Stealth veggies: Yes or no?

by Christina on October 12, 2010

Last week, out with friends at a new restaurant (a place I wrote about here), my 6-year-old ordered chocolate mousse for dessert. Actually, chocolate avocado mousse. But my daughter didn’t know that. She’s a beginning reader and “avocado” is not yet in her repertoire (though “chocolate” is), so I let her order the mousse without mentioning its secret green ingredient.    

Sneaky greens?

Tess has a fickle relationship with avocado. One minute she proclaims guacamole her favorite food or inhales avocado-laced veg sushi. The next she scrunches her nose and declares anything remotely avocado-ish “gross.” Lately it’s been more the latter than the former. Would it have been fortunate if the mere mention of avocado had turned her off the idea of dessert altogether? OK, sure. But scratchmade chocolate mousse is a beautiful thing. Plus, I got to do this:    

Me: “Guess what? There’s something else in that mousse besides chocolate. Something green. Can you believe it?”    

Tess: Stops licking spoon. Looks at me suspiciously. “Green?”    

Me: “Yes, green! It’s actually avocado! Isn’t it cool that you can put avocado in chocolate mousse?”    

Tess: Pauses. Stares at bowl. Resumes licking spoon.    

So maybe all she cared about was the chocolate. But the thing is that I wanted her to know there was avocado in her mousse. I think it’s important that kids know what’s in their food, and that’s especially true when it’s an ingredient they’ve previously waffled on (or not liked at all). I was reminded of this because a fellow blogger, Naveen over at Little Stomaks, posted a Chef Boyardee commercial that blatantly advocates for hiding vegetables. (The commercial also claims that Chef Boyardee is “secretly nutritious.” What now?)     

As I commented there, I’m not a fan of the stealth vegetable (or, in this case, stealth fruit, since technically avocado is a fruit). Sure, put spinach in your brownies or carrots in your pasta sauce, but don’t hide that fact. Tell your kids what’s in their food so they can learn to love vegetables on their merits. Otherwise you send the message that vegetables are something to be endured instead of enjoyed. (You also enable that dreaded picky eater business.)    

But what do you think? Is there really harm in hiding veggies? Can that hinder a child’s ability to appreciate new foods? Or is it no big deal? And, really, do real-life kids ever hate vegetables as much as TV kids?    

On that note, I’ll leave you with one of the Chef Boyardee commercials. Separate from the example Little Stomaks posted, there’s a new series on the company’s website. Here’s the one that annoys me the most:    

A note about videos: Spoonfed has turned into video central lately. We’ve had 11-year-old Birke Baehr’s amazing speech, news about vanishing bees and a discussion about junk food as heroin. And of course a little love from Jamie Oliver. It’s feeling a little like YouTube lately, which is fun for awhile, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. So not to worry. Video-free posts on the way.  

And a note about Jamie Oliver: The Guardian has a terrific article this week about JO, his critics and his crusade for better school food. It’s long, but well worth the read. Candid, salty, spot-on. Love him or hate him (and, frankly, I don’t get the haters), we’d all be better off if more people cared even half as much about what we feed our kids. 

This post is linked into Real Food Wednesdays, Fight Back Fridays, Vegetarian Foodie Fridays and Wholesome Whole Foods.

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{ 4 trackbacks }

Want kids to eat better? Stop calling them “picky eaters.” | Spoonfed
February 23, 2011 at 1:35 am
The Pros and Cons of Hiding Vegetables from Kids | What's Cooking With Kids
May 16, 2011 at 9:01 am
» Hiding Vegetables – Good or Bad?
May 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm
Enough with the kid food | Spoonfed
January 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Milehimama October 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I don’t “hide” veggies in the kids’ food. In fact that Jessica Seinfeld book really annoyed me. I think it’s important to be up front, clear, and honest about food. No one likes to feel tricked. My kids help in the kitchen a lot, any way, though so I’d have a hard time ‘sneaking’ veggies in.

I don’t think kids hate veggies no matter what. My kids are amazing fruit eaters and veggie eaters. Last night my 6 yo was mad because she didn’t get seconds of broccoli/cauliflower (she wasn’t fast enough) (well I did make a cheese sauce for it, LOL). My 3 yo on up know how to peel a carrot or cuke and they are allowed to help themselves at anytime.

