Salad often seems like the holy grail of nutrition-packed meals, but they can be a tough sell for kids. Here’s how to make kids salad that your little ones will actually want to eat!
The key to serving kids salad is to keep things simple and easy to eat. Many kids, especially toddlers, can’t fully chew a lot of raw veggies, so it’s good to keep it in mind when you’re thinking about what to include. And consider which salads you like the best—I’d bet they have more than just greens in them! So be sure to include lots of yummy other ingredients too.
How to Make Kids Salad Step-by-Step
Here’s how I like to think through making kids salads.
- Start with Greens
Start with a base of greens, whether baby spinach or shredded lettuce. Try not to expect the kids to eat a ton of greens and chop them up into small pieces.
- Add Protein
Try shredded chicken, soft beans, hard-cooked eggs, cooked salmon, or even diced chicken nuggets or fish sticks!
- Add Cheese
If your kiddo does dairy, definitely add some cheese. Choose from shredded cheese, goat cheese crumbles, diced cheese, cheese curds or whatever kind they like most!
- Add Fruit
A little sweetness goes a long way in a salad so I almost always add fruit! Think of what would taste good to you—strawberries, grapes, shredded apples, and pears are often a good fit. Or dried fruit like cranberries or golden raisins!
- Watch Sizes and Textures
If your kiddo can’t get chew raw snap peas or cucumbers, leave them out! Or, offer just one tiny bite of something if you aren’t yet sure about how well they can chew it. (My two year old can chew a small piece of a fresh snap pea but cannot chew a whole one—she winds up spitting it out unless I cut them tiny for her.) Refresh yourself on choking hazards as needed and remember that their salad does not need to look exactly like yours!
- Serve it Deconstructed
It’s easier for kids to eat salad if they can easily see what’s in their serving, so I recommend serving it deconstructed, or at least separated out a bit. This also makes it much easier for them to pick up components to eat them.
- Add Dressing or Dip
Depending on the kid, it might work better to serve the dressing as a dip in a separate container or plate compartment, or tossed (sparingly!) with the salad. Ranch is usually a hit, though my kids have surprised me by liking tangier vinaigrettes so try a range.
Kid-Friendly Chopped Salads
Chopped Salads are so good, with their mix of delicious textures and flavors. And they are super easy to adapt for littles ones by cutting the ingredients to appropriate sizes and serving them deconstructed—or side-by-side on a plate. Here are some kid-friendly ingredients from a Chopped Salad that you can assemble into a meal for your child.
- Shredded Romaine lettuce (start with just a few pieces for younger toddlers as lettuce can be hard to chew!)
- Sweet corn
- Diced cherry tomatoes
- Diced cucumber (peel for younger toddlers as the skin can be tough)
- Diced avocado
- Crumbled bacon
- Diced fully cooked chicken
TIP: Try with a Buttermilk Ranch or a lemon vinaigrette.
Kid-Friendly Taco Salads
Channel a Chipotle Burrito Bowl and you have a healthy meal in the making for your kids. For the dressing, we love a half and half mix of plain whole milk yogurt and mild smooth salsa. It’s so simple to stir together and so delish. Here’s what you can include in a kids taco salad.
- Black or pinto beans
- Sweet Corn
- Roasted sweet potatoes or carrots
- Diced tomato
- Diced avocado
- Shredded cheddar
- Sour cream
- Shredded chicken or beef
- Roasted shrimp
- Shredded lettuce
TIP: Top with salsa, guacamole, or another favorite dressing.
Pasta Salads for Kids
You probably have a favorite pasta salad that you make for your family and I just want to remind you that that counts as a salad! Most kids love pasta, so use it to your advantage! We like Italian dressing on pasta salad or Pesto. Here are a few ingredients you could consider including.
