Let's talk about salads
Can we talk about salads please? Do your children eat salads? Do you eat salad? Or does the word "salad" make you think of limp green lettuce, a sad-looking tomato and a slice of cucumber? Well, if it does, I'm here to change your attitude to salads and brighten up your salad outlook.
Firstly, why salads? A combination of leafy greens and vegetables, the odd bit of fruit, some dairy and protein - "salads" make for a perfectly nutritious meal. And, contrary to what many people believe, salads are not just for adults but children as well. Yes, with the right encouragement, and the right kid-friendly combos, I believe children should eat (and enjoy eating!) salad too.
Many people say to me, 'Do your children really eat salad?' Truth be told, mostly yes. Little Sam is the least keen - it took about 6 months of putting cucumber on his lunch plate before he'd actually eat it, but now he will eat a whole cucumber if I give it to him! (Persistence pays off!)
For those of you squirming at the thought of kids-and-salad, let me be clear: Gone are the days of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber with some sour dressing, or no dressing at all. There are so many recipes around that add roasted veggies, cheese, meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, fruits and many more delicious additions to salads. The fact is, encouraging your children to eat salad will be more successful if it's an affair full of colour, different tastes, and not just a miserable-looking leaf on the side of their dish.
The key to getting your children into salads, I find, is all in the right "mix" - that delicate blend of the favourites with the not-so-favourite (blend or hide? Not sure!); mixing the leaves/veggies/tomatoes/ with things they enjoy such as chicken/fish/cheese/fruits. Don't get me wrong, my Clean Little Tummies are capable of picking out the "good" stuff. However, it's your attitude (and persistence!) that counts: I always tell them to eat bits together so it all tastes of the "good" stuff, and for the most part that works. I do still find the odd rocket leaf here and there, but most days it feels like a win.
Summer is the perfect time to try out new salads, when children like cooler dinners on hot days. But final note in my "eat salad" campaign: Don't use a salad as the reason to overload children with foods that aren't so healthy, such as overly fatty food like bacon, or heavy, ranch-style sauces. Stick to fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheese, and dress your salads with some simple lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or some fresh pesto.
Here are some salad combos that the family and the Clean Little Tummies enjoy:
Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi
Roast any summer vegetables you have - courgette, pepper, aubergine work perfectly and give lots of colour. Once roasted, place on a bed of baby spinach and rocket, top with grilled halloumi (amazing if done on the bbq) and drizzle with olive oil. Grilling these vegetables on the bbq also makes a great salad.
Imagine you're on the Amalfi coast watching the boats sailing on the blue sea with beautiful Italians walking past! Slice ripe beef tomatoes, tear balls of mozzarella, scatter with chopped basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Serve with toasted slices of baguettes. Encourage your Clean Little Tummies to put it on to the toasts and it'll be like mini pizzas for them. Clearly this isn't the greenest of salads but it's about changing children's perceptions of salad. If they like it and it's called salad they won't be a frightened to try a green salad later!
Butternut Squash, Sweet potato and Feta salad
Roast diced butternut squash and sweet potato until crispy and golden. Serve on a bed of leaves - we love baby spinach - and top with crumbled feta. Some roasted pecans make a lovely addition too.
This is just a combination that works really well in our house - try it and see if you like it. Roast some sweet potato batons, courgette slices and baby tomatoes halved. Sprinkle the roasted veggies onto a bed of rocket or baby spinach, top with some crumbled feta or torn mozzarella works well too. Drizzle with some lemon juice or olive oil. The roasted vegetables add so much flavour you hardly need a dressing. Serve with some tortillas, crusty bread or on its own. We also love adding corn on the cob to this, or just corn to add more colour and flavour.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Cook some of your favourite shaped pasta, mix with some of our fresh pesto and add chopped tomatoes, roasted courgettes, fresh peas or any other vegetables you like. Mix a handful of rocket leaves through too if you like.
Some salad pointers:
In Jamie Oliver's Super Food Family Classics cook book he gives the great idea of putting a bowl of simple salad on the table about half an hour before the meal is ready. If children are hungry they will come and eat and try it without it filling them up. A great idea in my opinion.
Don't give up, if you aren't successful the first time with salad, mix it up, try it again and see what they like. Nothing ever works the first time!
If you're green-fingered (I'm not but I do have a mum who is) getting your Clean Little Tummies to grow their own salad from seeds in the garden can be really effective in encouraging them to eat it. Salad leaves haven't been demolished as quickly as when they appeared from my daughter's garden box in Nanny's green house.
If you have reluctant green leaf eaters start with rice or pasta as your base, make sure you call it a salad so they overcome the hurdle of hearing the word "salad". It's all in the marketing, you see!
Or how about letting them make their own salad? Put all the ingredients out you'd like them to try and let them build their own salad bowls or get their to fill wraps or pittas with their salads. They always prefer their own food I find. Give them options of their favourite ingredients, corn on the cobs, roasted peppers, sweet potato sticks, carrot ribbons, shredded chicken...
Feeding little ones isn't always easy, there are many meals when I feel completely drained by the end of it but experimenting and letting them find out things for themselves is a great way to expand their food tastes and I think summer salads are a pretty good place to start.
Let me know how you get on!
Love From Caroline & The Clean Little Tummies xxxx