How I Got My Family to Eat More Vegetables

by | Mar 19, 2014 | Parenting, Parenting Advice | 24 comments

Salad. Tastes good. Good for you. Huge pain in the neck to make.

Even when it was just the husband and I eating dinner, I would mean to make us a salad, but end up running out of time or motivation and just steam some broccoli again.

Now with a houseful of kids to feed, each with his own salad preferences, it felt pretty much impossible to serve salads.

Until . . .

It occurred to me that I could do the prep work in advance, and let everyone make his own salad, just the way he likes it. We’ve been doing it for a couple of months now, and it’s been a huge success.

Here’s how I do it:

1. The husband (with lots of helpers) has transformed our front yard planting area from a flower bed into a Victory Garden. It makes sense for us for reasons of convenience, economy, and general WWI throwback awesomeness.

Currently, we are growing cabbages, lettuces, herbs, and tomatoes. Plus citrus trees.

We may branch out from here, but those have been going well so far. I’d like to eventually try to grow root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions, but I am really concerned that if I don’t see them as I walk into the house everyday (since they are under the ground) I will forget that they’re in there.

I also buy lots of veggies at the store, a mix of favorites and stuff that’s on sale. I don’t buy organic, and I don’t sweat it.

2. Once the veggies are inside my house, I wash them and chop them all up. All at once.

I’m much better at infrequent big jobs than I am at getting repetitive daily tasks accomplished. So this works for me. I only have to get to it once per week.
I store them in plastic Gladware containers in the fridge. They stack easily, and are light and unbreakable, which means the kids can set up the salad bar and break it down themselves.
This has been a great job for my four-year-old to do while older kids are setting the table before dinner or doing the dishes afterwards.

3. Now, no matter what I’m serving for dinner, we set up the salad bar. The whole family is eating many, many more vegetables than we used to. We encourage kids to have seconds of salad if they go back for seconds of the main course. And since they get to make their salad just the way they like it, there’s much less grumbling than there used to be.

If you are looking for ways to get your family eating more veggies, this might work as well for you as it does for us.

Bon appetit!

And happy Feast of St. Joseph!

To read all about the crazy thing we’ll be eating tonight, click here.

And . . . In case you’ve been wondering about the state of my desk and what terror-inducing picture books were my favorites as a child, Divina at Beauty of the Picture Book has an interview with yours truly up today that will answer all those questions and more. Plus a giveaway of A Little Book About Confession for Children. Check it out!


  1. Anonymous

    Brilliant. I was looking at the picture of your garden, having just looked out the window at our snow thinking, but its not summer? Then I remembered…. California. I will steal this idea, though– I love salads, but they're just such a pain to make!
    Anne McD

  2. Christine

    Lettuce is the one veggie that all 6 of our kids like to eat, so we eat it often. A make your own salad bar is a great idea.
    I say jump in and plant some root vegetables! While the root is the part we eat, there is a plant above ground. You can't forget they are out there.

    • Cristina

      I was thinking the same thing about the root veggies! Carrots are my boys' favorite thing to harvest–pulling them up out of the ground is like a magic trick every time–they won't let you forget they're there! They're great for the littles to take care of all by themselves too. My three year old comes in with handfulls of carrots and is so proud of himself 🙂

  3. Amelia Bentrup

    Ooo….I love salad bars, yours looks great. Our problem is we wouldn't necessarily we eating more vegetables, we'd just be eating more cheese and salad dressings and croutons. LOL

  4. Elizabeth@SuperSwellTimes

    So far, I've had a lot of success growing carrots. You could even grow them in a pot if you're worried about stepping on them.

    The nightly salad bar is pretty ingenious. Do you put anything on the vegetables to keep them from browning or do they do alright in the tupperware boxes?

    • Kendra

      They have all lasted at least a week just fine. Cucumbers seem to go first, broccoli lasts longer. But I haven't had to throw stuff out.

  5. Anonymous

    "I don't buy organic, and I don't sweat it." That simple line is the reason I keep coming back to your blog every single day. I pray for a day when I can make decisions, the best I know how, and not question them over and over. Your confidence is refreshing.

  6. Amy Caroline

    This is a great idea. Although I am not sure I could get the whole come home from the grocery store and start chopping thing down. That would take more willpower than I might have…

    As for the organic comment, I am with you. Who can afford to feed a family all organic? I wish we could, but we are way too large a family. As long as they are eating vegetables, that has to be the focus!

