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El Monte's Iron Man Salad

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Our Healthy Schools Program Gold Award Winner, Dr. Robert Lewis from El Monte, CA school district, shares his students’ favorite recipe along with a funny story on how it came to be … From Popeye to Iron Man. “One day, a couple of years ago, my nutrition staff and I were conducting taste tests for a group of third graders. My registered dietitians wanted to bring back to the school menu a green spinach salad topped with tuna. We expounded upon the great taste and rich minerals and vitamins in the salad. I told the youngsters that the salad was named after Popeye because he loves to eat spinach. The third graders stared at me blankly. Finally, one student raised his hand and said, "Who's Popeye?" Suddenly, I realized that I was old! I said, "You know ... Popeye." I did my best at a typical Popeye muscle pose. Again, nothing. So I said, "How about Olive Oil and Sweet Pea? You know them, right?" A little girl raised her hand and asked me if those were ingredients in the salad. I regretfully said, 'No." I never felt so out of touch. A whole generation who did not know Popeye. So I thought, "What is in the salad? What can we relate to kids?" I told the kids that the salad did have tuna and spinach as main ingredients, and that spinach was good for you because it contained lots of iron. A boy in the back of the room shouted out, "Then why don't you just call it the Iron Man Salad?" I said, "Kid, I think you have a career in marketing ahead of you!" Of course that was followed by the obvious question, "What's marketing?" I said, "Come see me in fifteen years and I'll put you to work." Anyway, the third graders ate up the salad samples. My team and I renamed the salad and the “Iron Man Salad” became a big hit on the school menu. And we still serve it to this day.


  1. Wash produce.
  2. Place salad greens in container and place tomatoes, carrots and tuna salad on top of greens.
  3. Serve pre-portioned dressing on side.

CCP: Refrigerate until served.

Additional Serving Suggestions

1/2 c. tuna = 2 M/MA; 1 c. Romaine lettuce = 1/2 cup dark green vegetable

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Makes 1 serving

  • 1 cup spinach, raw
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
  • ¼ cup tomatoes
  • 1/8 cup carrots, raw, shredded
  • ½ cup tuna salad (see "pair with" recipe)
  • 1oz popeye dressing (see "pair with" recipe)