Do ALL of my kids love ALL fruits and veggies? No. My 9 yo hates brussels sprouts and cantaloupe. My 12 yo won’t eat bananas (me either). My 11 yo is NOT a lentil fan. My 6 yo detests avocados and guac. But in general they eat tons of veggies, all the time and many of my kids love certain veggies – that same 12 yo loves green beans and will eat them raw. My 9 yo who hates cantaloupe loves peas and eats tomatoes out of hand like an apple. My 8 yo adores brussels sprouts and actually requests them for dinner. They all love artichokes.

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2 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Milehimama, that’s such a simple truth: Just like adults, kids like some things, but not others. In other words, they have palates! Now if only food marketers would get a clue and stop casting veggies as villians.

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3 Karen Renzi October 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

we’ve never made a big deal about veggies with our girls – they just eat them. my 7yo was thrilled to introduce her best friend to her favorite – swiss chard – at her first sleepover. her friend gobbled it up too and her mom asked me how to cook it b/c she’d never had it!

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4 Lauri Boone October 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I’m not a fan of making food “deceptively delicious” or being a “sneaky chef.” We deserve to know what is in the food we eat and how it is made–and so do our kids. To hide ingredients must mean that they are somehow “bad”, or as you stated, “to be endured.” I think if you don’t make a big deal about food, offer a variety of real food, and get your kids in the kitchen helping to prepare food with you, they will learn to appreciate the food and preparation.

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5 Bettina at The Lunch Tray October 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

When I wrote about this on The Lunch Tray (“To Sneak or Not to Sneak? Hiding Healthful Ingredients in Kids’ Food”) I had a very funny quote from the fabulous writer/blogger Catherine Newman about “guerilla nutrition” — http://bit.ly/9Yo3g9. It pretty much summed up my views on the subject.

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6 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Love Catherine Newman. In fact, her essay you quoted is so smart and funny that I’ll provide the link here, so everyone can read it word for word: Stealth Vegetable Smackdown. That piece is two years old, but anyone who wants to keep up with Catherine now can find her here. She’s been a favorite of mine for years, though amazingly I’d never seen her stealth veggie piece until just now. So glad you brought it to my attention. Thanks, Bettina!

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7 Bri October 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Yeah…every time somebody hears that I’m a “healthy” cooking mom and goes “OH! Have you read that JESSICA SEINFELD BOOK? She’s AWESOME, isn’t she?” I want to barf. :-) My thing is: I am not above “sneaking” fruits/vegetables into food — if my children can get extra nutritional value from eating their sandwiches on homemade sweet potato-red pepper bread, I’m cool with that. But most of the time, I’ll tell them. And I ALWAYS serve an identifiable, un-snuck, un-camouflaged fruit and veg along with it. That way my son can get a kick out of grossing out his classmates with his beet muffins, but he still has his kale chips to remind him that vegetables should be a part of your meal in MANY different ways. (And by the way — there’s a recipe on my blog for chocolate-avocado-banana pudding! So psyched to see a choc-avocado mousse talked about here!)

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8 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Bri, suddenly I’m noticing chocolate-avocado recipes everywhere. Must buy avocados now. (Already have the chocolate. I always have chocolate.)

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9 Lori Bricker, MS, RD October 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm

That Chef Boyardee commercial is offensive. It reinforces the belief of some adults that kids won’t like vegetables because vegetables are somehow inherently unlikeable. I think often it is the parents’ own dislike of vegetables that helps create this problem in kids. If the parents view vegetables as something that needs to be eaten only because it is “good for you,” but it’s really a chore to eat them, then of course the kids are going to rebel against it. I’ve seen parents who dislike a particular food pass that on to their kids by saying things like, “Ooh, I hate spinach, you’re not going to eat that are you?” When the poor kid was about to try something new, delicious and nutritious! It sounds like your blog readers have the right idea. How refreshing!

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10 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Lori, you’ve hit on a huge pet peeve (and the subject of an upcoming blog post): telling kids they won’t like certain foods before the kid has even tasted it. Ack! Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

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11 Kira October 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Those commercials offend my sensibilities. I guess open, honest dialogue with your children about what you’re eating is unacceptable? Also, I’ve had the misfortune to taste Chef Boyardee, and I would not willingly consume any of their products, ever again. I don’t know how it can be considered “food”; I spit it out!

