Content brought to you by Excellent Schools Detroit
Do your kids turn up their noses at their greens? If you’ve been trying to get your kids to eat more salad with limited success, there’s hope.
Kids often need to be introduced to a food several times before they’ll even give it a try – researchers say as many as 10 times! Around your house, it may be more. The key? Don’t get discouraged and have fun helping your child learn to love veggies and fruits.
To guide your child toward his or her greens, consider these ideas around your dinner table.
Think out of the bowl
Salads don’t have to be made of iceberg lettuce neatly tucked into a bowl. Instead, try putting a little bit on their dinner plate each night. No bowls needed! The more times they see greens on their plates, the more they’ll get used to the idea. Even better, they’ll be more likely to give their salad a try. Keep the portions small, so it doesn’t seem overwhelming to your child.
Mix ‘n’ match
You can make salads out of all sorts of ingredients. You can start with lettuce and let your child add in toppings like chopped nuts, dried fruit, seeds or even crushed crackers.
Cut it out!
Here’s a way to start helping your kids enjoy their veggies: Use cookie cutters to make shapes out of produce like thin-sliced carrots, cucumbers and even fruits like apples and cantaloupe. Have them decorate their dinner plates with stars, hearts and whatever shapes you’ve made together.
Help your child rethink salad by using it in unusual ways. For example, wrap hamburgers in Boston lettuce leaves. Or what about using Romaine lettuce leaves in place of corn shells when you make tacos? Challenge your child to come up with more ways you can use lettuce at the dinner table. Your child is more likely to eat it if he came up with the “recipe.”
Call it like it is
Your child may be more convinced to eat her greens if she knows they’re good for her. Let her know that salad gives her body the nutrients she needs to grow strong. Or tell him that his salad will give him energy (it’s true!). For some kids, having a reason to eat something is all they need.
Let your child choose
Take your child with you to the grocery store or a fun shopping place like Eastern Market (link to article on this) to buy your produce. This will also help him see the varieties of lettuce and other salad ingredients that are available.
Make it a meal
Serve salad as your main meal. You can top lettuce with ingredients you might normally include in casseroles like chopped chicken or ham, cubed cheese and more.
Set an example
Your kids are watching you – really! They notice when you enjoy your greens. The more they see you eating salad, the more apt they are to go for it, too.
Betti Wiggins, the executive director of the office of school nutrition for Detroit Public Schools, came up with this creative dish with all the colors of stoplights.
- 1 cup sliced zucchini
- 1 cup sliced yellow squash
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup mixed baby greens
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
Layer salad plates with the baby greens first. Then have your kids create the stoplight pattern on top using a slice of zucchini first in the line, then a slice of yellow squash, and finally a grape tomato. Offer the vinaigrette on the side.
Break tacos out of the shell with this salad recipe. It makes four portions, but you can easily double it and let your kids invite friends for dinner.
- 4 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
- 1 rotisserie chicken, cut up into pieces
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack or cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- 1 cup tortilla chips
1/2 cup salsa + 1/4 cup ranch salad dressing
Place the tortilla chips into a thick plastic bag. Have your kids crush the chips with their hands. Place 1 cup shredded lettuce on each plate and then put the remaining ingredients in separate bowls. Let your kids choose the other ingredients they’d like to put on their “taco.” In a small bowl, stir together salsa and ranch; offer as the dressing.
Monkey Dessert Salad
Salads can be for dessert, too! Put together this sweet salad to have after dinner. Makes four servings.
- 4 medium-sized firm bananas, diced (great kid job)
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Place the banana slices in a large bowl and squeeze the juice from the half lemon over them. Stir. Mix in the coconut, peanuts and mini chocolate chips. Dust with a bit of cinnamon and serve.