Salad for Kids

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?