Salads make for an excellent side dish to have at the family dinner table.
Whether you have a little foodie in the making or a toddler that has a mind of their own, there is no better way to inject some much-needed vegetables into their diet.
A well-executed salad is merely vegetables presented in a fun and engaging way, well at least that’s what us mamas tell ourselves anyway!
Going in with a good mindset definitely helps because if you’re excited about it, it will hopefully rub off on the kids.
Salads are so much more than just steamed carrots or mashed potatoes.
With a salad, you can let your imagination run wild and create dishes that would appeal to kids of all ages.
So, how do you get your kids to love the green and the raw?
Here are some fun and helpful tips to make your kids love salad:
Presentation is Everything
Whether we like it or not, we eat with our eyes before we even take our first bite.
It’s important to get the kids engaged or feel curious about the salad so that you can entice them to at least give the salad a try.
This is particularly useful if you find it challenging to get your kids to eat vegetables of any kind:
- The key here is fun and creativity.
- Cut your vegetables into different shapes and sizes. Invest in a set of cookie cutters in cool shapes like trucks, flowers, cars or fairies. Whatever you can get your hands on. How much fun would an entire bowl of animals be!
- Instead of tossing your salad in a bowl, put them in a skewer and make some salad kebabs such as a Celeriac, Mango and Guava. Or imagine some Purple Cauliflower florets all set out in a row with some dollops of tahini dressing. It would look like candy!
- Using a Y peeler or mandolin, ribbon your vegetables and pretend they’re noodles. You can do this with zucchini, asparagus, carrots and cucumber.
- Present your salad in “boats” or “cups”. A hardy lettuce such as cos lettuce would make for the perfect vehicle to house the salad such as Corn and Papaya salad. Chop the vegetables into small bits, toss through a simple vinaigrette and put them onto the lettuce. Or you can let them scoop it up themselves like a spoon.
- Lay out your salad in a fun shape. If your kids love dogs, you could create the body with cucumber, the tail with beans, the eyes with grapes and the head with carrots.
Using the Right Ingredients and Recipes
No one knows your child better than you do so while it would be great if they would just try Brussels sprouts or perhaps some shaved fennel, it will only turn them off salads if you force it on them.
Once they become accustomed to eating salads, you could perhaps get a little bit more adventurous. Slowly but surely.
Fruit is a fantastic ingredient to add to a salad.
It gives it a natural sweetness and it’s familiar to the kids.
What? Strawberry for dinner? Well to a certain extent.
Add some mint, lettuce, cherry bocconcini cheese and a little balsamic vinegar and you’ll have yourself a gorgeous Summer Strawberry side salad.
If your child is a fussy eater, make a salad with ingredients they like.
I know that sounds like a no brainer but all too often we think salads are only vegetables.
It can have protein too and it could be the only thing you eat at dinner time.
Also, don’t assume they might hate something when you haven’t allowed them to try it.
Just because they may not normally eat fish, it doesn’t mean they may not like a Beetroot Cured Salmon.
They may just have a more complex palate than you had anticipated and might prefer a certain produce done in a different way. Who knows until you try?
Get Them Involved
- Children are curious by nature and when they’re young, it’s one of the most endearing things about them. Let’s capitalise on this by getting them involved with the salad making process. It’s also great for family time and if you can get their buy in, they’ll no doubt love that salad even more.
- Take your kids grocery shopping and ask them to find the ingredient for you. Give them a touch of independence (under your watchful eye of course) as they navigate the fresh food section. Make a big deal when they’re able to get everything for you. Best way for kids to learn about fresh produce.
- Allow your child to create the salad recipe with you. Or stand in front of the fridge together and pull out ingredients to make the salad. Talk about the flavours of the ingredient and ask them if they would go well together.
- Let your kids name the salad recipe something special so when it’s presented at dinner, they can feel chuffed about it. “Charlie’s Creamy Coleslaw” or perhaps “Ella’s Enormous Eggplant Salad”.
- When it comes time to make the salad, get them involved in the kitchen. Cooking with kids is such an important part of valuable family time. Yes, it may mean dinner will take an extra 30 minutes but it’ll be all worth it in the end. Salads are a great dish to make with young kids as at least half the components are usually raw so it’s a much easier dish to execute.
Teach Your Kids Where Food Comes From
This is the perfect excuse to head outdoors.
You could visit kid-friendly farms so they can see how we get milk to make the yoghurt for those creamy dressings or where eggs come from for that delicious egg salad with salty capers.
Fishing off the pier or looking for mussels in shallow rock pools will get them excited about produce that ends up on a plate.
If you’re not so inclined to head out too far, your garden is the perfect launchpad for getting kids curious.
Herbs are a big part of any salad.
You could have a small herb garden at home which you could plant with them.
Or a small little vegetable patch of easy to grow vegetables.
If they are invested in the well-being of the herbs and vegetables, imagine how proud they would be when it ends up on the dinner table!
Make Dinnertime Fun
Dinner time is sacred family time.
Turn off the TV, put those devices away and eat as a family. Adults should give their kids their undivided attention. Some ideas of making the salad the focal point:
- The whole family could be judges on Masterchef and “critique” the salad. Every member gets to have a say about what they thought about the dish. You do have to eat it before you can play kids!
- You could have a blind tasting of the salad. What do you taste? What’s that crunchy vegetable? Taste something sweet? What is it?
- Have your child serve the salad. They could pretend to work in a restaurant and as they serve the salad, they have to explain to the guests what they are eating. They could even come back and pour a little dressing over the salad like you would in a fine dining restaurant.
Getting your child to embrace salads might be tricky for some whilst a joy for others.
Either way, it should make an appearance on your dinner table regularly to create good eating habits. A salad is so much more than lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber tossed together in a bowl.
Find recipes you’d like to try and don’t be afraid to test them out.
Like anything, there will be winners while others may get a lukewarm response. Give these tips a go to get your children excited about salads but whatever you do, don’t give up!