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A Healthier Salad: Make a MyPlate Salad Bar
A Healthier Salad: Make a MyPlate Salad Bar
By Cheryl Tallman

Children take pride in what they create, whether it's a picture colored with crayons or a meal they helped prepare for themselves and their family. When encouraging healthy eating, participation is a key to success.

Creating a salad bar as a family meal is an easy and fun way to allow each member of your family to have creative control over their meal, while encouraging exploration and adventure of their taste buds.  In addition, children can help in multiple ways to prepare the meal and take pride in the variety and choices they've helped to make for the family.

Your salad bar can have many ingredients, but to ensure you are preparing a balanced meal, you can use MyPlate as your guide.  It is a simple way to think about choosing ingredients from each of the food groups including:  Vegetables, Fruits, Proteins, Grains and Dairy.

When creating your salad bar feast remember:
  • Make half your plates vegetables and fruits
  • Take time to enjoy eating the meal you've prepared
  • Eat low-fat dairy
  • Make half your grains, whole grains
  • Choose lean proteins
  • Use a smaller plate to help with portion control
Themed Salad Bars

Creating a theme for your salad bar will make it fun!  It will also encourage your children to try new flavors and foods, while allowing them to explore at their own pace.

Once you have chosen a theme, select foods from the list of ingredients in each column.  We suggest 4 vegetables, 2 fruits, 1 protein, 1 grain, 1 dairy and 1-2 salad dressing (store-bought or homemade). Set up foods on the table in bowls or on small plates. At meal time, each person can choose foods to build their own personal salad!  Enjoy a wonderful and healthy family meal!


Sesame Ginger Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar
Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in an air-tight container.  Cover and shake well.


Lemon Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. White wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced or crushed
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in an air-tight container.  Cover and shake well.

Creamy Dill Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Chives or scallions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until smooth and creamy. Chill until ready to serve.


Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • 1 cup Cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup Lime juice
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 2 tsp. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth.

Simple dressing idea:  Use store-bought salsa for your Mexican-themed salad bar.


Yogurt Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • Dash of cinnamon or nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until smooth and creamy. Chill until ready to serve.

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the founder of Fresh Baby. For more than 10 years, Fresh Baby has helped parents foster their children's healthy eating habits and proactively respond to the childhood obesity epidemic that plagues our nation. Cheryl is the author and designer of the company's award-winning cookbooks and nutrition education products that support many stages of family life including: pregnancy, breastfeeding, introducing solid foods, and feeding toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.
Tags: Asian food, Cilantro Lime Dressing, Creamy Dill Dressing, Eat Less-Move More, Eating healthy, FreshBaby.com, Health, Homemade dressing, Mediterranean food, Mexican food, Recipes, Salad bar, Sesame Ginger Dressing, Simple Savings, Stay-at-Home Mom, summer recipes, Yogurt Dressing
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