Engaging kids in healthy food and salads that they will actually eat
Getting children to eat their greens (and other vegetables) often proves extremely challenging. This is one of the most frequent complaints parents have when speaking with me about nutrition. As with all new foods, eventually the palate adapts and matures, but the process to get there is all too often cumbersome and frustrating. The biggest downfall in developing and interest in AND taste for healthy food is making separate “kid food” meals with no healthy options in site. Not only is this way too time consuming, children will also become dependent on, and used to always getting what they want. Healthy eating should be a fun and engaging family affair.
One of my favorite things is to offer ‘deconstructed dinners’ – eg tacos, pasta, salads…. the opportunities are endless, with a small selection of options to add to it. Always offer a safe option of something your child enjoys to eat on the dinner table and always have vegetables on offer (goal: a healthy balanced meal should consist of at least 50% vegetables). Also, don’t fork out all of what they like in one go, offer a little bit of what they like (say, pasta), and indicate that they can have MORE pasta, once they add some vegetables/protein of their choice to their plate and eat it. If you want your kid to have a healthy relationship with food, give them permission to decide what to eat. Stressing over food with every meal will make all parties at the table unhappy.
EXPOSURE is paramount, have the less popular options frequently available on the table, and you would be surprised with how successful repetition can be to piquing interest. Kids are inherently curious, allow them to try new foods in their own time.
Preparation, options, and the way in which foods are presented also makes a huge difference. Perhaps shredded verses sliced, par boiled or sautéed verses raw (especially hardier greens like broccoli and kale), finely chopped verses large …. Every person is unique, ultimately it’s a matter of trial and error, but hang in there, eventually certain combinations of texture, taste and look will work, you WILL crack that healthy eating code.
Here are some of my top picks for salads that have positive kid feedback:
Shredded Carrot and Beet Salad with Lemon Poppy Dressing
Shred raw carrots and beets, mix with raisins, finely chopped parsley and mixed nuts and seeds
Dressing – combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and zest, dollop of natural yogurt, pinch salt and pepper and poppy seeds, mix well in jar and drizzle on top
Greek Pasta Salad
Cooked whole wheat fusilli or penne, chopped cherry tomatoes and cucumber, crumbled feta, diced olives, sautéed red onion (everybody in my family dislikes raw)
Dressing – combine extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, dried oregano, parsley and dill, pinch salt and pepper
Cooked beans, fire grilled corn kernels (I get bags of this frozen), minced and sautéed bell peppers, onion and garlic, fresh cilantro, roughly chopped spinach leaves
Dressing – combine extra virgin olive oil, fresh mild Mexican salsa, lime juice, pinch smoked paprika, cumin and coriander
Savory Quinoa Fruit Salad
Cooked quinoa topped with chopped mango, blueberries, toasted pecans, grilled haloumi (or grilled Mexican grilling cheese)
Dressing – combine extra virgin olive oil, orange juice and zest, pinch salt and pepper
Healthy food and Salads for Kids
About the Writer:
ErinRose Baldry is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, fitness instructor and food and nutrition specialist. She is passionate about exercise, cooking and sharing her knowledge to help and inspire others. If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback about nutrition, recipes, or getting your fitness on, please reach out!
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