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Toddler Approved Veggies: Roasted Kale Chips

After months of great skepticism of vegetables, particularly those that are green, BabyC has recently started to be a little more adventurous at mealtime. I think there are a few things going on. For one, we’re getting lots of fresh-from-the-farm veggies from our CSA, and fresh veggies really do taste better. I also think that our no-pressure, child-led yet adult-structured attitude about toddler feeding is starting to pay off. Finally, BabyC may be going through a growth spurt, as she just seems more interested in food in general these days.

I try to be laid-back at mealtime and let BabyC decide what and how much to eat from the food on the table. Still, when she chooses veggies and eats them enthusiastically, it is hard to keep my heart from swelling with pride just a little. This week, I’m going to share 3 veggie recipes that BabyC has been eating with gusto, starting with the biggest hit of all:

Roasted Kale Chips

I know that kale chips have been all the rage of the food blogosphere for a few years now, but I had to include them here. This is pretty much the only way that I’ve seen BabyC eat dark leafy greens, and Husband and I love them, too. If you haven’t tried kale chips yet, now is the time.

Yes, that is my child crying out for kale chips. And yes, I love this photo.

I’ve tested a few kale chips recipes from around the Internet to come up with my own fool-proof method. I use a lower oven temperature, because I have found that a higher temperature can quickly burn an entire batch. I am also a big fan of seasoned rice vinegar – no surprise since it is seasoned with sugar and salt. If sugar on greens seems like sacrilege to you, remember that a little sugar will offset the natural bitterness of the kale and make it more palatable to bitter-averse toddlers and adults alike.

Ingredients:

  • One bunch of kale – I’ve tried both the flat and curly leaf types with great results
  • About 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar (I say “about” because I usually eyeball these ingredients)
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  2. Cut away the tough stem from the kale leaves. Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly. I usually dry in a salad spinner with several spins and a little time to sit on the counter. If any water remains after that process, I dry the leaves manually with a clean towel. Chop the leaves into chip-size pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt to taste. The kale should glisten with this dressing!
  4. Spread kale leaves in a single layer onto 2 cookie sheets. The single layer part is important. If the kale is crowded, it will get soggy rather than crispy.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes. Kale should be crispy but still bright green in color (not burnt) when you pull it from the oven.

Eat and enjoy right out of the oven. Our little family can eat a whole batch of these in one sitting, but they do store well in a ziplock bag at room temperature.

Have you tried kale chips yet? I have yet to meet someone who has and doesn’t like them.

And dear readers, would you please share your family’s favorite veggie recipes here in the comments? Today is my meal planning/food shopping day, and I’m uninspired. Help me!

37 Comments
  1. Just wondering… isn’t this too salty for a toddler? I was recommended to be very careful with salt and babies, so have been avoiding it completely in our cooking, though don’t worry so much whn we are out…

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • I don’t know exactly what the RDA would be for salt, but it is OK for toddlers to have salt in their diets. The idea is to try to use small amounts so they aren’t set up for nutritional failure later in life.

      Like

      August 6, 2012
      • Sorry, there is no RDA, but there is an Upper Level (UL). For children 1-3, the UL for sodium is 1,500mg, according to the USDA.

        Like

        August 6, 2012
    • By 12 months of age, the kidneys are functionally mature, so toddlers can handle salt in similar amounts to adults (relative to total intake). The USDA recommends (as an AI = “Adequate Intake”) about 1 gram of sodium/day for children 1-3 years of age. This is extrapolated from the adult AI of 1.5 g/d based on the fact that kids this age eat fewer calories per day. And as Meghan said below, the upper limit is set at 1.5 g/d. I tend to not worry about these numbers much, though. I don’t use a ton of salt in my cooking – we usually add it at the table by taste. I think that if you add salt this way and don’t eat a lot of processed foods (including fast foods), which are the really big sources of sodium in Western diets, you’ll be fine. If I had hypertension, I might be more careful, but in our family, I’m not concerned about salt.

