8 Salads That Will Get Your Kids Hooked

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on November 12, 2010

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What parent doesn’t want their children to like (and eat) salads. They are easy and delicious. And a great way to enjoy vegetables without having to turn on the oven or stove.

But getting kids on the salad kick isn’t always easy. Like all things related to food acceptance in little ones, it takes time and exposure. But what if there was a way to make salads so irresistible that they’d HAVE to take a bite. And then they’d get hooked!

I have a couple of salads that my daughter will (sort of) eat. For more ideas, I reached out to others around the web and got a good list going. But I’m greedy so make sure you leave your family favorite salad in the comments.

1. Strawberry Surprise: I think fruit in salads make them less intimidating to young children. For this salad you can use spinach, spring mix or romaine. Mix greens with almonds (sliced almonds from Trader Joes are perfect), chopped strawberries, feta cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Experiment with different fruit, nuts, cheese and greens. Another variation includes grape halves, walnut pieces and feta. Watch your little ones pick out the fruit and eventually move on to the greens.

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2. Scrumptious Blueberry Salad: Amy from Super Healthy Kids admits that it took a long time for her kids to start eating salad. But she kept serving it year after year until they became full-on salad eaters.

blueberry

Ingredients:
-9 cups mixed greens
-1 cup fresh or thawed blueberries
-2 TBS sunflower kernels
Dressing
-4 TBS Canola Oil
-2 TBS Sugar
-3 TBS cider vinegar
-1 TBS Orange juice
-1/2 tsp ground mustard
-1/4 tsp salt

3. Spinach and Avocado Salad: I love going to For the Love of Cooking site for food inspiration. This salad will appeal to kids who like avocado, craisins and croutons.

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Ingredients:
-Baby spinach
-1-2 avocados, diced
-Cherry tomatoes, quartered
-Red onion diced
-Craisins
-Croutons
-Parmesan cheese, shaved
-Fran’s Simple Vinaigrette — 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 1/2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar, 1/2 red wine vinegar, 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced, 1/2 tsp sugar, sea salt and Freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Make the dressing 30 minutes before serving to maximize the flavor.

4. Mediterranean Bean Salad: This one is from super-creative mom, Stephanie at Foodie-isms. Kids who like beans will enjoy this salad. You can make it fun for them by letting them spear the beans with a toothpick.

mediterraneanSaladFoodieisms

Ingredients:
-2 cans of artichoke hearts, drained
-2 cans of pitted black olives, chopped
-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
-2 15.5 oz. cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
-2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (with basil, garlic and oregano), drained
-1 medium red onion, diced
-1 fresh bunch of cilantro, chopped
-8 oz. of Ken’s Steak House Lite Caesar Dressing

Combine artichokes, olives, black beans, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes together in a large bowl. Add red onion, cilantro, and caesar dressing. Mix well. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

This makes a great salad served over fresh greens or could also be served as an appetizer with Torilla chips (Tostitos with a Hint of Line). Best made the night before serving.

5. Chicken Caesar Salad: When asking around for kid-friendly salad ideas, ceaser salad kept popping up. Aviva from The Six O’Clock Scramble was kind enough to share her tasty recipe.

Ingredients: (Makes 6 Servings)
-1 – 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or meatless chicken strips or patties
-4 – 5 TBS. olive oil
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/8 tsp. garlic powder
-2 large slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or buy packaged croutons
-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
-2 TBS. reduced fat mayonnaise
-1/2 tsp. minced garlic (about 1 clove)
-1/2 lemon, juice only, 2 Tbsp. juice
-1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
-1/2 tsp. anchovy paste, or use mashed capers
-1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut or ripped into bite-sized pieces (8 – 10 cups)
-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees if you are making your own croutons. Cut each chicken breast crosswise into thin strips. Place the chicken in a flat dish, drizzle it with 1 Tbsp. oil, the salt and the garlic powder, and flip the chicken several times to coat it. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chicken, turning occasionally, until it is cooked through, 5 – 7 minutes. (Set some cooked chicken aside for non-salad eaters, if necessary.)

