Learning to Like New Foods: Make-Your-Own Salad Night (Kids Cook Monday)
|November 26, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Food education|
Believe me when I say that my kids do not like salad. My 4-year-old daughter Reese occasionally eats it, but her fraternal twin Jamie and older brother Whit (age 7) are another story altogether. When I serve one with dinner, they rarely touch it. If I dare to put a green leaf on their sandwich at lunchtime, it is promptly removed with a scolding: “Mommmm! I told you that I don’t like salad!”.
As you may know, I’ve had just about enough of this “I don’t like it” stuff. Thus, I’ve been working hard to get them to open their minds to new foods, especially green ones. (SEE Teaching Kids About Food: The Lesson that Turned My Twins into Spinach Lovers). Which brings me to our latest project: mixed green salad.
Suspecting that this could be a tough hurdle, I decided to give them some control by creating a “salad bar” and letting them assemble their own. I placed a big bowl of mixed greens on the center of the dining table. For toppings, I provided small bowls of fruit–fresh blueberries, chopped mangoes, sliced green grapes and dried cranberries. My goal was just to get them used to the idea of eating salad, and I thought they would be more likely to go for it with sweet and familiar add-ons. For fun, I also included homemade croutons in the shape of stars. The dressing was an Asian ginger–one of my faves.
We don’t usually have multiple courses at our house. But on this night, I told them we were having a salad “starter.” Their second course was to be salmon and pommes frittes. The kids didn’t bat an eye. They came running up to the table, sat down, and started helping themselves to both the greens and the fixings.
Mind you, my 7-year-old doesn’t like blueberries or mangoes. Yet I still found him piling them onto his salad–prompting me to say, “Please only take what you plan to eat.” His response: “I’m taking it and I’m going to eat it!” Well, OK then!
As you can see, these are the faces of very unhappy children. I must admit that I was a little surprised not to get any resistance. Not a single word of protest! In the end, Jamie did end up leaving behind some (but not all) of his greens. And as he neared the bottom of his bowl, Whit started offering to feed me his blueberries, confessing, “Mommy, I really don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m not loving this so much.”
Reese, on the other hand, devoured every bite. Is it my imagination, or do girls tend to be better eaters?
The only bummer was that, after eating their salads, none of them were hungry for their entrees. So the salmon and roasted potatoes (which my husband had graciously cooked) went untouched. Although Whit did promise: “I’ll eat the salmon tomorrow.”
Overall, I’d call the experiment a success, as both boys stepped out of their comfort zones and ate without complaint. And when I asked the twins what they thought about it the following day, they both exclaimed, “We loved it! Let’s do it again tonight!” It’s been more than a week and we’ve yet to do it again (partly due to the Thanksgiving holiday). But over the weekend, we did have Make-Your-Own-Taco Night with leftover turkey, shredded cheese, corn, guacamole, tomato salsa, and baby spinach leaves. Another hit!
It always amazes me how kids (even fussy ones) can be so much more open-minded about food when they help grow, cook or even just serve it themselves.
Do you have any good tricks or tips for getting kids to try new foods? I’d love to know them! Please leave all ideas in the comment section below.