Many parents see salads and lettuce as ‘grown up food’…
The truth is, kids can learn to enjoy healthy salads, leafy greens and lettuce just like adults. By offering a wide variety of leafy greens (and doing it often!) your child will soon develop their taste and start to like them.
The key is to start early and introduce lettuce gradually.
Here are 10 tips to introduce lettuce and salads in a way that your child will be more likely to accept and like them:
- Start with fresh herbs, for example basil or coriander. They are easy and fun to grow, and growing your own herbs might motivate your child to try them! You can also introduce herbs, spinach or other leafy greens in cooked dishes before introducing them raw.
- Ask your child to help you choose a lettuce at the supermarket, to help you wash it, prepare it and put it in the dish. This helps bring familiarity to new foods. They are also more likely to try if they chose it themselves.
- Start with lighter shades and crunchy lettuce. Iceberg and baby cos lettuces are fresh, juicy, crunchy and don’t taste bitter – perfect to start with!
- Use a sweet vinaigrette or combine with naturally sweet foods, particularly with bitter greens. Use honey or 100% maple syrup in your vinaigrettes, or choose a sweet-tasting vinaigrette from the supermarket. Add fresh or dried fruit in salads to balance the taste of bitter greens. Try a spinach and strawberry salad, or pear and rocket, or add sultanas or craisins to your favourite salad.
- Add baby spinach to smoothies. Try adding a few spinach leaves to your child’s favourite fruit smoothie. They may not taste it, but this can help them get used to the idea of eating leafy greens. PS – Don’t hide the spinach! Make sure your child knows it’s in there, so that they can learn that spinach tastes yummy!
- Try using iceberg lettuce to replace tacos or wraps. Try san choy bow or rolling up ham and cheese in lettuce for a tasty snack or lunch – using it as a wrap also makes it fun!
- Start with salads without the lettuce. Make a salad with your child’s favourite foods, and once you find a salad your child likes, gradually add leafy greens in small quantities. Here are some simple salad ideas:
Cold pasta, tuna, apple, carrot, cucumber (then add rocket)
Cold rice, chicken, corn, grated cheese (then add fresh parsley)
Chicken, avocado, celery (then add shredded iceberg lettuce)
Beef strips, cucumber, mango (then add mesclun salad and coriander)
Baked pumpkin, chick peas, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese (then add baby spinach)
- Introduce lettuce in small quantities that can easily be removed. Add a small lettuce or spinach leaf to the corner of sandwich or to a salad, and encourage your child to taste. After they have tasted, allow them to remove the lettuce if they want to. Don’t worry if they don’t like it yet! They may need to try it a few times and in different dishes before they learn to like it.
- Keep offering a wide variety of lettuces and leafy greens, as often as possible. They don’t need to eat it all, but they should always have a little taste. Remember, kids learn to like new foods through repeated exposure!
- Talk positively about salad. Don’t ask your child to eat it just because ‘it’s good for them’ – this can make it sound like a sacrifice. Explore different varieties of leafy greens and lettuces and discover interesting ways to use them in your cooking. Find ways in which your child can really enjoy them, for example mixed with their favourite foods.
Kids can love salads too – hopefully with those tips your little one will soon learn to like all those nutritious leafy greens!