Do you wish your children enjoyed salad? I always love a good salad. The possibilities are endless, and they can act as a great tool for getting lots of great nutrients into our bellies as well as our children’s.
Today, both my girls asked for salads for lunch and I almost fell over. My oldest has loved salads for awhile now but I was always dreaming of the day when my youngest would ask for a salad too. And guess what? That day finally came at ages 8 and 10 years old. So in honor of the big day, I’m sharing with you my tips and tricks for raising two girls who eat and enjoy salad.
Here are 7 simple tips to help raise salad lovers that have worked with my girls and hopefully will be helpful for yours too!
1. Start Small
Getting kids to eat a salad doesn’t happen overnight. Start by just chopping up one or two veggies you know your child already enjoys. Then slowly, over time, add one new ingredient (lettuce, nuts, cheese, shredded carrots, etc). It may take a while for kids to get use to mixing the ingredients. My daughter loves cucumbers so we started with just cucumbers, then added just a few small pieces of lettuce, and a couple red peppers. The goal is to get them use to the idea of eating “salad,” even if it is just 3 cucumbers and 1 piece of lettuce. Overtime, the salad will grow into looking more like a traditional salad.
2. Try Romaine First
When it comes to raising a salad lover, texture is everything for a lot of children. I recommend starting with romaine since it tends to be crunchy and crisp. Although the bagged lettuce is super convenient, it can be limp and less appealing. I like to prep the lettuce at the beginning of the week by washing, drying, chopping, and putting it in a big glass bowl with a lid. I find that if I don’t do this step at the beginning of the week, we don’t eat salad during the week since it involves more work and time which many of us don’t have.
3. Play the “Rate-It” Game
We all know a good dressing makes or breaks the salad! I recommend buying a couple different salad dressings and/or making a couple to try. Have fun playing the “Rate- it” Game using our Taste-O-Meter. This is a great tool for your parenting toolbox. You can download it for free, print it out and keep it on your refrigerator. Want tips on how to use it most effectively? Check out this post.
My girls love to play the Rate-it game! Cut up raw veggie sticks and pour 2 to 3 dressings into little taste testing dishes. Have the family taste each one and rate it from 1 to 10 and then put them in order from favorite to least favorite. We love Primal Kitchen dressing as they are made with avocado oil instead of highly processed oils like soy, canola and sunflower. Read more here about why I recommend reducing your refined seed oil consumption. The dressing are also free of sugar and have very clean, simple ingredient lists, which I’m always a fan of. Dressings are also very simple to make. My family loves Easy Dill Dressing.
4. Serve salad as the first course
I recommend serving salads first. Hopefully, your children are hungry and will gobble up the salad since it is the only option on the table at first. Give them a few minutes to try the salad and then serve the rest of the meal. Ideally, everyone else at the table is enjoying their salads as well. This is a great time to model eating and enjoying salad. Even if your child doesn’t eat it the first time, hopefully after repeating the “salad first approach” s/he will eventually take a bite.
Coming to the table hungry is also key for this strategy to be effective so make sure you are avoiding serving snacks at least 90 minutes before dinner, allowing time for them to build up an appetite.
5. Try a salad bar
Children love to have choice. The more autonomy we give them the better. Set out a bowl of lettuce and your favorite toppings in individual bowls. We love shredded carrots, cucumbers, peppers, black olives, cheese, sunflower seeds, walnuts, hard boiled eggs, turkey, chickpeas, and a couple of dressings. Let your child serve themselves. This allows them to choose what they want, how much they want, and hopefully help get your kids to eat salad in no time!
6. Get your children involved in prep work
Making a salad can be a lot of work, so I encourage you to get the whole family involved. This will help you, but also will help to get your kids in the kitchen. Check out here all the amazing benefits to getting your kids in the kitchen early. Have children wash, dry, and rip the lettuce. Teach them how to use a salad spinner which is always fun for little ones. Have them grate carrots or cut veggies using a child friendly knife. Although this may feel like a lot of extra work in the beginning, it will pay off in the long run so just keep that in mind when your kitchen is a mess. My mantra while my girls were helping me cook when they were younger was “It will all be worth it.” And guess what? It is ALL worth it!
Looking to get your kids move involved in the kitchen? Check out my kids cooking classes. We love making making healthy foods that taste good and are good for us. All the recipes we make together are gluten free, have no refined sugar, and are made with a special nutrient dense ingredient.
7. Serve salads consistently
Servings salads on a regular basis is key in raising a salad lover. Even if they aren’t eating it yet, they are seeing the salad and watching others around them eating and enjoying salad. The more we can model eating salads, the more likely children are to try it.
Make a big bowl of salad for yourself and allow your kids to pick out of your bowl. I have an 8 and 10 year old and I still catch them picking off my plate. Take advantage of this tool and load up your salad with a couple new foods, you’ve been wanting your kids to try.
Remember that raising a salad lover may take weeks, months or even years. Every child is different. I always like to remind others and myself, that raising healthy eaters is a marathon, not a sprint. It will happen. It just takes consistency, time, and a whole lot of PATIENCE!