last of which has large leaves that can even be used in place of wraps and breads. She also suggests branching out to lesser-known mustard or collard greens while you’re looking for new greens.
As soon as the E. coli investigation is over, Knott says, there’s no reason not to go back to the old standby, romaine.
“This whole romaine scare is definitely not ideal for anyone, and it maybe scares people away from eating leafy greens in general, which is frustrating,” Knott says. “The key message is just that [you should be] eating leafy greens.”