Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sneaky Veggies

Do your children eat vegetables?

I don't have kids, but I know a lot of 'em and they all eat some veggies.  A 4-year-old I know loves baby tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, and bell peppers.  Another little boy of the same age is obsessed with salad.  These kids developed a taste for veggies by sitting at the table with their parents and grandparents and eating the same food that adults eat.  Sometimes it took awhile to try a particular vegetable, and sometimes they didn't like it when they tried it, but these kids eat veggies!

So when did it become normal to start sneaking pureed veggies into our kids' food?

A new study done at Penn State (discussed here in the NY Times) fed kids "veggie-enhanced" foods and then asked them to rate the taste.  Turns out most of them found the food palatable and increased their daily vegetable intake as a result of the hidden ingredients.  Does this mean ambitious moms should make pureed sweet potatoes a regular part of their kids' mac n' cheese?

Do you remember when Deceptively Delicious (by Jessica Seinfeld) came out a few years ago, followed by a rush on food processors and blenders?  Since Ms. Seinfeld's chef debut, there have been numerous other books and cooking shows dedicated to deceiving your kids in exchange for the perceived heath benefits of two tablespoons of zucchini.

But here's the thing: when you sneak vegetables into your kids' food, you're teaching them that others are responsible for their food choices, and that lesson has real consequences.  There won't always be a dedicated parent around to blanch and puree hated greens, and in your absence, what guidelines will they have to go on?

Instead, teach your children to enjoy spinach (or any other vegetable) in its own right, then separately help them learn to enjoy a moderate portion of brownie as a treat.  These are both key elements of learning to eat wisely, and that's a skill that will serve them well the rest of their lives.

An estimated 20% of American children are overweight or obese. We absolutely must teach our children to enjoy fruit, veggies, and whole grains, and to take part in their own health and well-being--only then will we start to decrease our soaring rates of adult obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Don't hobble your children by lying to them about their food.  Instead, help them learn how to apply good judgment when they eat, whether it's edamame and jicama or brownies and hot dogs.


  1. I guess some of us can be technically overweight AND healthy? I don't know. I put weight on my thighs and rear, as well as my (ahem) chest. Not on my abdomen. Whenever I've asked doctors if I should lose weight, they've said no. I have very low blood pressure and eat really well, plus walking regularly. /shrugs I don't know. I don't think it's worth it to me to torture myself trying to achieve a certain weight.

    Sorry, this isn't really related to the post, I suppose. It was just something you said in it about a lot of America being overweight. Which is true. I just wonder if maybe being a little bit overweight, if you eat healthfully and take care of yourself, isn't so bad?

  2. Yes Adrasteia, you can not fit the ideal and still be healthy! Sounds like you're doing a great job eating veggies and exercising. Have you heard of Healthy at Every Size? Check it out here :

  3. wow... i really like this post.. Thanks for sharing this..

  4. This is wonderful thanks I'm taking notes for when I write my next post I spoke of my eating all the 5 color groups of fresh organic raw fruits and vegetables at I also have a video of my 5 year old telling me what those 5 groups are lol you have to start them young

  5. Great tips on getting kids to eat veggies. I'll pass this along to my mom so that she can get my baby sister to like them!

  6. Nothing more controversial than hiding veggies in food. I have lots of of older women tell me that they hide veggies in meals so their husbands will eat vegetables!