Saturday, January 11, 2014

Special Post: Salads For Kids

There is a BIG misconception that children won't eat salad. When I mention the word 'salad' in regards to Monkey most people look at me like I have sprouted a second head (or roll their eyes with the 'yeah sure' face). I promise you it's 100% true and it's a meal that she chooses to have on her own, even when we go out to eat and she has things like pizza sticks and chocolate chip pancakes available.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that following these ideas will magically turn your child into an avid salad eater or that it'll be their new favorite food. Though, there may be tips, tricks, and ideas that you can use that will make them more interesting, fun, and desirable to your kiddos.

First, there are TONS of salads to choose from. Your typical green salad, fruit salad, pasta salad, or even compound salads are all viable options of things that can 1. break you out of your lunchtime rut and 2. pack a nutritious punch. Here are some great salad examples with tips, tricks, and ideas included in each, providing you with no shortage of salad options. 

Bentos on the Bayou
Introduce Side Salads:
Packing a salad as a side is a good thing to do if your child isn't accustomed to eating salads or isn't a big veggie eater yet. I liked to take simple mixed greens of any kind and toss in something I KNOW Monkey will love, like tomatoes, a little cheese, or even a couple croutons. You can take pre-bagged salad mix and add your own mix-ins or break up your own lettuce, cabbage, spinach etc... It also helps if your child has a favorite salad dressing. Ranch is usually a safe bet with most kids (try out different salads and dressings with dinners so you can get an idea of what might work for your child). 

Bent on Better Lunches
Appeal To The Eyes:
Using cutters is an easy way to fun up a lunch! This lunch has some great cucumber cut outs paired with tomatoes, carrots, with kid friendly fruits and yogurt. It took introducing Monkey to several application of cucumbers before she'd eat them, but now LOVES them. She's a big fan of the cucumber cut outs like Candy Girl from Bent on Better Lunches did in her salad. Playing with flavor, color, texture, shape, etc is a fun way to get kiddos to try new things.

Bento Lunch

No tools? No Problem!
If you don't have cutters don't fret! You can still make a fun lunch for the kiddos. This one features both a layered chef salad and a fruit salad. The silly face is something ANYONE can do and all you need is a knife. This one is made with a tomato slice, hard boiled egg and a blueberry cut in half. You could even use olives if you prefer.

Lunch, Snack, and "Sninner"
Raid the Leftovers!
This lunch is a BBQ Chicken Salad (with a side fruit salad). Has mixed baby lettuces, black beans, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a homemade BBQ ranch dressing. I don't know about you but there are often many items that get left in the fridge or when making dinner I feel like there isn't enough left to save I like to use them for salad. 

Bentos on the Bayou
Use the Already Kid Friendly Taco!
Taco salad is in my opinion one of the most accessible salads to a kid. Tacos, Nachos, Burritos, etc... are a big hit and staple in my house so taco salad was always a hit too. You can even use leftovers! Some mixed greens, onions, corn, tomatoes, peppers, avocado (fantastic healthy fat), olives, cheese, and even leftover chicken or ground meat will all make a fantastic, filling, and well rounded meal. Use whatever you like! You can use a bottled dressing, or provide a little salsa or sour cream to go with it. If you want to ''trick'' your kiddos a little you can even give them tortilla chips or a couple small tortillas as a faux nacho or make your own taco lunch. 

Monkey Munchables
Don't Over Think It
Here is a super simple Chicken Cesar Salad that is fast and delicious. Easy bagged salad (with cabbage and carrots), sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and garlic croutons were paired with the pre-tossed salad and some leftover cut up chicken. You know your child best and can customize the veggies to what they might eat and make the salad as big or small as they might need to feel full. | "Flutterbys & Rosebuds"
Organized Bites
Try including Fruit in your green salad:
What I LOVE about this salad is not only did they incorporate several shaped veggies, but they paired in some delicious fruits too. The tomato is a fruit that makes lots of appearances in salad but including things like mandarin orange segments, strawberries, blueberries, mango etc... is another way you can make a salad seem less veggie overwhelming if that's a problem for you. It also gives great nutrients and is something new if your kiddo is already a seasoned salad eater.

meet the dubiens;  This colourful little bento was for Kirsten's morning nutrition break. She had some fruit salad with a cute little elephant pick, a cereal bar, and some pretzel sticks with cute little cheese birdies.
Meet the Dubiens
Pack a Fruit Salad!
While green salads are a fantastic lunch or side a fruit salad can be full of vitamins too! Can be a mix of any of your child's favorite fruits! Can also include a little dollop of whipped cream (which is a yummy treat without many calories) or use poppy dressings, or fruit based dressing like lime! Can use what is in season, thing you have on hand that need to get used up, canned, or frozen fruit. I'll often pack lunches the night before and if I pack a frozen berry mix the night before it has plenty of time to defrost by lunch. Plus, Monkey LOVES frozen blueberries. 

Monkey Munchables
Shake it up!
One of the things I did for Monkey when I first started trying to get her into salads as a meal (or part of one) was pack the salad in a mason jar. I packed the dressing on the side so come lunch time, she need only add the dressing, close the jar, and SHAKE! I remember loving the salad shakers that fast food restaurants used to have and inspired this method of salad eating for my daughter. Everything gets well coated and the ingredients mixed together. 

Lunchbox Pretty Pasta  recipe from Cooking with Trader Joe's @Kelly Teske Goldsworthy Lester / EasyLunchboxes Cookbook photography
Family Fresh Cooking 
Toss in some Pasta!
When I was little my mom used to combine ham, cheese cubes, pasta, and Italian dressing to make a quick easy pasta salad in the summer. I LOVED it. Now as I grow up and experiment with food I am finding there are more and more fun pasta salad combos! Cuts of meat, cheese, and veggies all go fantastic with pasta. Try pasta, drained flaked tuna, and peas with a little mayo and lemon juice for a quick throw together Pasta Salad. 

