Eating leafy greens and vegetables can be a challenge for many families, especially those with young children who are still discovering new foods. Over the years, I have tried several different approaches and as my children have grown, their interest in trying new salad ingredients has grown too. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Prep ahead and make it your own. When you let adults and kids add their own salad ingredients, they’re more likely to make a customized salad they will enjoy and eat and possibly try new ingredients too. Have fruits and vegetables pre-chopped so that it easy to add a little of everything if you want. It’s more likely there will be less waste too if everyone chooses just what they want to eat. I also like to keep dry toppings like nuts, seeds or dried fruit in a divided storage container so that it’s like a mini-salad bar when it comes time to preparing salads to eat. Print out a copy of this Build Your Own Salad guide to help great creative with ingredients!
- Make it a theme. Taco salad, Asian salad, Greek salad. There’s just something about a more coordinated combination of flavors that seems to make eating salads work. And mixing up flavors makes it more appealing than a garden salad day after day.
- Make it a meal. Beyond just the vegetables or fruits in a salad, it’s easy to top it with chopped chicken, beef or fish to make the salad a complete meal. For vegetarian options that still add protein, try adding lentils, tofu, black beans or other beans. Be sure to include a variety of ingredients you know are appealing but maybe try adding a few new ones too.
- Try different varieties of produce. For leafy greens, there are several varieties of lettuce. I find that my family prefers the flavor of spring mix salad and spinach over a plain iceberg lettuce which means it’s more likely they will want to eat salad. If you’ve tried red tomatoes or green bell peppers, how about mixing things up with other colors like yellow cherry tomatoes or orange bell peppers? I love the colors of this Superfood Salad.
- Add some crunch and mix it up! Traditional salad toppings often include baked or fried croutons but we’ve found lately that we enjoy other crunchy salad toppings like sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios and chopped or sliced nuts like pecans, almonds or walnuts. We even like to use oyster crackers as a lighter option to croutons. This Apple, Walnut & Feta Salad offers a combo a crunchiness, tanginess and creaminess.
- Add fruit—dried or fresh! We love to have dried fruit on our salads, like dried cherries, raisins or blueberries. I like to buy my dried fruit at the wholesale club for a better value but you can also find a variety of dried fruit at any grocery store. Adding seasonal fruit like berries, orange segments, chopped apples or more exotic fruits like mango add a great burst of flavor too! Try this Chopped Sunflower Crunch Salad topped with oranges or this Easy Summer Salad with strawberries and grapes.
- Choose a variety of salad dressings. For years, I was an Italian vinaigrette or Ranch dressing fan but in recent years I’ve branched out to try different flavor combinations of salad dressings. Often I will make my own but I also like to purchase the refrigerated salad dressings available in the produce section of my grocery store. Having a variety on hand for my family means we can all choose what we like and are more likely to want to eat salad. Even if the kids may end up putting on too much dressing, it encourages them to try different vegetables that they may not have otherwise. They’ll eventually learn to use less dressing. Here’s a great combo for a simple, homemade dressing.
- Exposure is key. Even if you try all of the suggestions listed above, you may find that it will still take time for your family to want to try new things. Try to keep an open mind and keep offering those different flavor selections. Whenever we go out to eat and there is a salad bar, we ask our kids to try one new-to-them vegetable, even if it’s just a bite or two. Eventually, curiosity might win and before you know it your family is asking for a variety of vegetables and fruits to make salads a regular menu option in your house!
Just giving one or two of these ideas a try is a great start towards you or your family eating more salads. If you need more salad inspiration, check out my list of Leafy Greens Salads.