This Is How to Actually Get Kids to Eat Salad

published Jul 21, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Salads are a staple of summer eating. Varieties of produce — from peaches to tomatoes — are at their ripest, tastiest best (not to mention their cheapest). Add in the fact that a good salad requires zero cooking just when it’s really hot, and I’m won over: I am a summertime salad-lover.

But I am a salad-lover who is also a mom of two. And when guests come over, they are often surprised to see me making salad for my kids — and more surprised to see the kids eating it.

How do I do it? The answer is actually simple: I make finger salads. Finger salads are a way to reframe your favorite greens in a way that appeals to kids’ primal eating skills, so there’s more to pick up, and less to stab at with a fork. Here’s how it works.

What Are Finger Salads?

Finger salads are basically crudités you make while assembling your chopped salad. Essentially, you deconstruct the different ingredients and serve them with a side of dressing for a dip.

We started doing this years ago when our daughter was first mastering the pincher grasp for self-feeding. And 7 1/2 years later, we have a second-grader who is deeply in love with romaine and iceberg lettuce, as well as Caesar and maple-mustard vinaigrette dressings alike.

How to Make and Serve Finger Salads

The best thing about finger salads is that they don’t require you to make anything different. While making your regular salad, you simply set a few cut cucumber slices aside, or cube a little of the cheese you’re planning to grate. Those larger bites give your toddlers and preschoolers something to grab.

School-aged kids can get the salad toppings as is, either tossed together or parceled out on a plate with a few leaves of greens on the side. As you progress from pincher-grasping babies to bigger kids, it becomes a way to practice salad exposure without wasting a whole bowl of greens. And as they grow and their tastes develop, you can gradually introduce more flavorful ingredients and dressings.

Finger salads can be incredibly fun, so don’t stress if your older kids are still eating salad by hand — or if you find that you’re making some for yourself as well. Since finger salads are essentially just crudités — vegetables and dip — there’s nothing intrinsically childish about it. You can even call it an hors d’oeuvre! The best part? This kind of primal (and fun!) eating gets the little ones’ guards down, and opens them up to trying new vegetables.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Some Favorite Recipes for Making Finger Salads