Sometimes I will pack Monkey pasta w/ pesto, chicken, peas, and spinach. The possibilities are endless!

Operation Lunch Box
Call it Dip!
So in this lunch you see a very large fruit salad and on the side what is being called shrimp dip. These are salad shrimp, cream cheese, Tabasco, chives, and lemon juice. By making it a little thicker with the cream cheese and pairing it with some hearty crackers this little shrimp salad works as a seafood dip! I've found that kids can be more open to the idea of ''dip''. 
Also try:
Tuna Salad: canned tuna, mayo, lemon juice, grated celery, grated carrot, and salt and pepper to taste.
Chicken Salad: cut or shredded chicken, a little mayo, cut grapes, cut apple, walnuts.

Don't Forget: You don't have to just use crackers! You can use pita, pita chips, pretzels, pretzel thins, flat breads, or best of all a wide range of cut veggies! You can turn the lunchbox into a little veggie tray with a great ''dip''. Use whatever you have on hand. :)

Lunchbox Dad
So you gave salad to your kiddo and it didn't blow over? Don't throw in the towel! You still have plenty of options. In this lunch Beau from Lunchbox Dad put together a fantastic salad with chicken, Greek yogurt, blue cheese crumbles, sliced mango and strawberries, sliced almonds, and mixed greens. If your little one isn't much for a seeing those greens front and center you can do what Beau did and.... 

Lunchbox Dad
Wrap It
Take your salad and put it in a wrap. This wrap has ALL the same ingredients as the previous salad only, it was put in a whole wheat tortilla. Sometimes kiddos like the hands on method! If you don't think a big container of straight up salad will work, give wraps a try!
*I find that taking a tortilla, spreading with a little cream cheese and just layering the veggies or even ribbons of lunch meat make a fantastic ''chef salad'' inside a wrap.
You can also use lettuce to wrap instead of tortillas

Tuna & White Bean Wraps

Whether you're putting black beans in your taco salad or you're making this recipe from for white bean and tuna salad wrap beans are a fantastic addition to any salad or lunch. Beans are a good source of fiber, protein, and a source of antioxidants. They work well as a meat substitute and actually will keep you feeling full longer than meat typically will which makes them an ideal source of protein too.

Cucumber cups - stuff with tuna or chicken salad - Brilliant!
Sheila Obb


Here is an idea I stole from Pinterest, Ssh! You can hollow out cuts of cucumber with a melon baller, use the flesh in your chicken or tuna salad (or what have you) and then fill the cups with it! It's a finger food twist on salad you may not have considered and that your kiddo certainly won't be expecting.

Fabulous Food Blog
Make it seem like a special treat
Sometimes attitude is our best weapon in the occasional food fight that happens in our homes. A positive attitude when eating a food in front of my child will often make her feel better about eating it. Really, she's more likely to like something if I indicate that I do too. Make a bad face and any chance she had of eating it, gone. In this picture you have a crescent roll shaped as a carrot that was stuffed with chicken salad and some lettuce at the top to represent a carrot for a fun Easter lunch. You could also do this with egg salad if you like for an equally tasty treat! These salads are great places to hide extra servings of veggies and can make the kids feel like it's a real treat since it is something so out of the ordinary!

Becoming a Bentoholic
It does NOT have to look like a typical salad
What I love about this anti pasta salad is that to a kid, this doesn't look like a typical salad (and the fruit salad on the side is accessible to most kids). In this salad we see spring salad mix, black olives, green olives, pepperoni, turkey, cucumbers, carrots, artichoke hearts, and a sprinkle of cheese. Not only does it look delicious and have a lot of amazing flavors happening, it's not stuffy like your typical adult boring salad and therefore I link less likely to put kids off.

Turkey and Coleslaw Sandwich on Wheat Bread
Stock Food
Make it a Sandwich
I'm sure you saw this coming! I remember eating egg salad as a kid and LOVED it. Was a deviled egg on bread and was a favorite of mine. Kid's will usually like those old goodies too! Don't forget there are plenty of other options for salad sandwiches too, like this turkey sandwich with coleslaw (which is a cabbage salad!). Another great options is a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with a little coleslaw! YUM!

The Guardian
Bring Back Summer
Summer is when I see a lot of salads hit the table, especially at BBQ's! Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Pea Salad, Grilled Corn Salad, Coleslaw, Quinoa Salad, Watermelon Salad, Caprese Salad.... Many of these are just as easy to make the rest of the year or you can use frozen varieties of fruits of veggies that are off season to cut a little on cost. Seriously, google or pinterest search ''summer salad'' and you'll find tons of fantastic ideas of things you can use in your kid's lunch! Also, check out the other season's salads too. Inspiration will be sure to find you!

Remember they can be big or small, sweet or savory, and have as many (or few) health benefits as you like! The possibilities for salad are endless.

Happy Packing!

*A special thank you to everyone that shared pictures of their lunches for this post! Captions under each picture link directly to origin of the photo. :) 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to check it out Kathy! Glad you liked it.

  2. Great post! Loads of inspiration!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to look at it Madelein. I'm glad you liked it and hope it has something you can use in it! :)

  3. What a wonderful post!! We are big salad eaters here, too! Thank you for including a couple of my lunches in this amazing compilation. I love the suggestions you had for each type of salad. Fantastic job. to pin your post!

    1. Aww I'm super flattered Rebecca! I love your lunches and was really honored to get to include them in my post. Thanks for checking it out and for sharing it. :)


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