Do your kids eat salad?
Leafy greens are hit or miss around here, as are all foods these days. M is doing a lot of refusing to eat at meals— and not just healthy stuff, but ALL stuff— and the struggle is real.
I follow @kids.eat.in.color on Instagram and her feed is a sanity saving reminder that kids’ appetites change dramatically from day to day and week to week for a variety of reasons, so I’m trying not to sweat this testing phase. I think it has a lot to do with control and independence because when he gets really hungry, he eats. Last night he took down about 8 homemade dumplings, peanut noodles, broccoli, and scallion pancakes.
I actually talked to a dietitian friend about it and her mealtime strategy is to serve everyone the same main dish, but to also put bread and hummus on the table so that her kiddos have an alternative if they aren’t into the main. If they ask for something else, her response is a gentle but firm, “Sorry, that’s not on the menu tonight.”
I LOVE this strategy and am going to implement it on our table. An apple with almond butter is M’s go-to if he doesn’t like what I’ve made. So instead of letting that be the end point of a power struggle, I’m just going to start putting it out on the table as a way to de-fang this dinner time dance we’re doing.
I just want to make sure that I don’t take the joy out of eating for M, you know?
I recently read the book The Eating Instinct and it was fascinating. The author talks about how we start off using food for comfort and connection when feeding infants, but pivot to a whole different way of looking at food for older kids and throughout our lives. Sure, food is medicine and can be vital to our health, but it’s also love and community and comfort and it should be all of those things.
Another of my takeaways from the book is that our culture’s messaging around food really undermines our ability to trust ourselves to know what and how much to eat. I really don’t want to do that to M. I want to trust him that if he’s had two bites of dinner, he really is done.
I realize what a privilege it is that I get to worry about my kid not eating a kale salad. I mean, it may not get bougier than that, right? So, I also want to let that bit of perspective slow my roll when I start to get worried or frustrated that he isn’t eating.
Anyhoo, when things are working normally, I have a few tricks to getting M to eat salad:
1) Let him help with mixing the salad and tossing in the dressing.
2) Cut everything really small.
3) AAC, or Always Add Croutons: Bread is pretty safe for most kids and the added crunch can be a fun textural element.
4) Deconstruct: If your kids like to isolate textures, you can also deconstruct the salad so they eat each element on its own.
This salad is lovely and complex, but shockingly simple. I made it with just carrots the day I took photos, but it’s better with the roasted radishes and carrots. The carrots are sweet, which is great for kids, but the radishes add a slightly bitter edge that balances that sweetness. Roasting the radishes also takes away about 99 percent of the bite, though, so they’re very mellow.
Don’t skip rubbing the bread with garlic once it’s toasted and before you cut it into croutons. So so good.
And don’t be shy with salt. Salads are so much better with salt.
Purple kale and cabbage salad
1 small bunch purple carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and trimmed on top and bottom, quartered
3-4 thick slices of pumpernickel bread
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Large pinch of salt
1 bunch purple kale
½ small purple cabbage
½- ¾ cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
Aged gouda (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425.
Prep the carrots and radishes. Toss with 1 1/2- 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.
On the same sheet pan, place thick slices of bread and brush with olive oil and top with a pinch of salt.
Roast the carrots, radishes, and bread for 10 minutes. Remove the bread slices and return the carrots and radishes to the oven. Cook, checking for doneness every 5 minutes.
While the vegetables and bread are roasting, chop the kale and cabbage into very small pieces and toss well with the dressing. Set aside.
When the bread is still hot, but you’re able to handle it, rub the raw garlic over the crusty bread. Cut into small cubes and set aside.
(If you plan to make this salad ahead and serve after a few hours, stop assembling at this step. Store your cheese, croutons, and roasted vegetables separately and assemble the components just before serving.)
Add the carrots, radishes, and croutons to the salad and toss. Top with slices or shreds of cheese and serve immediately.
Yield: lots of salad.
1 small or ½ large shallot
1 small garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Check the seasoning. Dressing will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 1¼ cups or 9 oz