- Diced chicken
- Diced (softer) salami
- Diced tomato
- Diced cucumber (peeled as needed)
- Chopped Romaine lettuce
- Crumbled goat or feta cheese
- Diced mozzarella cheese
- Hard cooked egg
Kids Salads with Chicken
There are a lot of great salads with chicken and they tend to be an easy entry for kids. I like to keep things fairly simple and use cooked grilled or rotisserie chicken, though I’ve been known to use chicken nuggets on salad and I can testify to them being delicious! Here’s what you might include in a kids salad with chicken.
- Shredded rotisserie chicken or diced leftover grilled chicken or chicken nuggets
- Shredded Romaine or baby spinach
- Grains like fully cooked rice, quinoa, or couscous
- Crumbled goat cheese or feta
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Diced cheddar cheese or Monterrey Jack
- Sliced pear or shredded apple
- Dried cherries, raisins, diced apricot, or cranberries
TIP: Use your favorite dressing on the salad to compliment the rest of the ingredients you choose.
Fruit Salads for Kids
If your kiddo isn’t showing any signs of interest in eating salad, that is 100% okay! Some kids take time and some kids like it and then don’t want anything to do with it. I like to remind parents that both fruits and vegetables have a lot of nutrients in them, so if you’re toddler isn’t up to eating kale salads yet (that’s a joke, please don’t expect that!), it’s totally fine to go with fruit salads more often.
They’re fun, nutritious, and a great way to offer lots of produce.
Best Tips for Success
- Try to make sure the foods are easy for the kids to eat. So shred the lettuce and make sure all proteins are soft and easy to chew.
- Start with smaller portions to avoid food waste and allow seconds as requested.
- Remember that it’s normal for kids to eat more of some food groups some days and less on others. It usually evens out if you look at things over a much broader period of time.
- Serve dressings mixed in or on the side as a dip and don’t shy away from flavor!
- Offer the kids some of a salad you make for yourself, cutting up the foods a little smaller as needed.
- Try my Healthy Pasta Salad or my Pesto Pasta Salad.
- Fruit Salsa and Fruit Wands are great recipes to try for fruit salads.
Do your kids like salad? I’d love to hear how this dish works (or doesn’t work!) in your house in the comments!Print
Here’s a look at basic templates for making kid-friendly salads. Pick and choose the ingredients you like! (Nutrition info will vary according to the ingredients you use.)
- Shredded Romaine lettuce, sweet corn, diced cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber (peel for younger toddlers as the skin can be tough), diced avocado, crumbled bacon, and/or diced fully cooked chicken. Ranch, Creamy Italian or other dressing
- Black or pinto beans, sweet corn, roasted sweet potatoes or carrots, diced tomato, diced avocado, shredded cheddar, sour cream, shredded chicken or beef, roasted shrimp, and/or shredded lettuce. Ranch, salsa, guacamole, or other dressing
- Pasta, diced chicken, diced (softer) salami, peas, olives, diced tomato, diced cucumber (peeled as needed), crumbled goat or feta cheese, diced mozzarella cheese, and/or hard cooked egg. Italian Dressing or Pesto
Salad with Chicken
- Shredded rotisserie chicken or diced leftover grilled chicken or chicken nuggets; shredded Romaine or baby spinach; fully cooked rice, quinoa, or couscous; crumbled goat cheese or feta or shredded cheddar cheese; diced cheddar cheese or Monterrey Jack; sliced pear, shredded apple, quartered grapes or diced strawberries; dried cherries, raisins, diced apricot, or cranberries; croutons. Creamy Italian, Caesar, Ranch, or other dressing
- Choose your salad type.
- Choose a few different ingredient options, aiming for a few different food groups.
- Add dressing as desired, either mixed in or as a dip.
Try to make sure the foods are easy for the kids to eat. So shred the lettuce and make sure all proteins are soft and easy to chew.
Start with smaller portions to avoid food waste and allow seconds as requested.
Remember that it’s normal for kids to eat more of some food groups some days and less on others. It usually evens out if you look at things over a much broader period of time.
Serve dressings mixed in or on the side as a dip and don’t shy away from flavor!
Offer the kids some of a salad you make for yourself, cutting up the foods a little smaller as needed