To make the croutons, in a medium bowl, toss the bread cubes with 1 – 2 Tbsp. oil and the kosher salt. Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake them in the preheated oven for 3-5 minutes, until they are slightly crisp and browned. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Set them aside.

To make the dressing, thoroughly whisk together the mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, the minced garlic, the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and anchovy paste.

Just before serving, vigorously toss the lettuce, cheese, chicken, croutons and dressing (you probably won’t need to use all the dressing) in a large salad bowl.

6. Kid-Friendly cucumber Salad: This is a family favorite for Ratja Rowell from Family Feeding Dynamics.

cucmber

Ingredients:
-1 (or more cucumber)
-3 TBS. rice wine vinegar
-1 TBS. vegetable oil (optional)
- a few drops sesame oil
-2 tsp table sugar (can adjust all ingredients to taste…)

Peel, and slice one cucumber in half. May leave the seeds in or scoop them out with a teaspoon. (Some find the seeds are hard to digest, some kids may not like the seeds.) Slice the cucumber thinly. May also add chopped red pepper for color, or shallots (mild onion) or even some napa cabbage (sticking with the Asian influence.) We all enjoy plain cucumber for now.

Put all other ingredients into bowl big enough for the salad. Have the child hold the spoon over the bowl (in case of spills.) You pour the liquid into the spoon and have them tip it into the bowl. Kids can often scoop sugar out by themselves. It doesn’t have to be exact here. Have child whisk the dressing then add the vegetables. Chill and serve.

7. The Deconstructed Dipping Salad: Amy Marlow, MPH, RD says the only way she can get her 2 and 5 year olds to eat salad is to deconstruct it:

“I tear up pieces of romaine lettuce into one bowl, and then depending on what I have on hand for me and my husband’s grown-up salad, I provide a small assortment of other vegetables as well – bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. I give each child a small bowl of balsamic vinaigrette to dip into. My 2 and 5 year old will only eat salad this way – when mixed together in a bowl they get too overwhelmed and it’s harder for them to use utensils on the lettuce than to use their little hands.”

8. Waldorf Salad: Sandra K. Nissenberg, MS, RD, author of several child nutrition books says kids love this crunchy salad.

Ingredients (Makes 6 Servings)
-2 red apples, cored and chopped
-2 TBS orange juice
-2 stalks celery, chopped
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
-1/2 cup raisins
-1/4 cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Adapted from : Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won’t Trade, Sandra K. Nissenberg, MS, RD, and Barbara N. Pearl, MS, RD, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill Castle November 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Caesar Salad is my kids’ favorite! But a good ole chopped fruit salad is always GONE at the end of our meals too!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

Fruit salad is always a hit here too. Except my son seems less into fruit than my daughter was at this age.

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Lauren November 13, 2010 at 8:41 am

Those first two definitely would be something to try with my little one. Salads are so hit or miss with her its like one night she loves it and gobbles it up and the next night she says its “yucky” lol.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

Lauren — the same things goes on here. I guess it keeps us on our toes!

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Kim November 15, 2010 at 8:11 am

Our Family’s House Salad

romaine lettuce
baby spinach
tomatoes
raisins
cheese
avocado
broccoli slaw (in bags in the produce section)
sunflower seeds or sliced almonds
ranch dressing

Enjoy! :)

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 15, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Kim! That’s a nice one.

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MJenkins November 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

ummm…OK….am I alone here? No offense, but my kids wouldn’t touch this stuff!! They will eat fruit salad, of course, and a “house” salad that I make at home with veggies and cheese, but only because they’ve grown up with it. If I put any of these in front of any one of my three kids, they’d make a face and probably not eat more than the bite I’d make them take to TRY it!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks for your comment and honesty. My 4-year old doesn’t eat salad either. You say your kids will eat “a “house” salad that I make at home with veggies and cheese, but only because they’ve grown up with it.” They eat that because it is normal to them because they’ve seen it so many times. So if you start serving other salads eventually they might start eating it. Of course, you and your husband should like it too. If you click on the second’s salad’s site, you will see that Amy from Super Healthy Kids got her kids eating salads after serving them for years. I know this is a long time but their taste buds do grow up and you want to make sure they have some new foods to try.

