Trying to Teach Your Kids to Love Raw Veggies? Deconstruct the Salad

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Salad can be a tough sell to a picky kid, or even a more adventuresome eater. A lot of parenting books recommend waiting for a child to accept a new food until after they've tasted it several times. The trick is getting them to try it to begin with. Deconstructing salad works for us.

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Offering a variety of crispy, raw vegetables, with a side of dressing, is a great start. (Want to keep that dressing healthy and full of whole foods? Ranch dressing is a hit with most kids, and Faith's recipe is easy, without all the additives.)

Allowing children to dip their veggies gives them some control and adds a distracting element to the process. Over the years, I've found that distraction works well. When I want them to do something, I tack it on to something else, as in, "hey-man-want-to-go-to-the-potty-real-quick and THEN GO TO THE PARK?" Instead of insisting, "Eat this pile of veggies," I'm letting them dip things in a bowl and make a little bit of a mess. Mindful eating is great, but I can worry about that later. Besides, mindlessly eating a pile of raw veggies never hurt anyone, now did it?

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The deconstructed salad also allows for playing with food, something I normally discourage. Lettuce is usually the toughest sell, but isn't it fun to wrap it around a strip of red pepper and dunk it in a dish of ranch dressing? So much fun! At least, more fun that just eating a piece of lettuce.

As the kids grow older, they're accustomed to different tastes and don't mind mixing them together. Anecdotal evidence, for what it's worth: Both of my older children, by elementary school, would take a little salad from a buffet without my even asking. In middle and high school, they take adult sized portions of salad, and like it.

The youngest is getting there. When all else fails, you can always tell a kid they need to eat vegetables because you need to take a picture of a kid eating vegetables. (It's more believable if you're a food writer, but you can probably get away with it.) Many, many vegetables were consumed by my youngest son for the sake of the pictures you see here.

How do you introduce new tastes and textures to your children? Any tips for encouraging them to choose vegetables on their own?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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