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Our Blog: June 7, 2024

Let’s Talk Lettuce

There are so many options when deciding what salad green to use. Basic iceberg is a fine choice but doesn’t offer much—nutritionally speaking. The more colorful the lettuce, the more vitamins it offers.

Think of salad creation as playing dress up.

Children might not enjoy it as a plain addition to their meals. However, if you jazz it up with lots of delicious layers and toppings, there’s a good chance they’ll change their tune and be excited to welcome the fresh, healthy side dish. There are countless ways to “dress up” your salad from sweet to savory.

  • Start with a crunchy base: Choose a vibrant, leafy green such as romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, or endive. This layer provides all sorts of vitamins and minerals including folate and vitamins A and K.
  • Add your favorite vegetables: Asparagus, beets, artichoke hearts, avocado, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, broccoli, peas, red onion, celery, mushrooms, sweet potato, radishes, olives, corn, or tomatoes.
  • Pick a protein: Hard-boiled, poached, or soft-boiled eggs, beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, great northern), edamame, tofu, tuna, salmon, crab cakes, shrimp, scallops, chicken, turkey, steak, ham, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, sunflower, or sesame seeds.
  • Add cheese: Goat cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, feta, gorgonzola, cheddar, etc.
  • Try fruit: Mandarin oranges, blackberries, pears, grapes, apples, strawberries, raspberries, or pomegranate arils.
  • Boost the flavor with fresh herbs: Basil, mint, chives, dill, tarragon, or parsley.
  • Consider a hearty grain: Couscous, quinoa, barley, rice, pita, croutons, or tortilla strips. 
  • Drizzle it with dressing or try a non-traditional option: Yogurt, hummus, salsa, guacamole, or lemon juice.


If your child is still anti-salad, don’t worry! There are other ways to incorporate lettuce:

  • Layer lettuce into a sandwich or wrap
  • Experiment with texture (chop or shred finely)
  • Pair it with other nutrient-dense ingredients like rice, beans, or meat
  • Try lettuce “chips.” Buy crunchy lettuce and break it into chip-size pieces. Serve it with their favorite dressing or dip to make it a fun, finger-food-style snack.

Early veggie variety is key to raising an adventurous, healthy eater. Through repeated exposure, we now know kids can learn to LOVE vegetables. We hope you will join the Veggies Early & Often initiative at home by being a role model for children through cooking and eating a balanced, plant-forward diet.

Try one of our Grow Fit®-inspired recipes at home:

Caribbean Bean Salad |Parmesan Chopped Salad| Breadless Turkey Club

Caribbean Bean Salad*

(Serves 4 to 6 adults.)

1 can (15 oz.) low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup mango, diced                                                  
¾ cup tomato, diced
1 ½ Tbsp. avocado oil                                 
4 ½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar                   
1 ½ tsp. oregano                           
Black pepper (to taste)
1 head of butter lettuce, rinsed


  1. Toss all ingredients (except lettuce) together in a large bowl.
  2. Dry and chop lettuce.
  3. Place lettuce in a large serving bowl.
  4. Top with bean and mango mixture before serving.

Parmesan Chopped Salad*

(Serves 4 to 6 adults.)

2 romaine lettuce hearts, rinsed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)                                                                    


  1. Chop the romaine lettuce into thin slices.
  2. For young assistants: Have them place lettuce into a salad spinner to remove excess water. If you don’t have one, use paper towels to blot the lettuce dry. Place lettuce in a large bowl.
  3. Add shallots and parmesan cheese to the bowl.
  4. Zest the lemons using the smallest hole on a grater. Add zest to the bowl.
  5. Half each lemon and squeeze the juice out into a jar. Use a juicer to avoid getting seeds in the dressing.
  6. Add black pepper and olive oil to the lemon juice. If using red pepper flakes, add those too. Cap and shake! This is a good step for kids too.
  7. Pour salad dressing over lettuce and toss to combine.

Breadless Turkey Club

(Serves 1 adult.)

5 to 6 red or green leaf lettuce leaves (the larger, the better)
4 slices deli turkey
3 strips of cooked bacon
¼ avocado
3 slices tomato
1 tsp. mayonnaise (optional)


  1. Lay a piece of parchment paper out on a cutting board.
  2. For young assistants:

    ~ Have them rinse the lettuce leaves and dry them with a clean towel or paper towel.
    ~ Lay lettuce leaves on parchment paper overlapping to form an 8” x 10” rectangle.
    ~ If using mayo, spread this on now.
    ~ Layer fillings starting with deli meat, then bacon, then tomatoes, and then avocado.

  3. Use the parchment paper to roll lettuce wrap into a tight tube by folding the ends in as you go.
  4. Slice the sandwich in half. Fold down the parchment as you eat. 
    ~ If serving to children, cut it into smaller pieces.

*These recipes are veggie-forward and approved by the Partnership for a Healthier America to meet the Veggies Early & Often guidelines. Approved 5/7/2024.
About the Author

Nicole Spain, MS, RDN

Childhood nutrition has been Nicole’s passion for more than 20 years. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition and Dietetics from Northern Illinois University. During her career with Learning Care Group (LCG), Nicole has assisted with developing and implementing the company’s proprietary Grow Fit program. Through her curated menus, the healthy lifestyle initiative positively impacts approximately 100,000 children daily in LCG’s 1,050+ schools. She aided in the rollout of the Veggies Early & Often campaign in 2021 and helped LCG be recognized as the 2017 Partner of the Year by the Partnership for a Healthier America. Since 2004, she’s also been an active Junior League member and developed the Kids in the Kitchen program for their Detroit and Milwaukee chapters. Nicole and her husband, John, have three children. In her spare time, Nicole competes on a rowing team with the Detroit Boat Club Crew.