On a related note (and I know you made mention of this in another post) I saw a billboard on my travels over the weekend with a picture of a baby carrot and the words “Eat Them Like Junk Food”. I can’t help but feel disappointed that this is the type of marketing that we’re being subjected to nowadays.

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12 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Tasting Chef Boyardee and being accosted by a giant junk-food carrot. Sounds like you need a kale intervention.

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13 Amy Prince October 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Before I had kids, I thought the idea of hiding veggies was insane. But then my son, who ate tons of veggies until about 15 months, turned on them. He spends a ton of time with me in the kitchen and sees what I cook with. He knows the names of tons of fruits and veggies just because he sees them in our house. I do slip things in here and there, and I don’t feel terrible about it. But I also tell him what’s in his food if he asks. Here’s the thing I have to constantly remind myself: Getting fruits and veggies into our kids’ diet does not just happen at the dinner table. It has to be a part of life. So, we read books about food and discuss them. I let my kid have the time of his life picking sugar snap peas out of the shell, and don’t get upset if he doesn’t eat them. I let my son say that he doesn’t like raspberries when he’s sitting at the table and pull a vine down to his reach so he can pluck a few ripe berries to eat in our backyard.

My kid is picky, no doubt. But slowly, I’m learning that if the stuff is just a routine part of our lives, it will come to him naturally, in time. I think the real shame is never having fresh fruits and veggies on your countertop or within the kids’ reach. And putting them on the dinner table in a form that is recognizable to them is crucially important, too.

The commercial that gets me is that V8 Splash commercial where the boys just play with the veggies, and it suggests that it’s fine because someone’s mom packed him a fruit/veggie drink. And there’s another hideous one about adults — can’t remember the product name, but it suggests that eating real fruit on the go is too messy, so a fruity drink is the better choice. This just shows how far removed we are from the way nature intended us to eat.

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14 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Beautifully said, Amy. It’s so true that food appreciation comes through living life, enjoying nature, and experiencing food in all its forms and settings.

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15 Bettina at The Lunch Tray October 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Amy:

My son was EXACTLY the same way — all good with the veggies until about two, and then adamantly opposed for no apparent reason, in a house that is full of enthusiastic veggie eaters. I’m a devotee of Ellyn Satter, so I tried very hard not to make a fuss about it, but inside I despaired for six long years. Then – miracle of miracles — things started to (slowly) change. You can read about it here: http://bit.ly/dwpIFh

Bettina

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16 TwinToddlersDad October 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I really enjoyed your post! In fact it gave me an idea – telling kids about what is in their food, including “hidden” fruits and veggies, is a very good way to get them to pay attention to what they eat. Kids are curious by nature and teaching them about ingredients is likely to get them interested in food. I wonder what must have gone through your little one’s head as she tried to reconcile the “green” avocado inside the chocolate mousse! What a wonderful story.

When hide something with the intention of accomplishing something by deception, as shown in these ads, it is plain wrong. I hope parents don’t fall for these ads – this is very poor taste!

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17 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Thanks, TwinToddlersDad (aka Little Stomaks blogger). So glad you enjoyed the story. And thanks for posting about those commercials in the first place!

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18 jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal October 13, 2010 at 9:42 am

veggie haters are really out there, their parents comment on my blog and facebook page all the time. it’s hard for those of us who have the gift of offering real food in way that kids relate to so they will eat most of it to realize, but yes, veggie haters are out there. not everyone thinks “picky eater” is a moniker that has no place at the table, not every parent likes veggies so when their kids don’t prefer them, they accept that. some parents don’t know how to cook veggies, others don’t think they have time to buy fresh, and as convenience food often has stealthy fruit and veggies in it, then convenient veggies are the only ones the kids know how to eat. when their universe supports the theory that kids don’t like vegetables, they don’t learn to eat them.

personally i believe that most kids can be taught to enjoy veggies (another other wholesome food). many need different guidance than what they currently get from tv, the lunchroom menu, vending machines, parents, birthday party fare and peers. they need someone to have confidence in their ability to enjoy wholesome nutrient dense food.

when parents believe their kids can like vegetables, their kids will like vegetables. why do we have confidence our kids can learn to read and write, learn advanced chemistry, apply themselves to get a college degree? if kids can do all that, why is it such a stretch that kids can learn to like vegetables and other real food. kids can learn anything. it’s sad that what many are learning now is that veggies don’t taste good and have to be hidden in other food to be palatable.

great post, thanks for sharing!

