Salad for Kids

by Sonya Feher on August 19, 2011

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Last week, my friend said she doesn’t think my son is a vegetarian; he’s a carbivore. He prefers mac-n-cheese, pizza, quesadillas, and penne–either plain and cold or with butter and sometimes parmesan. (To be fair, he also likes tostadas with tomato and avocado, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, and will eat all sorts of fruit).

Still it felt like a bit of a miracle when he ate salad last week. He used to eat it but age four brought a level of selective (a.k.a. picky) eating we had never seen the likes of. In keeping with the principle to Feed with Love and Respect, I don’t want to force my child to eat, use sweets as a reward for healthy food, or make him sit at the table until he’s cleaned his plate–all practices I experienced as a child. I do want him to try new things, to have the power to decide what he likes and make his own choices. So, I have instituted a “two bite policy” at our house. The reason for two bites is that he gags on the first bite, possibly before his taste buds have even registered the food, maybe before the food has actually touched his tongue. So the second bite is the actual tasting.

We have had some success. Cucumber sticks were a Yes. Cold cucumber soup, however, was a definite No. Considering many adults I know (myself sometimes included) aren’t fans of a cold soup, his rejection of the soup was fine. But I decided to try an experiment to get salad back on the menu. I took all of the vegetables he happily eats raw and separately and combined them into a salad.

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Diced avocado
  • Cucumber, peeled and diced
  • Grated carrot

Served in a ramekin with no dressing and with some encouragement from me, my son ate every bite!

One of the parenting tools that I use whether I’m choosing to or not is modeling. This is true with food, how to talk to people, taking care of myself, sharing, manners, expressing feelings, everything. So, one of the ways I’m encouraging healthy eating in him is healthy eating for me. I try not to have food in the house that I wouldn’t want him to eat. If we decide to have ice cream, we go someplace to order a scoop so that there’s not a whole carton in the freezer–which turns dessert from a treat into a power struggle.

“Mama, can I have some ice cream?”

“For breakfast? No.”

This summer, I’m making a conscious effort to eat more salad myself. I would bet that his seeing it on my plate went as far as (if not further than) our two bite policy. To make salads more appealing to me, I’ve been experimenting with new combinations or with recreating favorites from restaurants I love. I used all of the ingredients mentioned above, some green onion, and instead of my avocado in chunks, I made an avocado yogurt dressing a la Mr. Natural. They have not shared their recipe with me so I guessed. I got out my handy dandy mini food processor and combined

  • 1/4 cup plain fat free yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 avocado
  • salt to taste

It was delicious, if a little thick. One might add some milk to thin the dressing.

After I took the picture and tasted the salad (all gooey from super-thick dressing), I realized some crunch would be nice and added Tamari pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds also would have been delicious. So Cavanaugh and I both ate our vegetables.

What do you like in salad? How about your kids?

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Sonya Feher (28 Posts)

Sonya Fehér is mama to Cavanaugh True. She is the leader of the S. Austin chapter of API and is a professional organizer with spaceWise Organizing where she helps individuals and families create space for how they want to live.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Desiree August 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

I find a way to add fat to everything…cheese :P

My son eats all the croutons first.

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Johanna S August 19, 2011 at 8:45 am

Love your ideas! I have a carbivore also! She eats almost any whole grain, tons of fruit and a few veggies. But she won’t touch a salad. I will be trying some of your suggestions! I am also trying to figure out how to get more protein into her.

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mary stothard August 20, 2011 at 2:32 am

My daughter is a real carbivore, she’ll eat meat all day long, but went off veg at about a year, she eats brocoli stems, but not the fluffy bit. I’ve tried all sorts of things, making it into pictures on her plate, cutting it into different shapes, whizzing it into a sauce, even tried carrot cake, but she can tell its there and doesn’t like it. But she’s 4.5 now, skinny as a rake and never gets ill, so she must be eating what she needs, she’s still been getting her vits from mummy milk. (Fruit and veg are regulars in my diet, so its not that she doesn’t see me enjoying them, and we grow loads in our garden, but that didn’t work either.
I’m afraid I’m not with you on the icecream thing though, we have icecream often, chocolate too, but seeing as its an everyday thing, Rhianna is satisfied with a tiny bit. We go to parties and while other kids stuff themselves to the point of being sick with sweets and chocolate, she’ll have a bit and then go off to play. She knows what her body needs and is perfectly in tune to have just that.
All in all, I’m perfectly happy with our BLW journey, but a bit more fruit and veg would be nice.

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Sylvia August 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I love salad. In fact, there isn’t a fruit or veg I wouldn’t eat. My son (21mos), however, doesn’t like veggies at all. He loves fruit, but I have yet to find the creativity to get some veggies in him. I try not to worry about it too much, though. Like you, I just try to model good eating habits. We don’t keep (much) junk food around the house and don’t eat it around our son. So far, it hasn’t been too hard to keep him away from refined sugar or processed foods. As for the veggies…I thank you for the inspiration. I can imagine him enjoying a salad with me someday!

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Jeremy September 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

My 19 month old daughter loves salad. She cannot really eat the lettuce…Only 7 teeth and no molars. She bites, gums and sucks the lettuce. In my (short) experience and in talking to parents with older toddlers, their tastes shift constantly. One week all she wants is broccoli. The next she looks at me like an alien when I offer broccoli.

It has been our mission to keep sugar, highly salted and processed foods out of her diet (and ours for that matter). We simply don’t have sugar foods in the house. When we’re out, occasionally we have them as a treat (and it’s super enjoyable and appreciated that way!).

But this also means we don’t have a lot of high carb foods in the house…because they are essentially sugars. We now eat pasta very infrequently (and because of my wife’s discovered gluten intolerance, we have quinoa/corn pasta). We don’t even really have bread around. Gluten and pastas are really just filler anyway.

Sometimes I really want those things. It can be tough. But generally, I resist b/c I know that my eating habits set the stage for our daughter.

The way I see it, our job is to provide a super-healthy foundation early on (as tastes are formed VERY early in a child’s life)…Then when our children are out and about in the world, they have that foundation to help them make their own choices about what they eat.

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Julinda February 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I like the respectful approach to your “picky eater.” I am one myself (yes, me the adult), so this subject always interests me. My mom always tolerated my pickiness, although never really understood it. I am understanding it more as I go along – and I’m 50 now! My younger son has inherited this so I’m getting to see the other side of the picky eater/parent relationship!

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