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Is Hiding Veggies Okay?

By: Kristen Yarker ()

A question that parents ask me all the time:

“What do you think about sneaking in vegetables? Is hiding veggies okay?”

Most parents who ask me this question do so with a sheepish look in their faces. They’re expecting me to scold them for being bad parents and tell them that it’s a horrible idea. However, my answer isn’t a simple – “good” or “bad”. Here are the details.

Studies show that kids do eat more servings of vegetables in families where they add shredded or pureed vegetables to dishes. Also, most of us could use to eat more veggies. So exploring new dishes that include veggies is a fantastic idea. Go ahead, incorporate more vegetables into your eating habits!

However, if you are going to use this technique, there are two very important steps to take to make sure that you are both helping your child eat more veggies now AND helping teach them to choose to eat vegetables as a lifelong habit. (And, not inadvertently creating an even pickier eater).

Important Step #1 When Hiding Veggies:

If all you’re serving your child is mac and cheese (with hidden squash) and chocolate cake (with hidden beets), all they’re learning is to eat mac and cheese and chocolate cake. You may know that there’s squash in the mac and cheese and beets in the cake, but your child doesn’t. If you choose to sneak in veggies, also be sure to serve obvious veggies too. For example, serve steamed broccoli on the side of that mac and cheese. Even if your child doesn’t eat the obvious veggies, you’re role modeling choosing to eat vegetables – an important lesson for life-long healthy eating habits.  

Important Step #2 When Hiding Veggies:

Don’t deny that there are veggies in a dish if your child asks. One book I read recommended waking up in the middle of the night to prepare your purees and freeze them so that you can sneak them into dishes without your kids seeing you. Not what I recommend. First, I want you to get every hour of precious sleep that you can get. Second, picky kids are smart and pay close attention to detail. They’re also little conspiracy theorists about food. They will figure out that you’ve been hiding veggies in your dishes. Then, they’ll wonder what else you’ve been hiding and will become even more suspicious of their food. Not the path you want to head down. Don’t deny what you’ve put in a dish. At the same time, you aren’t a waiter at a two Michelin star restaurant. You don’t need to describe every ingredient and every step that you took to prepare each dish. In other words, you don’t need to divulge what’s in a dish, but don’t deny what’s in it either. If your child asks, answer them directly in a neutral, matter of fact tone.    

Looking for tasty recipes that include hidden veggies? There are a number of recipes here at Love Child Organics, such as these Superfood-Loaded Beef Tacos. For other recipe ideas to sneak those veggies in, check out the Love Child cookbook It All Begins With Food.

‌About Kristen

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Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps moms and dads support your picky kids to get good nutrition today, and instill a lifelong love of healthy eating.
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