What to Do When Your Baby’s Not Eating Well
How to Make Kids Interested in Eating Salad
Many children aren't overly keen on vegetables. Depending on their age, they may not like the flavor, texture, or appearance of certain vegetables. Salads, in particular, can be a tough sell for children. Lettuce and raw vegetables all tossed together may not be something your child is ready to tackle. However, there are some tips and tricks to help your child become more familiar with salads and even begin to enjoy them on a regular basis. Try out different salad recipes and get your child involved in cooking to help them enjoy this nutrient dense meal.
Making Salads More Kid-Friendly
Make salad ingredients bite-sized.Depending on the age of your child, you need to take into consideration the size of each of the vegetables or other foods you include in a salad. Foods that are too big or too tough to chew won't be something your child will try or enjoy.
- Regardless of what type of salad you end up preparing for your child, make sure to take extra time to make each type of vegetable, lettuce and topping a small size for your child.
- If you have a younger child—around age 4-5—chop vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces. You may also want to consider shredding the lettuce so it's very small and easy to bite and chew.
- If you have a child that's a little older, you can make foods a little bigger—around 1 inch pieces and more finely chopped lettuce.
Go for a chopped style salad.Another issue with salads is that they are basically a big plate of vegetables and protein all mixed together. This may be unappealing to your child, so consider keeping things a little more separate.
- Although tasty to you, a larger variety of vegetables and other foods mixed together might be overwhelming to a child. They usually respond best to just one new food at a time or 3-4 familiar foods. Salads may have more than this.
- To help keep your child's salad a little more simple, consider serving it more like a traditional chopped salad. Place a small bed of lettuce on a plate and make small piles of toppings onto of the lettuce.
- Keep each of the toppings separate on the salad. For example, make a small pile of diced tomatoes, another small pile of diced cucumbers and another small pile of diced avocado.
Keep dressings on the side.One thing that could get your kids to enjoy salads a little bit more is by keeping the salad dressing on the side. You'd be surprised how this simple trick could help.
- If you keep the dressing on the side, this allows your child to dip their salad bites or pieces of salad into the dressing instead. The idea of dipping veggies is an easy trick to help get kids to enjoy salads and other vegetables.
- Children also like to make their own decisions as well. Even something as small as choosing how much dressing they use can help them feel more involved.
- You can also make dipping more fun. Consider putting out 3 different dressings in small cups on the table which will allow your child to try multiple different flavors.
Use familiar vegetables and toppings.A salad might not be a "new vegetable" per se, but if you put a variety of new vegetables on your child's salad, they may be less inclined to try it.
- To get your child to like a new dish like a salad, keep it simple and stick to vegetables and other toppings they're already familiar with.
- Since salads are new item for your child, start by offering a salad with familiar vegetables. Also make sure they are vegetables your child already enjoys.
- For example, if your child loves baby carrots, avocados, and tomatoes, slice or dice these on top of their salad.
Let kids build their own salad.Another way to get your child to enjoy salads a little bit more, is by allowing them to get involved. You can let them help you chop vegetables and assemble their own meal.
- Kids love to get hands-on. Allow them to explore new foods and new meals by assisting you in the kitchen.
- If your child is old enjoy and you feel comfortable enough, allow them to help you prepare the salad. Allow them to shred or chop lettuce, dice tomatoes or peel cucumbers.
- In addition, allow them to assemble their own salads. If your child is able to have some ability to choose and make decisions on what is on their salad, they're more likely to actually eat it.
Consider making a salad garden.A fun idea to try, if you can, is making a salad garden with your child. You can grow items for salads and teach your child about gardening.
- If you have a place in your back or front yard you can make a small plot for a garden. If you live in an apartment, you can plant many items in small pots in a sunny place.
- Great items you can try to grow on your own include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and peppers.
- Allow your child to pick out vegetables to grow, help water them, and help pick and prepare them for meals.
Helping Kids Enjoy Vegetables
Choose sweeter, less bitter vegetables.Be mindful of what vegetables you introduce to your child in their salads. Some vegetables are much sweeter in flavor and will be better received by your child.
- If you think about it, some vegetables are naturally a little sweet and some are more bitter in flavor. Your child will most likely be more apt to like sweeter vegetables over bitter ones.
- Ones that may not be well liked include mustard greens, eggplant, radishes, radicchio, asparagus, and cabbage.
- Sweeter vegetables that may be better tolerated include sweet peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peas, corn, and green beans.
