Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Kids Won't Eat Salad!

How often I have heard this from parents! Do your kids say that too? Let’s look at why! and how we can change that to “Can I please have some more salad?”

Salad for many kids (and many adults) means iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber and bottled dressing. How many times, when eating out, have we been faced with a plate of unappetising greens, a wedge of tomato, a pile of onion and a vinegary dressing, all under the guise of salad? It is enough to turn anyone’s palate away from the thought of greens.
The thing to remember about salad is that it can be awful and it can be wonderful. If kids get to know the awful version, they’ll probably refuse to eat it. On the other hand, if they get to taste the wonderful version, they’ll gobble it up and ask for seconds! If we can think of salad as a wonderful array of flavours and textures instead of a little bit of green next to something else it opens up a whole world of potential easy meals.

Let’s lift those salads out of the doldrums!

10 ways to get our kids to say ‘yes’ to salad!
If we want our kids not only to eat salad but to really enjoy it and even ask for it, we need to

1. Ditch the iceberg lettuce, or at the very least sideline it! It has too little flavour and not much visual appeal. Start with some beautifully coloured and flavoured leaves like baby spinach, rocket, cos and radicchio. These will give zing and dazzle to any salad but remember to use the freshest available.

2. Wash them really well. (Bugs and dirt often delight kids but not on their plate!) Then dry them thoroughly using a salad spinner and refrigerate them uncovered for 15 minutes to let crisp them up. There is nothing worse than limp lettuce!

3. Work out what your kids like and add it to the greens. Salad can be so much more than tomato and cucumber. Do they like roast chicken, baked pumpkin, cheese, bacon, mango, cashews, tuna, carrots, hard boiled egg? Then toss them in the salad and call it a chicken/mango/egg/tuna or my favourite salad.

4. Throw in some grains. Pasta, couscous, rice, noodles, and bourghal (cracked wheat) are the foundation of brilliant salads and give them more staying power. Kids who love pasta will go for a pasta salad too!

5. Make the salad interesting and give it texture by using a combination of tempting ingredients – baby potatoes, tinned beans or chickpeas, roasted garlic, baked beetroot (forget the canned stuff!), toasted sesame seeds, roast chicken, poached egg….

6. Try salad as a main course too. Centre the salad on a protein ingredient such as chicken, tuna, tofu, chickpeas, or egg, add lots of greens and something to give it extra zest such as avocado, feta cheese or mango…

7. Know that salad doesn’t have to mean greens. It can be baked vegetables with couscous, tomato and onion, tuna and beans, chicken and mango..…

8. Always have something on hand to complete the salad. A handful of crumbled feta cheese, a scattering of olives, a sprinkling of parmesan, some chopped nuts…….

9. Dress it in its finest and leave the bottled dressing on the shelf! Lots of kids don’t like salad because it is often either swamped in cheap, bottled dressing or has no dressing at all. Kids will devour salad that is dressed properly and looks and tastes good. Use good quality olive oil and lemon juice or a little balsamic vinegar. And to change the flavour – fresh garlic, mustard, fresh herbs, spices, chilli… Remember not to use too much on the salad but make sure each leaf gets a thorough coating.

10. Know that if you use your kids favourite things and stick to the tips above you can lift your salads out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary and the kids will love it!

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