Don’t Hide Those Veggies!

Five Reasons the Deceptively Delicious Plan May Backfire and Turn Your Kids into Even Pickier Eaters

It’s a theory that many frustrated parents may find attractive: If the kids refuse to eat spinach, broccoli, squash and other vegetables that are good for them, just pulverize them in a food processor and stir the puree into favorite dishes, like pastas and cookies. Neat trick, right? Children get the needed nutrients from the vegetables without having to “endure” the taste of them.

But is there a downside to this method? Yes, if you want to your kids to learn to enjoy food and set them on the course for a lifetime of healthful eating! "Sneaking it in” may in fact have the opposite effect.

Here are five reasons why:

1. There is nothing wrong with the taste of a pea! Or a Brussels sprout, or a green bean. It is far preferable in the long run to reach your kids to appreciate the varying flavors in vegetables. They may not all be favorites, but with some work and persistence on your part, children can learn to like most foods, at least well enough.

2. “But Mom, you said brownies are good for you!” Oops. You snuck the spinach into brownies you made at home, and the kids ate them with abandon. A week later, they’re at a friend’s house or pass by a bakery window and want to go crazy on brownies again. Now what do you do?

3. Food = Love = Trust When we make meals for our kids, we are giving them more than food and nourishment. We are giving them a piece of ourselves and a tangible sign of our love. This is why we have such strong psychological reactions when we think of Grandma’s turkey stuffing recipe, or the birthday cake a favorite aunt always made. “Deceiving” kids when it comes to food plays with their little minds.

4. The Easy Way is Not Always the Best Way Sure, “sneaking it in” may be a quick fix, but it’s a short-term solution that may actually set up a longer-term problem. If parenting is all about the big picture – an 18-year- work-in-progress – then cutting corners like this is not only unnecessary, it’s detrimental to the final outcome. Better to take your time to work a child through the “NO GREENS!” phase, and to sit through a few unpleasant nights at the dinner table, than to resort to a gimmick.

5. Desserts Do Not Taste Like Vegetables!

If you’re going to make pancakes, make the best pancakes you possibly can. Same with pasta dishes, soups, cakes, casseroles and everything else that comes from your kitchen. A gratuitous helping of green bean or squash puree is probably not the best added ingredient to achieve this. Teach your kids to enjoy a small portion of tasty rich foods, and to be discriminating about the quality.

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