Try baby vegetables.Baby vegetables aren't only cute, but they're kid-friendly too. Consider introducing baby vegetables to your child and serve them on their salads.
- Baby vegetables are fun for kids. They're miniature sized versions of the real deal and they're kid-sized.
- Baby vegetables are also naturally a little more sweet in flavor. They are picked before they're mature and don't have the change to ripen or mature to a more bitter flavor.
- Common vegetables that you can find in a baby form include zucchini, carrots, artichokes, corn, and turnips.
Allow your child to pick out vegetables to try.In addition to helping your child enjoy eating salads, allowing your child to participate in choosing vegetables can help them enjoy them more overall.
- If you have time, take your child with you to the grocery store. Allow them to tour the produce department with you and see all the different items that are available.
- Tell your child that they're in charge of choosing a few vegetables to eat during the week and to include in their salads.
- If your child feels like they have some involvement in what's served for dinner, they may be more inclined to try and eat their vegetables.
Keep trying new vegetables.If you have kids, you know that it can take more than one try to get them to like something. Be patient and keep introducing both new and old vegetables to help them expand their palate.
- It can take a child several tries of a vegetable to decide that they'll like something. Even then, there may be days where they are not a fan of a certain item.
- As your child learns about foods and their palate is adjusting, it's important to stay consistent and continually present them with vegetables.
- If your child doesn't like a new vegetable the first time, make sure to give them another chance to try that vegetable in the near future.
- Also, don't only present vegetables you know your child likes. Continue to present new vegetables or ones they haven't liked in the past.
Set a good example.One very important aspect regarding childhood eating is making sure you're a good role model. Children will imitate you and your eating behaviors.
- Talk positively about vegetables in front of your child. Talk about how fun it is to try new vegetables, cook together and eat vegetables.
- Also make sure that everyone, especially the adults, tries a few bites of vegetables or salad at each meal.
- Make it a habit to have salads and other vegetables on a regular basis. The more consistent you are, the more your child will get used to the routine of having vegetables and salads.
Trying Recipes Kids Enjoy
Try a rainbow vegetable salad.Kids love to eat with their eyes. If you serve a salad with bright and colorful vegetables, they may be more enticed to give it a try.
- Start by shredding about 1 cup of romaine lettuce. Toss with 1 tablespoon of your child's favorite dressing. Arrange the dressed lettuce on a plate.
- Finely dice the following vegetables into 1/2" pieces: cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, yellow bell peppers, cucumbers and avocados.
- If your child doesn't like these vegetables or loves other vegetables, you can swap out items as needed. Try to stick to brightly colored items.
- Arrange each vegetable in rows on top of the dressed romaine lettuce. Arrange them similar to a rainbow. Squirt a little extra dressing on top if your child likes.
Make a crunchy chicken salad.If there's one thing kids do love, it's chicken nuggets or chicken fingers. Take advantage of this enjoyable food and put it over a salad to get kids to try something new.
- Start by shredding 1 cup of romaine lettuce. Toss with 1 tablespoon of ranch or blue cheese dressing. You can use an alternative dressing if your child enjoys something else.
- Dice 3 baked chicken fingers or 4-5 baked chicken nuggets. You can find these in the refrigerator or freezer aisle of the grocery store. Sprinkle on top of the lettuce.
- Also add diced cherry tomatoes or cucumbers. Also sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese on top. You can add additional vegetables if your child enjoys them.
Try a chopped salad.Instead of a typical chopped salad over a bunch of salad greens, try this twist on a chunky chopped salad. It might be more enticing to your child.
- Quickly steam or blanch 1/2 cup of chopped baby carrots, 1/2 cup small broccoli florets and 1/2 cup of small cauliflower florets. These should be bite-sized for your child.
- Toss together the vegetables in a bowl and allow to cool.
- Dice 3-4 oz of cheddar cheese. Make cubes slightly smaller than the size of the vegetables.
- Toss the cheese into the vegetable mixture. Also add in 1/2 cup of thawed frozen peas. Toss the salad with 2-3 tablespoons of your child's favorite creamy dressing—like ranch dressing—until combined. Serve them about 1 cup of the salad.
- It may take several tries with salads before you find a combination of ingredients your child enjoys.
- The more often you can get your child involved in the preparation of salads, the more likely they are to give it a try.
- If your child enjoys vegetables prepared other ways, you don't necessarily need them to eat a salad to stay healthy and have a nutritious diet.
Video: Your Child's Health Eating Disorders - Stanford Children's Health
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