Ah, salads… we love ‘em, we hate ‘em. But, mostly, we just hate making them, right? If someone put a salad in front of your face, and provided your choice of salad dressing, we’d bet you’d eat it. Ah… you would, admit it. Unless you’re a super-taster, you’ve likely adapted to the fact that you’ve got to eat your veggies to stay healthy, at least, and if you’ve got kids, you’re sharing with them your wisdom. If you’re still getting push-back, though, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve that will help acclimate your kids to salads and keep them coming back for more!
First, deconstruct! Salads are an oft-challenging meal item to suggest for kids for two main reasons. For one, most parents aren’t eating salad, and two, kids are keenly aware of textures and tastes, we’ve since adapted to. So, start slowly if you think it will help, by simply offering the ingredients of a salad as little bits on their plate. A little cucumber here, a few sweet potato chunks there. This wonderful tip comes from the comments section of a post about healthy salads where a parent offered taco “salad” at dinnertime since her kids were already fans of family taco night! Great tip!
Don’t forget the fruit. No surprise here… kids love fruit. Sure, a fruit salad is a good choice, but, how about simply tossing fruit on a deconstructed salad? Or, perhaps a more full salad with less bitter greens like butter lettuce or blanched napa cabbage? Mandarin oranges are a fantastic addition to salad, and you can toss some slivered almonds in there for crunch. Call it a Mandarin salad if you will, and wrap a cultural lesson into your meal at the same time.
Stick to familiar textures: Aside from the bitterness greens lend to a salad, kids are pretty fussy about textures. Sometimes, it’s too much crunch, sometimes too much mush. But, play to your children’s aversions, and you’ll be able to get them acclimated to new tastes more quickly. For example, if they like crunch, add nuts, cucumbers (maybe even pickles!), or beets. Uncooked, beets have very little flavor! If they like softer foods, but not too mushy, consider cooking sweet potato cubed so it still retains some of it’s shape, potatoes, and any variety of squash you’d like to test out.
Go higher on the glycemic scale: Speaking of sweet potato, simply going a wee-bit higher on the glycemic scale can give you some ideas. The higher sugar content will be an easier sell for fussy kids. Don’t overdo it, on the higher end of the scale … shoot for those in the “medium” category, like corn and beets to get you started.
Be a good example, and start early. Research suggests that children who adapt better to vegetables do so in part because their mothers ate such foods while pregnant and breast-feeding. Of course, eating healthy greens and salads of all types in front of your kids on a regular basis outside of pregnancy and their infancy is a wonderful idea as well. And, we might add good fro you as well!
Have them help! Sometimes just seeing how things are prepared and snacking along the way (the ultimate deconstructed salad!), is one of the best ways to get kids into salad-eating. No matter their age, there is something they can do to help you in the kitchen, even if it’s just segmenting a mandarin orange for you. Here’s a quick list of things any kid can do to help take the load off in the kitchen, and get them primed for a healthy dinner!