What is the best salad for kids? Parents often ask this question, and there is no right answer. Each child has their own preference when it comes to vegetables. I do have a lot of ideas for you, and I’ll share my favorite tips for how to make a salad for kids they’ll love!
Spring is in the Air
With fresh vegetables more readily available in the spring and summer, it is a great time of year to incorporate vegetables into your meals.
While fresh vegetables are great, you can also use canned or frozen vegetables in salads too! Keep reading for more ideas on salad toppings and mix-ins!
How do You Get a Kid to Eat Salad?
Let’s look at where you are starting. If vegetables are still foreign to your kids and they do not have a lot of variety in the foods they eat, it will be helpful to start simply by adding vegetables to your meals and snacks.
If your child enjoys some vegetables already, you have a great starting point for how to add those vegetables into salads.
Maybe you have an adventurous eater on your hands, then chances are, your kid will enjoy the variety that salads have to offer.
How Many Servings of Vegetables do Kids Need Per Day?
Below are guidelines for vegetable servings, according to MyPlate:
- Toddlers aged 12-23 months: 2/3 to 1 cup
- Children 2-4 years: 1 to 2 cups
- Children 5-8 years: 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups
Here is a quick tip: one cup is about the size of your fist!
Adding Salad for Kids to Meals
Typically, when infants begin eating foods, we tend to focus on giving them soft and mushy foods for them to gum and chew easily. It makes sense that we forget to feed our little ones salad, which are often made up of crunchy foods.
If you enjoy salads with your meals, try adding salads to your kids’ plate, so they become familiar with different kinds of salads.
Start by adding small parts of the salad to their plate, deconstructed for them to pick certain parts out. Keep the ingredients simple and use items they already like to eat!
Start With Veggies They Already Love
Think about what vegetables your kids enjoy eating already. That is a great place to start and build variety and options from there!
If your child only really loves a couple of vegetables, start with those on a plate with dressing or a dip on the side. It can be that simple!
If your child enjoys a handful of veggies, use some of their favorite vegetables as toppings on a leafy green salad.
Building a Salad Does not Need to be Complicated
There is not one definition of what makes a salad a salad! Essentially, a salad is just a mixture of vegetables.
Keep it simple! Start with what you know you like, what your child enjoys eating, and go from there! Salads can be a fun way to keep dinner sides fun and interesting without any pressure to eat them.
Building Blocks for a Good Salad
Some of the most delicious salads I’ve eaten have a few things in common: they use a variety of veggies for different flavor combinations, the use a protein and or fat to help satisfy my hunger, they have a good crunch, and a light coat of dressing is evenly distributed throughout the salad.
To put that together, the building blocks for a good salad (and a good salad for kids) are:
- Healthy fats
- Optional: Grains
Apparently, I like my salads to serve as a meal! Let’s break these categories down.
Try a variety of options to keep the salads interesting! The vegetable combinations are endless.
Most people tend to think that salads need to use raw veggies, and most salads do, but you can consider using cooked or roasted veggies too! An example of this would be using roasted carrots that have been chilled and placed in the salad. They’re not as crunch but are sweeter!
If you’re taking your salad on the go, you can place frozen veggies in a side container, and they’ll be thawed and ready for topping your salad at lunchtime. An example of this would be frozen peas or corn.
Believe it or not, fruits make a great salad addition! Freshly sliced citrus fruits like orange or grapefruit can add a great zest to a springy or summery salad. Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, cherries, or blueberries can add a nice depth and sweetness to salads. Strawberries and watermelon are great salad toppers too. The fruit combinations are endless too.
Protein and Healthy Fat
Protein for salad may come from meat or plant-based sources. Here are some ideas:
- Chicken, cooked and chilled, sliced or diced and ready for topping
- Salmon, cooked and chilled, from a can or package
- Canned tuna
- Chickpeas, oven roasted, sauteed, or from the can
- Black beans are great for a savory salad
- Hardboiled egg
- Edamame (soybeans)
Healthy fats give salads lots of flavor and help satisfy my hunger too! Here are my favorites:
- Nuts give a crunch and add savory flavors to salads
- Seeds are great for adding a smaller amount of crunch and some saltiness
- Avocado adds a luscious creaminess to most any salad
- Cheese – yes please! All types of shredded, crumbled, cubed, or grated cheeses give a nice depth of flavor and add a creaminess to the salad – need I say more?!