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MJenkins November 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for writing back…yes, I know from experience that it takes a loooonnnnggggg time to get kids to try (and like ) new foods, but I will keep trying! I fed my first son all healthy, organic, homemade food and he ate it all upi then one day decided he would become a fussy eater and no matter how many years I tried he refused it all. Now, I just try to give him what I can that I know will be healthy, introduce new foods when I can, have him try at least one bite even if he has already tried it, etc…. but he is still the pickiest eater ever! UGH!! I hope my post didn’t sound rude. I think the salads look great for myself! Like I said, I will keep trying!! Thanks. I love the site and your insight/tips.

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Religious food March 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Butternut Squash Potato Salad

* Peel and boil white potatoes
* Meanwhile, peel, slice and bake the squash for approximately 20 minutes at 400. The goal is to have cooked but still firm squash, similar in texture to the potatoes. I used a Victory Farms Butternut for this recipe. It had good texture and peeled easily. I put a couple of T of water in the baking dish and covered it.

* When the white potatoes are cool enough to handle, cube and dress with sunflower or other light oil, cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. I used Zvijezda oil, Centrella vinegar, Morton salt, and Van Drunen Farms Gourmet peppercorn blend. I like the freeze-dried peppercorns.

* Add a small red onion [or ¼ of a large red onion,] thinly sliced.
* When the squash is cool, cube and toss with the other ingredients.
* Sprinkle with walnuts just before serving. I want fresh nuts for my vegetarian teens, and I also want to support local suppliers and growers. I’m currently using Regal Gourmet Snacks walnuts, because they are carried at Family Fruit. I’d love to hear about your favorite sources for nuts.

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holy food May 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm

good information posted..
here one recipe for salad.
Black Bean Tomato Salad with Ginger
1.5 C Black Beans, rinsed & drained.
1 large tomato, seeded & diced.
1/2 small red onion, finely diced.
Finely minced fresh ginger, to taste.°
Juice of 1 lime.
Olive Oil to dress.
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

° if served immediately, use more ginger. If packed for lunch, use less.
for more recipes visit http://www.holy-food.org

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erin January 28, 2012 at 1:07 am

SALAD BAR
Once a week (ish), we have Salad Night on our menu plan. I have had great success with this. Each person gets a plate of greens. Then I have a platter or series of small bowls with as many options I can find in my fridge. Each person “has to have” a minimum number of options (usually 3).
Some of the things I have put on my platter:
bean sprouts cauliflower
grated carrots brocolli
cucumber slices apples
sugar peas olives
tomatoes avocado
seeds almonds/walnuts
ETC.
You get the point! :) Something for everyone. And the visual introduction of other things.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD January 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm

That’s a great idea! Thanks!

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erin January 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I forgot to mention the best part of our Salad Night (deconstructed salad). If I’m on the ball, I get the kids to make wraps for themselves at the end of our dinnertime for their lunches the next day!

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Nancy July 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

After starting each meal with a kind of crudite or “deconstructed salad,” I decided to go for more actual salads in order to get more greens into my kids and relying less on carbs for the main part of the meal. I started with taco salads, basically serving what they were used to eating as tacos (seasoned ground beef, cheese, tomatoes) over lettuce. They can add the toppings they want, including some crunched up tortilla chips and a little bit of sour cream. While it’s not the lowest calorie salad, my kids love it, and it got them excited about the possibility of entree salads. Plus, with all of the toppings, they don’t add any dressing. Now three of my four kids are just as happy to have a salad for a meal as anything else.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD July 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

Great advice Nancy!

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Sarah September 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Nancy, we do the same thing. We call it “Choose-your-own-salad-adventure”. I have 5 kids, so pleasing everyone with salad isn’t easy, but they all love this! We put out options like dried fruit, chopped (non-leafy) veggies, nuts, seeds, cheese, soy nuts and at least 2 dressing options.

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Jenny Alvarez July 20, 2014 at 11:05 am

Maryann!
The strawberry almond salad was a success. I took it to a kid pool party where they were serving hot dogs (ugh…). Thank you for the recipe! jenny & family

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