How Do You Get Your Children to Eat Salads?!

Spinach, Arugula, Cranberry and Walnut Salad

February 14, 2013

I had this question many years ago. You generally start your kids off eating cooked, pureed foods. Eventually, they can eat soft fruit. The day comes when they can finally eat an apple unpeeled! It takes so long for these milestones to come that by the time they are able to eat lettuce without choking, they are going on two and a half and what 2.5yo is interested in lettuce anyway?!

This was our situation a couple of years ago and here is how it evolved into what it is today: our kids eat salad without dressing!…

We do not do snacks at our house. We do breakfast (7am), lunch (11:30am), dinner (6pm). A good snack time would be 4pm or so but that is when mine are taking naps so we just skip snacks all together.

A couple of years ago, my husband was working an hour away so he would not come home until 6:30pm, if there was no traffic, etc, etc. I wanted to wait for him to eat supper so I started giving my kids a ‘snack’ when they woke up from naps, while I was fixing supper and we were waiting for Daddy to get home.

This snack consisted of lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers, with Ranch dressing. The fact that they could eat it on the go (whereas they normally have to sit in order to eat) and the fact that they had never had ‘snacktime’ before made this snack special! So, they started eating ‘salad-type’ things. My son started eating just a carrot each time (one bite, go watch tv, another bite, etc.) and ended up, a couple months later and on into the present, being our biggest salad eater to date!

So, if you would like for your children to start to eat salads, may I suggest making it a before supper/while you are chopping anyway/eat on the go/special snack :) They can eat it or not – no big deal. If they weren’t eating any of this and they just eat one carrot, it’s better than before! And little by little, it will get better!

The children would have their snack and if they ate a certain amount, I would give them a crouton or two at supper. This progressed to dropping the croutons one day but still having the Ranch dressing – all the while me kicking myself that I need to make our own dressing that is healthier than Ranch (which has SUGAR in it – gasp!).

Then, this summer, while I was in the NICU with baby #5, my husband was feeding them and didn’t feel like chopping anything up and forgot to get out the Ranch before he sat down so he just gave each one a big romaine lettuce leaf and a carrot. Lo & behold, when I came home from the hospital, my children were eating salad without dressing! I Love it! Simple, healthy, wonderful!

So, start small. Start with rewards if you want (we did croutons). Start with less healthy options (like dipping in Ranch dressing). But start somewhere!

*I will say, there were no other snack options in the house so if you have other appealing snacky things like crackers, chips, fruit roll ups/snacks, pop tarts, you may have a harder time introducing this – so get rid of those things first!

Let me know how it goes! Remember – it took us two years to get where we are! And my 2 yo just started eating lettuce the other night :D (he could only handle cucumbers for a long time) Good luck!

*Image from Life’s Ambrosia (just didn’t have time to take a pic of our salad – we all are sick this week)

Linking to Simple Lives Thursday

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