- Oil based dressings offer light flavors that easily coat each part of the salad
- Dips like hummus and guacamole can also be very fun for salads instead of topping as a dressing
I love a good crunch on a salad! Whether this is from the nuts, seeds, croutons, fresh vegetables, or other crispy topping, a good crunch keeps each bite entertaining. Think about if you kids enjoy crunchy foods and whether you’ll add those to your salads. Some kids enjoy crunchy foods and others do not. It’s their preference, and it will surely change as they become familiar with more foods. Sometimes it can be helpful to have them try the item on the side first.
Do you like your salads sweet, tangy, salty, light and crispy, or thick and chewy? All salads are different, and the dressing has a big role to play. Play around with oil and vinegar-based dressings and flavor combinations for a light coating all around the salad. These vinaigrettes can be sweet, salty, herby, or tangy. Dairy based dressings like the classic ranch or Caesar dressing tend to be thicker and you do not need as much to layer onto your salad. There are endless flavor combinations from salad dressings!
Maybe you’re thinking grains on a salad sounds weird but hear me out. Pasta salads are delicious, and most kids enjoy the pasta! Cooked wheatberries, served warm or cold, add a beautiful earthy flavor and chewy texture. Cooked quinoa or rice are also very versatile grains that can add a boost to your salad be a great way to add whole grains into your meals. Grain bowls are great salad options, too!
Helpful Tips for Trying New Salads
If your child is not up for mixing foods yet, try the salad disassembled with the dressing on the side as a dip. This works great with pretty much all salad and dressing types!
When dressing your salad, shake the salad in a solid container before serving. This allows the dressing to thinly coat each part of the salad for full flavor! Also, you’re likely to use less dressing than if you had poured it on top of your salad before serving it.
Use salads to experiment with new flavors and foods. Salads are a great way to expose your kids to different foods or new foods that compliment your meal. For example, if your child has not tried olives yet, olives may be a great salad topping idea one evening before you add olives to a mixed dish that may overwhelm them.
Salads as Meals
Some of our favorite meals use salads as meals, and this works great for the kids too. These meals are often build your own bowl or plate and the kids can choose which of the toppings they want to include in their meal.
Here are some of our favorite salad meals:
- Taco salad
- Ground turkey or beef, pinto beans, corn, shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, tortilla chips, salad greens, salsa, and guacamole
- Chicken Caesar salad (sub salmon if you like)
- Grilled or cooked chicken breast, salad greens, tomatoes, avocado, parmesan cheese, croutons, Caesar dressing and served with a loaf of toasted French bread with garlic butter
- Chicken salad (sub salmon or shrimp if you like)
- Grilled or cooked chicken breast, salad greens, sliced bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, crumbled feta or goat cheese, pepitas, and strawberry vinaigrette served with soft and thick bread and butter
Even More Inspiration to Make Yummy Salad for Kids
The benefits of getting your kids to help in the kitchen are endless! They are more likely to try the foods they help prepare and enjoy them at mealtimes. By engaging with your kids about the food they are eating, they are more invested and interested in the foods you plan and prepare for meals.
One great tip I love to give parents is to let your child in on the decision process of what is going to be served for a meal. Kids are much more likely to eat and enjoy the food items if they had a choice in which vegetable will be included. Ask them their favorites or preference that day, and go from there!
During the summertime, visit a farmers’ market and try some new produce! This is a great way for kids to understand where our food comes from and buy from and support your local vendors.
Begin a home garden or grow some small pots if you do not have space for a garden. Your kids will see the magic of how seeds turn into plants and bear fruit. It’s a wonderful process to teach to kids each season!
If you were previously intimidated by giving your kids salads, rest assured that you can do it, and that it does not need to be complicated! As always, I’m here for you and would love to hear how I can help your family. Simply contact me to get started!