How I Got My Kids to Love Salad

4 years ago

As bizarre as this may sound, my kids love salad. It was not always this way. I kept trying to offer them a little bit of salad with dinner, and they'd say, "Um, no thanks." Then I changed strategies and told them they had to try a little bit of salad. I mean, they eat vegetables all the time, so salad should be easy.

Iain Eating Salad

What would often happen is that they would pick the tomatoes and "good stuff" out of the salad, leaving a pile of greens on the plate. Hmm. That wouldn't do. Learning to eat leafy greens is an essential life skill. So, yet again, I shifted gears. Since, Make Your Own Taco Night is a favorite kid meal, I decided to try Make Your Own Salad Night with tons of condiments, an assortment of dressings, and some tasty carbs. Bingo! That was it: Salad needed to be the star, the main event, the whole meal. It couldn't be relegated to a shabby little corner of the plate. It needed to fill the plate.

Liliana Eating Sald

The funny thing about Make Your Own Salad Night is that it's not exactly quick and easy. It takes some planning or you could be chopping for 45 minutes. Especially if you start with greens from your garden that need to be picked and washed and dried in the salad spinner and then cut up into small, kid-friendly pieces. It helps to plan a Make Your Own Salad Night when you already have a fridge full of random leftovers—post-BBQ, perhaps.

Image: Courtesy of Juiciful

How to have a successful Make Your Own Salad Night

You will need to gather some of the following items:

Really good leafy greens, such as, some combination of
  • romaine
  • green or red leaf
  • dainty mesclun greens
  • arugula, if you have an adventurous eater
  • iceberg (if you get it at the farmers market, it's better than you remember)
  • herbs: cilantro, basil, etc.
A protein or two
  • cold grilled meat
  • deli meats, such as smoked turkey or nice ham
  • oily little fish: sardines, herring, anchovies
  • baked tofu
  • tempeh bacon (surprisingly good in salad)
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • cheese, crumbled or cubed
Legumes, grains, pasta
  • lentils
  • green peas
  • edamame
  • black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
  • cooked rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries...
  • leftover cooked pasta/noodles tossed in a little olive oil
Hard/crunchy veggies
  • carrots, sliced or shredded
  • cucumbers
  • roasted beets
  • steamed broccoli
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • corn
  • sweet peppers
  • fennel
Soft veggies/fruit
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • apples
  • stone fruit
  • strawberries
  • dried fruit, such as apricots, raisins, currants, cranberries
Marinated stuff
  • marinated artichoke hearts
  • oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • olives
  • hearts of palm
  • marinated mushrooms
Nuts and seeds
  • cashews
  • peanuts
  • sliced almonds
  • pistachios
  • walnuts/pecans
  • sunflower seeds
  • pepitas
Tasty carbs
  • a crusty loaf of bread
  • dinner rolls
  • whole-grain crackers
  • croutons
  • tortilla chips
Salad dressing
  • homemade vinaigrette
  • ranch or something creamy
  • salsa mixed with yogurt
  • soy sauce dressing (soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, lime juice)

Put things in little bowls or on little plates, so it's easy for kids to serve themselves and pass things around. Talk about how awesome Make Your Own Salad Night is.

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