kid eating spinach

Do you wish your kids liked spinach and other leafy greens? Then a culinary technique called “chiffonade” will be your new best friend. Chiffonade is basically a fancy name for cutting herbs and leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach) into thin little strips.

Here's a beautiful mint chiffonade I found in instagram by #carlosestarita91.

Here’s a beautiful mint chiffonade I found on instagram by #carlosestarita91.

This technique is great at helping kids to like their greens for two reasons:

1. You can easily add the greens to foods that your child probably already loves (think pizza and spaghetti).

2. Your kid won’t be threatened by a big bowl of something unfamiliar. Here’s what I mean by that…

Imagine for a minute…

Imagine if someone gave you a big, huge bowl of chocolate covered ants and told you to eat it. How would you feel? If it were me, my stomach would churn, my heart would start to pound, I’d break out into a cold sweat and I would protest with every fiber in my being. {I’m definitely not a “Fear Factor” kind of girl.}

But what if, instead, someone put just one or two teeny tiny little chocolate covered ants on a nice bowl of Haagan Daaz vanilla ice cream? How would you feel then? Curious? Maybe even open to trying a little bite? You get my point.

So here’s how you can use this little knife-skill to baby step your child into actually liking spinach.

Note: You don’t have to do all the following steps in this order or even on the same day. The point is, you’re helping your child get more familiar and comfortable with a food he/she once shunned.

Step 1 — Talk to your child about it

Try saying something like “Here are 3 different kinds of leaves: mint leaves, basil leaves and spinach leaves. Giraffes eat leaves. Bugs eat leaves. And these are three kinds of leaves that we can eat. How cool is that?”

Step 2 — Explore

Let your child feel the different leaves, smell them, tear them to pieces. Talk about how they are the similar and how they are different. Really focus on the nuances. Emphasize the positives.

Your child may be so excited at this point that he/she won’t be able to resist taking a bite. But if not, continue on….

Step 3 — Let your child help you chiffonade

Here’s where you can teach your child about this super-fancy technique, called a “chiffonade” that chefs use. Ask your child to sort the leaves, stack them and even roll them so that you can cut them into small ribbons. You will obviously want to handle the knife. {If you need a tutorial, here’s a great YouTube video by the Arizona Culinary Institute on how to chiffonade.}

Maybe your kiddo will want to take a bite now. If not, no worries….

Step 4 — Add them to something yummy

Create a “make your own pizza” station using small bowls of tomato sauce, cheese, the chiffonade of spinach (or basil) and whatever other toppings your child likes. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. But let your child assemble his/her own pizza.

If they don’t choose to use the spinach, that’s fine. Remember, baby steps. We’re working on their comfort level here.

Step 5 — Repeat

There’s not much else to say here, but repeat, repeat, repeat. Even if they taste it and spit it out, just keep doing a little chiffonade and sprinkling it on foods when it makes sense. There will come a day when your child will see it, eat it and not even blink. Trust me.

Step 6 — Continue on

Once your child is so used to seeing spinach, then you can try giving it to them in bigger pieces.

Step 7 — Celebrate!!!

After about 2 months of working on the above steps, my son one day devoured a huge spinach salad. I kid you know. I tried to play it all cool, but I was secretly doing cartwheels.

After 2 months of taking baby steps with leafy greens, we finally got a big thumbs up to spinach salad!

After 2 months of taking baby steps with leafy greens, we finally got a big thumbs up to spinach salad!

What tricks do you use to help your kids like new foods?

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