young girl picking lettuce
She obviously loves to pick lettuce. But how do I get her to love eating it?

By Susannah Felts

While it’s been a cool, slow growing season so far, our buttercrunch lettuce, planted back in late March, looked ready for picking this week. With each head bursting full of bright, soft green leaves, I could hardly wait to dig in — but wondered how to get my 4-year-old daughter Thalia equally on-board.

I began by pointing out the pretty lettuces to her: “Don’t they look delicious?” I asked. She nodded, suggesting a pliant attitude that I knew better than to swallow whole. “This is what bunnies eat!” I continued, tearing a lettuce leaf off, nibbling some, and giving her the rest. She took a tiny bite, then handed it back to me. So much for bunnies.

young girl eating lettuce wrap
Two key ingredients for coaxing kids to eat healthy: turn the meal into a DIY project and add a bumble bee plate.

Time for Plan B: lettuce wraps for dinner. One reason I love them – and hoped Thalia would feel the same – is that you make ‘em yourself and can put pretty much anything you want inside. I settled on some kid-friendly fillings: pre-cooked chili-lime chicken strips, shredded Mexican-blend cheese, sweet red pepper, cilantro from the garden, black beans and corn, and chicken salad. Then I asked Thalia for help, as I’ve found that getting her involved in fun ways to prep for a healthy meal makes it much more likely that she’ll actually eat the meal.

I told Thalia she could use the big knife to help me chop the chicken into littler pieces – with my close supervision, of course — and she was all over that (Big, serious knife? Chopping? Oh yeah!). I also asked her to put the shredded cheese in a small bowl while I chopped the pepper and cilantro. While we worked, I explained how to make lettuce wraps.

“You mean I get to choose what I want on my wrap and put the things on?” she asked enthusiastically.

I nodded, setting the wrap components and a plate full of freshly washed lettuce leaves on the table between us. Then I showed her how to add the fillings she wanted and fold the lettuce around them, kind of like a miniature soft taco. She was particularly excited about the pepper – “because I looooove sweet red pepper!” – and quickly made her own wrap. And took a big bite. And was happy.

close-up of lettuce wrap
This tasty lettuce wrap isn’t long for this world.

“Success!” I thought, but tried to play it cool. “It’s good, right?” I said.

“Yeah!” she replied as she polished off the last of that wrap and immediately began to make another.

I mean, you’d think this kid had been a big fan of lettuce all along. She devoured several wraps (as did I)…and then we went out for ice cream. ‘Cause I’ll admit, there’s another benefit to dining on lettuce wraps: They tend to be low-fat, leaving plenty of calorie latitude for dessert. (Or so I tell myself, at any rate.)

Now, I’m not so sure that the arugula we’re also growing will go over this smoothly, but we shall see.