      That said, you’re right that this is a salty recipe with the inclusion of the seasoned rice vinegar. You could skip the added kosher salt or skip the vinegar or substitute a non-salted vinegar if you prefer less salt. But in general, if salt makes a nutrient-rich food like kale taste better, then I’m all for using it. Nutritionist Ellyn Satter writes in her book “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family:” “It is more important to eat – and enjoy – a variety of nutritious food than it is to restrict salt – or anything else for that matter. Use the salt you need to make your food taste good.” I like her attitude. I also think that many of us start out feeding our babies unsalted foods, which is probably a good thing. Then, when our kids naturally start to get a little more selective, we forget that a little bit of salt or sugar or butter can make all the difference in the world. Don’t be afraid to make your kids’ food taste yummy!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  2. Thank you for all your toddler eating tips as of late. I have a 9 month old that had a rough start. He is g-tube fed with an intense oral aversion from being intubated for 5 months. Getting him to eat or DRINK anything is a sign from God himself. I have been taking your advice on a more laid back approach to ‘refeeding’. We wait until he feels a little hunger pangs between bolus feeds, then we lay out an array of foods and let him ‘play’ while he tastes. This also takes place at the family dinner table during our mealtimes (I think this is extremely important). We are still on thin to medium purees and easily dissolved crakers and cookies so I will just have to make your kale chips recipe for me : ) But we are seeing an improvement in his morale when it comes to sitting with us at the table. He is actually starting to reach for our food and will hold water bottles up to his mouth as if he’s drinking. Actual liquid in his mouth is still a work in progress.

    Thank you for your nutrition and parenting insight!

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • Wow, Kaytee, it does sound like you have some special challenges when it comes to feeding your baby! It sounds like you’re on the right track, though. I think the number one thing we should hope for is that our kids enjoy good food, whether it is pureed or not, and that mealtimes are fun family affairs. I’m sure it isn’t always easy to remain laid back at mealtime with your son, but I agree that it is very important so that he develops a healthy relationship with food. Thanks for sharing your comment and for following my blog!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  3. dnvrmama #

    This recipe for Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas on Allrecipies is my favorite of all time right now. I use wild rice and just give F the filling. I make sure to use no-salt black beans, or make my own in the pressure cooker. We add grated carrots and squash sometimes for an extra helping of nutrients. We leave out the Picante and use either Salsa or Enchilada sauce. I like to think the tomatoes and the black beans are a good combo for vit C & Iron absorption. Maybe you could confirm that for me. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/black-bean-and-rice-enchiladas-2/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=vegetarian%20enchiladas&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • yum! these look great! here is another recipe that is a standard in our house – we also sub quinoa for the cheese inside the enchiladas sometimes if you want a more vegan option. kiddos love it too! http://www.marthastewart.com/351778/vegetable-enchiladas

      Like

      August 6, 2012
      • Yum to both of these! I love enchiladas, and they are a great way to work in both legumes and veggies. Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll add these to my meal plan for the coming weeks. And yes, dnvrmama, I agree that the combo of the beans and tomatoes may improve iron absorption from the beans. I like the way you think!

        Like

        August 6, 2012
    • dnvrmama #

      Yum! Tonight you motivated me to try your recipe for Kale Chips which was different from others I’ve tried. It is a winner – even better than the others. Thank you for sharing!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  4. I took video of the first time my big kids ate kale chips, I was so excited!
    Something we made last week that Sam (our toddler) inhaled: http://smittenkitchen.com/2012/07/31/zucchini-rice-gratin/

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • yum!!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
    • Oh, this is perfect for us this week. I have a ton of zucchini from our CSA and a few tomatoes. We’ll try it and report back! Thanks! (Also, I love Smitten Kitchen, especially now that she’s a mom, too. Totally reliable recipes.)

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  5. mmm…we love kale chips! My toddler loves red & yellow bell peppers, cucumbers and green beans…especially if she gets to help pick them from the yard! She will also eat almost any vegetable if it’s baked on top of a pizza 😉

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • See, BabyC still picks the toppings off of her pizza, so putting veggies on pizza doesn’t really improve their acceptability. She is into cucumbers right now, which is great since they’re in season.

      Like

      August 6, 2012
      • mine too! & sometimes I can get her to dip them in hummus along with some whole chick peas too…she also likes “green” smoothies – have you tried those?

        Like

        August 9, 2012
    • dnvrmama #

      Ha ha! My guy is the same. Anything on pizza or mixed with marinara sauce gets gulped down like there is no tomorrow.

