How to get children to eat salads

How to get children to eat salads

We all know that eating salads and fresh raw vegetables is important for good nutrition. But getting kids to eat them can be a real problem. If your kids are like mine, their favorite vegetable is probably ketchup, but if you try my two-step “sneaky salad method,” I bet you can have them eating a lot more raw vegetables in no time.

First of all, do what all the best restaurants do–Serve Salad First! Think of salad as a pre-meal snack–set it out on the table or counter, or in front of the tv if that’s where your family is waiting for supper.

Even if you are only heating u-bake pizza or boxed mac & cheese, serve salad stuff first. The smells of food cooking will stimulate your kids’ appetite–and they are sure to start nibbling whatever is available.

Secondly, throw away your salad bowls. Tossed green salads artistically dotted with bits of brightly-colored vegetables coated with dressing may look pretty, but they are also awkward and messy to eat–especially for young children. Too, many young children tend to prefer foods that are served separately, rather than slopped together.

Forget bowls and salad forks and think Finger Foods! Kids LOVE to pick up food with their fingers and dunk it into any kind of sauce. When one of my sons was little, we found him dunking crackers into a mud puddle in the driveway, then happily stuffing them into his mouth. When I asked him why, he said, matter-of-factly, “There wasn’t anything else to dunk them in.” Sigh.

Anyhow…wash and cut your veggies into manageable chunks and set them out on a communal plate (Use 2 plates if you have a big family.) If you’re in a hurry, and if expense isn’t a problem, you can use those handy pre-washed, pre-cut packaged vegetables in the produce department. And give each person a little cup of dipping sauce.

Try to include at least one green leafy vegetable–leaf lettuce, kale, parsley, spinach, lambs’ quarters, beet greens, purslane, etc. You can also cut cabbage into small wedges for dipping. I never bother with iceberg (head) lettuce–too few nutrients for the money.

Other raw vegetables are up to you: tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes, celery strips, carrot sticks, sugar pod peas, baby corn ears, whole baby mushrooms, zucchini or cucumbers, sweet peppers, peeled sliced winter squash, jicama, bean sprouts, etc. You can also offer slices or wedges of cooked beets or turnips–kids will often eat them this way when they won’t otherwise.

Two vegetables I don’t bother trying to feed young kids are onions and radishes. The younger the child, the more taste buds they have, and these veggies are just too strong-tasting for most kids.

Encourage your kids to pick and dunk as much as they want. (Sneaky hint: if you want kids to really wolf those veggies down, ask them to be sure to leave some for you.)

You can offer home-made dressing or regular bottled dressing. To make bottled dressing more nutritious and lower in calories, add tomato juice or sauce to the tomato-based kinds and milk to the creamy, Ranch-style kinds. In a pinch most kids will happy dip their veggies into a mixture of ketchup & milk. Using a blender, you can sneak left-over cooked carrots or potatoes or tomatoes into some commercial dressings. Several times I’ve blended left-over vegetable soup with French dressing and nobody noticed.

Try to resist the urge to insist that kids eat a certain number of lettuce leaves, carrot strips, etc., especially when you are introducing them to this idea. Let them think you are offering a bonus pre-meal snack that they can take or leave. I do, however, gently insist that, after they dip, they “take a nibble” of the vegetable itself.

Otherwise, there’s always the occasional kid who will dunk and suck the dip off the same carrot stick repeatedly, filling up on dressing, rather than a salad. Don’t make a big deal of it–just tell them that’s not the way to do it–they need to take a little mousey nibble.

If there are veggies left over, it’s easy to save them to serve later or add to soup, casseroles, etc. They don’t go to waste like left-over soggy salad in the bottom of the bowl!

There’s another benefit of this method–the primary reason that restaurants serve salad first–it tends to satisfy the appetite to the extent that one is less likely to pig-out on the more fattening and expensive main dishes of the meal.

When I end up with unexpected guests for supper–especially if they’re teenagers–I make a point of providing a very generous salad snack tray before supper. Food goes farther that way.

Give this method a try, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount and variety of fresh raw vegetables your kids will start eating.

Give this method a try

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