8 Essential Ingredients for a Kid-Friendly DIY Salad Bar

Make salads fun with an easy-to-assemble variety of toppings adults and kids will love.

By Betsy Voreacos

If a salad is presented just right, even picky eaters won’t be able to resist it (or at least some of the ingredients!). A do-it-yourself salad bar is a healthy, fun way to encourage kids to try new foods and flavors.

Here are some great topping options that can be pre-cut or prepared in advance (or even purchased ready-to-go from the store). Just keep them in plastic bags or lidded containers in the fridge and set them out at mealtime. Give everyone a big bowl filled halfway with greens (make sure the bowl is big enough so they can stir all the goodies in, because that’s half the fun!), place the toppings in little bowls with spoons in the middle of the table, and give your chefs creative control of their own meals!

Image by Amanda Genge


All Kinds of Cheese

Cheese is such a versatile and delicious source of protein. Experiment with a variety of types to see what your kids like. Grate some hard, aged cheeses like asiago and Parmesan, or set out cubes of Jarlsberg or Gouda. You can even cut thin slices of cheese into fun shapes using small cookie cutters (or go freehand with a paring knife).

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Sliced Beets

Not only do they add sweetness and color to a salad, but they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, and essential minerals like potassium. You can roast them yourself ahead of time and refrigerate, or find pre-cooked, pre-peeled baby beets in the produce section. (And canned beets are always an option, too.)

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Mandarin Oranges

Drain a can or jar of mandarin orange segments packed in natural juice, or peel and segment some fresh ones (clementines work well, too, as do segments of navel oranges cut into bite-size pieces).

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Chopped Nuts and Dried Fruit

Toasted almonds, roasted peanuts, halved walnuts, chopped hazelnuts – so many delicious options to try. They add delicious crunch as well as fiber, B vitamins, and healthy fat. Dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, and golden raisins add a touch of sweetness and some color, too.

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Look for lower-sugar varieties that come in chunky clusters – they’ll be almost like croutons tossed on top of a salad.

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Hearts of Palm

If your kids love olives, they’ll probably love tangy hearts of palm slices, too.

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This Italian blend of pickled vegetables has a little something for everyone. Even if your kid normally won’t touch a veggie, he might just go for the tangy, slightly spicy crunch of pickled cauliflower or carrots. (Reserve any hot peppers in the mix for the grownups, or adventurous kids.)

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Sliced Deli Meat

Have the deli slice ham, turkey, roast beef, and salami a little on the thick side, and cut it into cubes or matchsticks at home for an easy chef salad.

What’s your favorite salad bar topping?

Betsy lives with her family a stone’s throw from New York City. An overly involved mother of three children, Betsy has always been acutely aware of her shortcomings as a parent, not to mention those of her children. She documents her life in the brutally honest Old Minivans Die Hard.

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