Kids and salads do not sound compatible, but are they, really? I am a parent of a 21-month old that eats kale, another 21-month old who can live on tomatoes and avocados and a 4 year old that adores any salad I put in front of him. With the twins, it was easy: we started off right. With the older child, I had to get him to like salads and I did. And so can you.
14 Steps to Get Your Child To Eat Salad
1. Eat as a family. In our culture, there is a tendency to feed children “special foods,” the foods you typically find on a children’s menu at a restaurant. These foods ( chicken nuggets, string cheese, pbj sandwiches on white bread, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches) are fed to kids because ” there is no way kids would eat “regular food.” Kids would eat regular food if all they had to eat was “regular food.” If a family sits down for dinner and everyone eats the same thing or goes hungry, the kids learn to quit whining for hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Family meal tradition goes a long way.
2. Eat salads yourself. Eating a salad a day is a healthy habit. Eat your salad in front of your child. Put some on their plate. Encourage picking. If you don’t eat healthy foods, your children never will. I am sorry if this sounds harsh. It is true.
3. Limit sugar, soda, caffeine and artificial processed junk food. The flavors of these unnatural food products are so intense, they desensitize the taste buds, making vegetables taste plain. Use dried fruit instead of sugary snacks and do not buy foods with more than 5 ingredients on the label. If your child consumes sugar and processed food regularly, try to limit these prior to introducing fresh veggies to their diet.
4. It’s all in the dressing.Dressing can make or kill the salad. Come up with 2-3 salad dressings that your kids like and use these dressings regularly. My kids love carrot ginger or tahini .
5. Fruit helps. Fruits are sweet and most kids love them. If they don’t like fruit, they like berries and if they like neither, they like raisins and dried cranberries. Incorporate these ingredients into your salads and kids would be much more likely to eat your salads.
6. Try a muffin tin meal . Kids don’t like a bunch of ingredients smashed together and a cute muffin tin can help your picky eater a lot!
7. Give them control. Instead of combining the salad ingredients, put each ingredient into a separate container. Ask your child to get a plate and pretend they are at a salad bar.
8. Make it pretty. Cut veggies with cookie cutters, add cute almond slices. Arrange your salad in a beautiful way. If the plate looks interesting, your child is more likely to dig in.
9. Dipping. Instead of pouring the dressing over the salad, let your child dip the salad ingredients into the dressing: it’s a lot more fun this way.
10. Grate. Finely grate hard to chew vegetables, such as carrots, beets or radishes, instead of chopping them. Finely chop broccoli. Kids don’t like hard-to chew vegetables.
11. Toppings. Use toppings liberally. Nuts, beans, cheese, tofu, even pieces of crackers: find out what works for your child and put it on top of a salad. Does your child love eggs? Put a poached egg on top of a salad.
12. Consider smoothies as a “gateway drug.” Green smoothies can get your child used to green leafy vegetables : smoothies can help experience the veggies’ color, smell and taste. If your child is resisting green leaves in her salad, try a green smoothie to get her used to the idea.
13. Persevere. Getting your child to eat salad is like teaching your child to read: do it every day. The first day your child may eat a teaspoon of grated carrots, the second day he may eat two cucumber slices. The third day, she may pick out all the green peas and leave the spinach behind. Persevere and never give up.
14. Do use salad as a bribe. At first, when your child is not used to eating salads, the quickest way to get them to do it is promise of a walk in the park or trip to the zoo if they finish their salad. You do this about five times and then they would be more likely to eat salads because they enjoy them, no bribing needed. This has been the method I used with my oldest son to great success.