I’m always trying to get my kids to eat more veggies. Let’s be real: I’m trying to get myself to eat more veggies. And we are pretty good with roasted broccoli, sautéed bok choy, and steamed asparagus with a poached egg, but when it comes to salad, it is a fight to get it down. It would so much easier if I could always count on getting one or two servings of veggies through a simple dinner salad. Eat more greens, they say. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
That said, there are a few things that will make my kids eat salad. Romaine or iceberg lettuce needs to be the base. No bitter or spicy greens obviously. There goes my favored arugula. Fifty percent of said salad must be something other than the greens like fruit, cheese (and no weird cheese like goat or blue!), meat, and crunchy stuff (croutons, nuts, fried onions). And RANCH! My older son “discovered” it in the school cafeteria and came home declaring his new love of this exotic dressing. So now there is always a bottle of ranch in my fridge.
Or as my husband likes to remind me, there’s also the method he employs when he is in charge of dinner with the kids: they play a game called Hungry Bunny, where they grab handfuls of baby spinach from the clamshell and stuff it into their mouths because they are — you guessed it — hungry bunnies. I’m impressed by the ingenuity to get the daily vitamins in, but I would hardly call that a love of salad.
But if we are out, there are three restaurants in Portland that have great kid-friendly salads! We love Luc Lac—a trendy Vietnamese restaurant downtown. We always get their vermicelli bowls—the combination one is our favorite. Now it’s not technically under the “salad” option but it comes with a romaine-cabbage-cilantro mint mix, pickled daikon carrots, bean sprouts, peanuts, shallots, an addictive fish sauce vinaigrette served with crispy rolls and skewers of pork, beef, chicken, and shrimp. It is as large as it sounds, and it is definitely shareable. Plus they have really fun decor inside and also individual booths outside if you prefer.
Another restaurant where we always get salad is Grassa. Their caesar salad is delicious—it’s romaine lettuce (check!), with lots of croutons (check!), and plenty of dressing (close enough to ranch—check!).
The third salad winner was a surprise to me. We went to celebrate a birthday at Old Spaghetti Factory last year, and all entrees come with a salad or soup and a scoop of ice cream at the end. My kids LOVED the salad. They said it was the best salad they ever had. It is a simple, old-school salad—iceberg, some cherry tomatoes, olives, and maybe a little red onion, and croutons. Kids get to choose their dressing, and my younger son chose to be adventurous and ordered the Italian dressing. Perhaps the grown-up nature of the restaurant and the salad being part of the meal made it special. Or perhaps it was the beautiful view of the water that made them agreeable. Whatever the reason, Old Spaghetti Factory was a real winner for us.
I need some inspiration in the kitchen especially as warmer weather and beautiful produce will tempt me to eat more salad. Bridgetown Bites, a local independent blog, is launching Portland Salad Week June 6-10. Unlike the other food weeks which highlight pizza, dumplings, or burgers around the city, this one aims to educate and inspire us to both try different restaurants around town for the best salads AND think more creatively about constructing great salads at home. Each day will focus on a different theme, and they will invite local bloggers and influencers to share their favorite salads in town and why they love them. Salad Week will also explore farmers’ markets and CSAs and the people who run them. I am especially looking forward to Wednesday, when they will have content on best kid-friendly greens and how to educate kids on healthy eating, recipes, and more.
So join me in introducing more salad at our table, where our kids will happily eat baby spinach without role play and enjoy a colorful bowl of greens not drenched in ranch. I am ready to eat and learn!