1. Keep the salad simple and fresh.When you are first introducing salads, stick to two to three ingredients, especially if your child has a picky palate. Every ingredient should be something that your child already likes, so if your child has a favorite vegetable, be sure to include that in the salad. Try starting with romaine lettuce, a cheese they like, then move to their favorite vegetable, and dressing. As they begin to take interest in salads, you can experiment by adding other ingredients to determine what they like. In the beginning, don’t be too concerned with the nutritional value of the salads. It is about getting your kids to love salad, and that might mean adding crunchy toppings like nuts and seeds, various cheeses, and creamy dressings at first. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, may have a strong taste to young children. As they develop new tastes, gradually expose them to new flavors.
2. Size is everything.Salads can be difficult to eat, especially for kids with their smaller mouths. If the lettuce and other ingredients are too big, they may be less likely to eat the salad, so cut all of the ingredients into small pieces to make it easy for children to get them into their mouths and chew. You can also try shredding ingredients such as carrots, slicing tomatoes into matchstick shapes, and dicing cucumbers.
3. More color = more nutrition.Kids won’t want to eat a plain green salad, so make sure you add a lot of bright colors. Choose a couple of lettuces like spinach and iceberg for the salad, or add purple cabbage. Mix in various colors of vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, and yellow pepper. This also allows your child to “eat the rainbow” and receive a wide range of nutrients that they need all at once. Texture is also important, even for children. Spinach isn’t as crunchy as other lettuces, so make sure to use a variety of textures like crunchy cucumbers, salty nuts, and creamy cheese. Making your salads with a variety of colors and textures can make it more appealing and exciting to your kids.
4. Flavor the salad with dressing.I always say that the dressing determines what makes a salad really good or not. If your kid likes ranch dressing, then start with that. But make sure that you are having your child try other dressings as well. I have had success in getting my friends and family to like salads by having them try a raspberry vinaigrette, because the fruitiness almost makes you forget you’re eating lettuce. You can even set out three different dressings and have them try and pick which one they want by doing a blind taste test.
5. Get your children involved.A tip I always give when it comes to teaching children about healthy eating is to get them involved with the process. Have them go shopping with you and pick out ingredients that they want in their salad, or a dressing that they would like to try. In the kitchen, let them build their own salad, or even make the whole family’s salads for that day. Building their own salad is a great way for children to be more interactive in food preparation and will make them more excited about what they are eating. It will also help them prepare for when they are older and making their own food!
Kid-friendly salad ideas:
- Apple-Nut Salad: Lettuce, apples, walnuts, cheese, with a vinaigrette.
- Vegetarian Wedge: Lettuce, pecans, blue cheese, tomato, green onion, creamy dressing.
- Raspberry: Lettuce, feta, almonds, dried cranberries, cucumber, raspberry vinaigrette.
- Southwest: Lettuce, corn, tortilla strips, tomato, black beans, green onion, chipotle vinaigrette.
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