Picture this—you sit down at the dinner table and each member of your family has, in addition to their main course, a fresh, nutritious salad with a colorful array of produce that they are likely to polish off.  “How on earth do I accomplish that?” you wonder…

I have found that one of the easiest ways to get kids excited about eating more veggies and legumes is to set up a mini salad bar on your kitchen counter or dinner table with lots of colorful ingredients.  Some kid-favorites are shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, steamed broccoli florets, raisins or dried cranberries, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, diced cooked beets (really!), olives, grape or cherry tomatoes, edamame, and shredded purple cabbage.

Giving kids control of their meal by allowing them to create their own personalized salad is a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables and enjoy healthy salads. This is especially true in a group setting where kids are encouraged to be adventurous by what other kids are trying.

In 2010, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign built on that theory to advocate for more salad bars in schools. Studies have shown that putting salad bars in schools is an effective way to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and improve their overall diets. Still, most kids are more likely to see French fries than salads on the menu, and only 1 in 5 public schools offers a salad bar at least once a week.  Fortunately, that number appears to be growing rapidly and many kids enjoy it when their schools offer a salad bar.

I asked some parents on the Six O’Clock Scramble Facebook page what their kids think about salad bars in schools and here are some of their answers:

  •     Gina Rau of Portland, Oregon, said, “We got a salad bar last year and the kids love it! There’s often a lineup of kiddos waiting to serve up.”
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  • According to Michelle Logsdon, of Rockville, Maryland, “My 9-yr old daughter Sara says she would like a salad bar because it is better than greasy pizza. She loved having a salad bar at her sleepaway camp. She would like it to include fruit as well.”
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  • “My 5 year old said no because he would rather have a chocolate bar. My 8 year old said yes because then everyone could choose what they want for lunch,” said Alison Siener Brown.
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  • Jennifer Bogard of Franklin, TN reports that “My 6 year old girl said ‘What’s a salad bar?’ I explained and she said ‘nah’.”
  • Sarah Bradley of Asheville, NC said that both of her kids said they would like a salad bar in school. “My 12 year old Dylan loves salads and my 15 year old wishes they would make the school garden a salad bar for them every day.”
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  • My boys (3rd & 5th grade) bring their lunch (our school lunch options are terrible). When I asked, they said that would be great as long as an adult dished out the items because the other kids will touch everything and that’s gross,” according to Nichole Carbajal of Gilbert, AZ.
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  • Marilee Kinsella of Chicago, IL, reported that her 12-year-old daughter Hannah would love it as long as the lettuce wasn’t iceberg and the veggies were fresh.
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  • 5 year old said, ‎”We should have a fruit bar to make fruit salads! That would be awesome,” according to the 5-year-old daughter of Samantha Bookman of Agoura Hills, CA.

Do your kids like eating salad?  Do they have a salad in their school? If so, what are their favorite salad bar items and dressings?

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  • http://www.lakebreeze.org Dawn Klein

    The public school lunches include lettuce salads much of the time, or sometimes baby carrots. It doesn’t mean the kids always eat it, though. Fruit is either fresh, canned or frozen. They sometimes get frozen strawberries that are supposed to be thawed by lunchtime, but they are a bit frozen sometimes. Jicama showed up in the fresh mixture a few times. I don’t know if anyone ate it. I was encouraging kids to try it!

  • http://www.stoughtonsteel.com andris

    Aviva,
    This is beautiful. What a wonderful idea! A couple of weeks back i volunteered at Greater Boston Food Bank nutritional day for kids. I worked a salad bar very similar to your photos and almost all the kids loved it! Most were pounding down vege’s and fruits and coming back for seconds. It really works!

    • http://www.thescramble.com Aviva Goldfarb

      Andris, I am so delighted to hear that! I have really found it works with kids of all incomes. Thank you!