Photo by Prescott Watson.

Not many people know this about me, but I have a love of animals that can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations. Just recently I was in my roommate’s car on the way up to campus, and a deer came across the road. As it did, I not only screamed for her to stop the car so as not to hit it, but I also proceeded to scream out the window at the deer so that it would get off the road, and hopefully be so afraid of people that it wouldn’t come near a road again. That’s my idea of active animal death prevention.

So it probably comes as no surprise that when I had the chance to move off campus this year, I immediately thought to bring along my pet, a bearded dragon named Moose. For those of you who don’t know, a bearded dragon is not a dragon at all. It’s much cuter.

This is where food comes in. My lizard’s diet is comprised of mainly crickets and various types of lettuce, or “greens” as they say on all the bearded dragon websites — of which there are surprisingly many. When I first got Moose back in junior high, I experimented with all different types of greens, but found that he loved one above all others: spinach.

It turns out spinach is a pretty healthy food, and a good choice for me as well as my pet. Both of us can share a healthy meal.

What makes spinach healthy is the fact that it is loaded with calcium and iron, which is particularly good for vegetarians. A single serving, or one cup of spinach contains more than half of the Vitamin A you need for the day. It also has a full gram of fiber, and plenty of lutein, which is thought to prevent cancer. Spinach is one food that always shows up on power food lists.

Because spinach is a green, it works great in salad as well as just by itself. You can add it to any soup, lasagna or burrito you’re eating to pump up the taste and treat your body well.

The one drawback is the cost, especially if you go organic. But if you think about it, you’re paying for the essential vitamins and things you need in your diet instead of buying something that costs less and doesn’t have any nutritional value whatsoever, like, say, Cheez-Its.

Spinach is more substantial and keeps you fuller longer, so it really is a good investment. And for the average Santa Cruzian, you can always grow your own. Although I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, I do buy spinach regularly for Moose and myself, and I use the same bag of spinach between the both of us, which makes it pretty cost efficient.

At the end of the day, you can usually find Moose and me munching on a bag of spinach like it’s a bag of popcorn at a carnival. It’s that good.

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You can see one of my favorite spinach salad recipes here: http://southernfood.about.com/od/spinachsaladrecipes/r/bl60522d.htm

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Are the dining halls boring you? Looking for something new to try? Every week, Mikaela Todd introduces great food on a budget from a college student’s perspective in Cooking for Slugs. New stories are posted Fridays through the quarter on the CHP Eats blog.