  7. Heather

    I'm a huge proponent of the concept of preparing all your produce immediately after obtaining it. If I wait until I'm hungry to tackle this kind of chore, I will cut corners. I also find that a lot of the veggies that make up a great salad bar are also great for a quick stir fry, great add-ins for scrambled eggs, a quick way to make soup, can be boiled with noodles for a healthier pasta, taste great "hidden" in meatloaf – the options are endless. I also found with my kids that they snack on whatever is easiest to grab so if I have fruit on the counter or prominently displayed in the fridge, they will take that over a bag of chips. My other veggie trick is to roast them. Anything and everything tastes better with a little splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of parm with a little caramelization from the roasting process. My kids used to fight over the last piece of roasted asparagus!

  8. Tori

    So much common sense! One of the reasons why I love reading 🙂

    How much of a time investment is a victory garden (on a daily basis)? I've been interested in growing some of our own food but I worry I'll neglect it with all the other things that need attention during the day.

    • Kendra

      It was a whole weekend's work to get it put in (plus another whole weekend to pull the old plants out) but we've got a sprinkler system in there, so it's been pretty self sustaining after that. I pick a couple of weeds out here and there when I'm out front. And Jim does some tending to it on the weekends, replanting things that died.

      Gardening is NOT my thing, and yet this seems to be working out quite nicely. It is really great to need basil and just go out the front door to get some basil.

    • Tori

      Well I guess I have no excuse then, we have to get on board! And you mention basil, easily my favorite herb. A never-ending supply of basil is like a dream. We may have missed the planting season here in the toasty southwest, but I'll have to see if there's anything we can still do.

  9. Jamie Jo

    I only have 3 kiddos that actually eat salad, that's 1/2! what an awesome idea though, because the last salad I made, I combined everything (because I like it that way) and one said, she didn't want to pick out the cauliflower…so she didn't have any. I'm doing this next time! Wish we could garden, but the deer eat everything. (not that I can even see any dirt right now, it's got 2-3 feet of snow on it)

    • Kendra

      We don't have to worry about deer, but the marigolds are an attempt to keep the squirrels away.

  10. Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely

    I have a post about this set to publish later this week! I'm going to piggyback on yours 🙂 (And I'm RIGHT with you on one big task vs. little daily tasks, especially in the kitchen!)

  11. Nanacamille

    I have experienced the Tierney Salad Bar first hand and it's delicious. Especially delicious if you get Trader Joe's Peanut Vinaigrette salad dressing in the chilled salad section..yummm. We have salad all the time and it sure makes it easier if all of the veggies are ready to go and meat or fish can be added for a heartier salad. Yea for warm California sun.

  12. Erica Saint

    Yep, cutting it up as soon as you bring it home is the best way! We eat salad all of the time.You are right, cucumbers seem to go first. If I think any of the veggies are getting close to spoiling then I just pull the container out of the refrigerator, take the lid off, place it on the counter, and let the munch on it until it is gone.
    I love your front yard garden. 🙂

  13. Abby S.

    Love this idea! I try the same sort of thing with fruit at snack time. I just cut up a bunch of whatever fruit we have on hand (usually apples plus another fruit or two plus carrots or peppers) and let the kids go to town. It all gets eaten by the end of the day, everyone has had a healthy snack, and each kid gets to pick what he likes best.

  14. Lauren @ Breaking the Mold

    "I'm much better at infrequent big jobs than I am at getting repetitive daily tasks accomplished. So this works for me. I only have to get to it once per week." THANK YOU for putting into words my feelings exaaactly! This is totally doable. This year, one of my goals has been to "shop the perimeter" of the grocery store and hope that results in eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. It's working, but washing and prepping all the fresh stuff at once definitely makes a difference. The salad bar is a great idea, and I will definitely keep that in mind for the future. I also have to ask – do you have any tips for growing lettuces? We tried our hand at gardening last summer, and found mediocre success (yay tomatoes and zuchinni, boo carrots and peppers). I would love to grow our own lettuce but for some reason that seems like a daunting idea. Thoughts??

    • Kendra

      The husband is in charge of that department, but as far as I know he just planted them, and the sprinklers water them, and they're doing well. That part of the yard only gets sun for half the day. Maybe they prefer that? I don't know. I'm a terrible gardener.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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