By Jonny Garrett
As long as there have been children, there has been the question of how to get them to eat their vegetables. And that’s pretty easy compared to getting kids to eat salad, which still has a reputation for being boring. But take a look through Jamie’s cookbooks and you’ll see that some of his most exciting flavours, colours and textures come in the form of salad. With some notable exceptions, most of them are really healthy too.
So getting kids to eat them won’t just mean they get lots more exciting flavours and better eating habits that will last a lifetime, it also means you’ll be getting lots of the right stuff in their diet too. Here are some top tips for getting some salad down them. For more specific recipe ideas, search for salad on the website.
You could use this chopped salad as a base for all these tips, just add to it what you want and adjust the dressing if you want.
- Chop things up small
A big barrier can be that salads are fiddly, which puts kids off immediately. They want big hearty mouthfuls that are satisfying to eat. So chop things up into smaller pieces to make it more palatable. Lettuce can be cut up, radishes and tomatoes sliced or matchsticked, and carrots grated. You could even use a speed- peeler to create lovely thin ribbons out of veg, such as asparagus and cucumber.
- Get some texture in there
Giving a salad some bite is really important, because watery textures won’t get the kids’ stomachs rumbling. Fresh veg is the key, and a mix of raw and cooked ingredients will keep things interesting. Non-veg additions work great too – a little creamy feta cheese, toasted nuts or even crispy bacon can really lift a fresh salad.
- Find some colour to brighten it up
Kids love colour, and salads are far more appealing when they’re not just a sea of green. Carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, radishes and fresh herbs can liven up a salad and make it exciting to look at. You can even try a bit of roasted squash or sweet potato to give it a warm element and a lovely orange colour.
- Dress it up!
The key to a great salad is a great dressing. Don’t make things complicated – a bit of balsamic or white wine vinegar with extra virgin olive oil and a little seasoning will be sweet enough to get the young ones interested. Jamie also has a brilliant, low-fat Caesar salad dressing in 15-Minute Meals that could work with lots of different ingredients – but you may need to tone down the mustard a little for the kids.
- Get dipping
Kids love interactive food and having a choice over what they eat. Salads are the perfect opportunity to give them both. Next time you’re eating salad, make a few dressings and put them in pots on the table – a balsamic vinaigrette, a honey and mustard dressing, and maybe a yoghurty one. Then you can use them as dipping pots, rather than dressing the whole salad. It will get the kids excited about the flavours, and give them a say on how to dress their own food.
- Start with some familiar flavours
The best way to encourage a fussy eater to try something new is to put it with something they already know and love. If your child has a favourite vegetable, make sure that’s in there, or shred in some roast chicken left over from a Sunday lunch, or base the salad around some brown pasta.
- Get them involved from the start
Getting children to eat the right things early is so important. When they’re really young they tend to try anything – that’s not to say they’ll like it, but they will give it a go. As they get older they might get fussy about trying new things, so encourage them to eat lots of healthy, fresh flavours as early as possible so they develop good eating habits later.
- Get them eating salad early
Give them the power! Take them shopping and explain what they will be having for lunch, then let them pick what goes in it. Don’t just let them choose the ingredients, show them how to pick the ripest tomatoes, or the crunchiest carrots. Then, when it’s lunch or dinnertime, let them assemble their salad themselves. If they can say they were in charge of the meal from start to finish, they will be proud to take it to the table and for everyone to tuck in.