Hide the Veggies?

I like a good practical joke, but, I’m pretty sure if someone messed with my food they’d wake up with a knot on their forehead. Now, in the spirit of Halloween, this article from The New York Times is all about tricking kids into eating healthy food. More from the Well blog:
Cookbooks that teach parents how to hide veggies in food have hit the best-seller lists. But is tricking your kids into eating vegetables really a good idea?

“Deceptively Delicious,” by celebrity wife Jessica Seinfeld, and “The Sneaky Chef,” by Missy Chase Lapine, both offer similar advice about secretly slipping veggies into meals. Both books suggest that parents purée healthy foods like spinach, cauliflower and sweet potatoes and hide them in kid foods like macaroni and cheese or brownies…

….Susan Roberts, director of the energy metabolism laboratory at Tufts University, says parents should aim to improve the quality of the food they serve their kids — making lasagne with vegetables and wholewheat pasta, for instance. But parents shouldn’t give up on serving plain and simple vegetables, even if they have already added pureed cauliflower to the mac and cheese.

“The point of burying veggies in foods, in my view, is not to cram in veggies secretly, but to make recipes healthier so that there isn’t such a huge metabolic difference between indulgent treats and vegetables,'’ said Dr. Roberts.
Honestly, this approach means well, but come on! Is this reliable? I’d say it’s a ridiculous waste of time. Instead, teach kids the joy of eating healthfully. Dr. Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child is all about this sort of thing. Here’s a snippet:
Parents are entrusted with the responsibility of securing the selection of healthy foods for the family and preparing the food in a way that makes it desirable. Children are responsible for deciding how much they eat. If they are in an environmental of healthful foods they will have no problem regulating variety and timing. They can choose what they eat, when they eat, and if they will eat. Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Don’t offer a treat because the child was good or ate well. Offer healthy treats as part of the normal well-balanced diet.

No rules only for children. If the parents are not willing to follow the rules set for the house, they should not be imposed on the children. Don’t argue about what your children should and shouldn’t be eating; discuss this in private. As parents, we must be consistent, but not perfect. Likewise, it is okay for the children to be consistent, but not perfect either. For example, if the parents decide that an unhealthy food or a restaurant meal is acceptable for the children once per week, then that goes for the adults, too. Setting an example supported by both parents is the most important and most effective way for your children to develop a healthy attitude toward food.
Actually, Robin Quivers from The Howard Stern show touched on this a couple weeks ago and she also thought it was a total waste or time. And Robin would know! She recently took charge of her life and adopted a health-promoting vegetable-based diet. Congratulations Robin!
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Kirsten - October 30, 2007 3:30 PM

"Don't use food as a reward or punishment. Don't offer a treat because the child was good or ate well."

My 4 year old will often ask for _beans_ as a dessert. If he could, I think he would eat plain beans and fruit all the time.
It seems to me that one of the benefits to "sneaking" veggies or other goodies (greens in smoothies, pureed greens in soups, seeds in nut butter) in meals is to help kids develop the range of their taste and flavor acceptance.
For the most part, I just feed the kids what I feed them and don't sneak around. They're young, though, so they don't know any different and don't tend to observe the cooking process. We DO have to bend the truth a little for the 4 year old about chili peppers--he doesn't like spiciness he claims, but will eat most dishes as long as he doesn't KNOW how many peppers are in it!

Wendy - December 5, 2009 12:42 PM

Why will children eat pureed baby food when they are young and then not eat the actual vegetable when they are older? If I didn't have this problem, I wouldn't have to hide the veggies. They get regular servings along with the hidden ones.

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