      Like

      August 6, 2012
      • oh ya! I forgot about the beauty of spaghetti sauce – she will dip ANYTHING in it! 😉

        Like

        August 9, 2012
  6. I love kale leaves. It’s not common here in the Philippines as it only grows in cold areas but when I got the chance to taste it in Tagaytay, boy I got hooked!

    I hope that my 11-month old will enjoy this too. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    xx, Iris

    Like

    August 6, 2012
  7. Sharon #

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have never had Kale but hopefully I’ll be able to find some in the stores.

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • Sharon – you should definitely be able to find kale in your grocery store or farmers market. It is pretty cheap and in season now, too!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  8. I don’t have a name for it, but this is an Asian-esque green bean recipe:

    1) Probably about a pound of whole green beans (trimmed)
    2) 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    3) 1 small onion, rough chop
    4) 2-3 tbs peanut oil
    5) 2-3 tbs soy sauce

    I have never actually measured any of this, so I am making my best guess here 🙂

    Saute all of the ingredients together until the beans are cooked through to your liking. This goes well with any grain. I prefer quinoa or cous cous.

    Enjoy!

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • BabyC recently discovered soy sauce (hmm, are you sensing a trend with salt and Asian flavors?), so adding it to any veggie improves it in her eyes. I make something similar with green beans or broccolini. Have you tried adding sesame seeds? Gives a nice crunch and adds some healthy fats. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

      Like

      August 6, 2012
  9. Robin #

    I found the celeriac and gruyere soup last year and it was a huge hit. Even being slightly spoon to mouth challenged I found my LO enjoyed the soup and I also appreciated the addition of a less then common strong cheese. We’re a beyond mozzarella and cheddar family so when I can add funky cheeses I get excited.
    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/10/thick-celeriac-soup-with-gruyere-soup-recipe.html

    Like

    August 6, 2012
    • This looks great. I’m going to print it out for the fall celeriac season. I loved celeriac when we first tried it last year!

      Like

      August 7, 2012
  10. maggie #

    I noticed several times in your postings about foor that your toddler responded well to food when it was interesting. We had the similar experience. Out toddler would eat veggies if they had flavor (she adored curries from about 8 months on). Typical “American” preparations for vegetables for munchkins are often bland as can be, but my Indian friends have no trouble getting their toddlers to eat much more heavily spiced veggies. Might be worth the try, although I have never seen any studies to back it.

    Like

    August 8, 2012
  11. Thank you so very, very much for the kale chip recipe. My vegetable-adverse 13 month old ate one and wanted more! We’ve been trying to have a very laid back approach to eating. I give him whatever we’re having (sometimes softened if need be) and then just let him decide how much to have. Unfortunately, right now, what he eats seems to be mostly cheese/yogurt, fruit, and bread with very little veggies. The lack of veggies is making me anxious (is he getting all the nutrients that he needs? should I push veggies more? what if he doesn’t eat anything then?), so getting a recipe that he’ll eat helps me out as much as him!

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  12. Hmmm… this might just be a GREEN vegetable my son will eat. He loves most vegetables just fine but green ones are a challenge. His favourite right now is grilled corn.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  13. thecoastallivingmom #

    What would you use if you didn’t have seasoned rice vinegar? Plan rice vinegar with salt/sugar? Thanks!

    Like

    August 9, 2012
    • I think any good vinegar would be fine. If you want to try to emulate the seasoned rice vinegar, just add a little sugar. Then I would just salt to taste by hand.

      Like

      August 9, 2012
  14. Lori #

    We made this recipe this week and the kale chips were adored by all in the household. Then we made them again two days later when we babysat an extra toddler. The adults got shafted because the toddlers hogged the kale!

    Like

    September 15, 2012
  15. First, i just want tot say that i love your blog and having been sharing with any and all who will listen how much I consider your work such a resource as a mom! Also, Great recipe! Veggie averse husband,one 2 1/2 yr old and a 1 yr old children enjoyed! We’ve been making smoothies for almost three years now everyday ( which helps to ease my guilt if we don’t manage to get our allotted veggies in). I posted the recipe on my own blog not too long ago! Check it out! http://caitfind.com/tag/smoothie/

    Like

    September 21, 2012

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