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19 Christina October 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Excellent point, Jenna. Most parents assume their kids will learn to read, write, tie their shoes or ride a bike, even if those things take lots of time and practice. Yet they throw up their hands when it comes to food.

I’m sure some people would say that’s because a kid has to eat (if not that very second, then soon), whereas all those other things can wait. But it’s crazy-making how readily people give up, or don’t even try in the first place.

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20 Amy October 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with “hiding” a pureed veggie here and there, as long as you are also providing unprocessed and unhidden options on a daily basis and teaching valuable life lessons about food. Sometimes, it can add flavor and bulk to an otherwise plain dish. Like the couscous I made with pureed yellow squash and carrot…YUM!

Confession-my kids eat boxed mac and cheese on occassion. Totally horrid stuff, but it is what it is. It’s ALWAYS served with a green vegetable but I’ve been known to blend some pureed carrot or butternut squash in there, just get a bit more nutrition into an otherwise nutritionless food. They have played an active role at my in laws farm, planting and harvesting vegetables. They have picked fruits and eat them with abandon (most of the time). I feel that as long as they have a good role model in me (see below), have exposure to the natural growth cycle of food and that we have conversations about food (healthy versus unhealthy) then sneaking on occassion isn’t “deceptive”.

I do have that Deceptively Delicious book and while I think she has some good ideas (putting out raw veggies/fruit before dinner to curb the munchies) I don’t support putting together an entire eating plan based on sneaking fruit and veggie purees into all of the food that is served. I actually made three of her recipes this week (mainly out of guilt from never using the book, which was a gift from my mother in law) but they were incorporated into a week of other types of food-most of which didn’t have purees in them. I’m okay with adding a bit more nutrition to something that I KNOW they’ll eat because, like most children, they go through phases where they reject food that they couldn’t get enough of the day before.

Truth be told, I actually do more of the “stealth veggie adding” for my husband and not my children. His diet makes me ill and he can go DAYS without consuming something fresh/unprocessed and really doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve snuck stuff into pasta dishes/lasagnas/stews/soups (things he’ll eat) just so that his body will get some of the vitamins/nutrients that it so desperately needs. I’ve tried (although not with much success) some of Jessica Seinfeld’s desserts to see if he would eat a brownie with spinach in it just to get him over the pyschological hurdle of eating something green. Didn’t work. :-)

My biggest issue with those Chef Boyardee ads is the same issue I have with so many advertisements out there…the promise of a “quick fix” or result without a lot of effort. Those ads are aimed towards parents that want to feel better about feeding their kids such junk. It’s kind of like saying to them “if you’re not going to do the work to inform kids about the value of nutrition and then give it to them, don’t worry because by feeding them OUR product, you can give yourself a break and not feel guilty because they’re getting veggies”. McDonald’s did the same thing with their “new and healthy” Happy Meals. Offering white meat chicken deep fried in gunk doesn’t raise the nutritional value of the chicken. Offering apple slices with caramel dipping sauce doesn’t give children the taste of naturally sweet apples. Rather it implies that there is something wrong with the undipped product. Yet, so many parents take their kids there on a regular basis and “feel good” about their food choices because of a very effective marketing campaign. In my opinon, it’s the same as the marketing done towards the parents of newborns…the ones that say if you don’t buy *this* product, your child will be unsafe/left behind/not as bright as their peers. Fear mongering at it’s worst.

Another great article Christina! Keep up the good work!

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21 Christina October 14, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Wow, Amy, such an insightful comment. Your approach is a far cry from the deceptive-sneaky model. I mean, just because a veg is an ingredient in a dish doesn’t mean you’re trying to pull a fast one. I put all kinds of things in my daughter’s smoothies that aren’t visible in the finished drink, but that’s just part of making food. (Plus she knows what’s in there even if she can’t see it.)

And you are so right about the advertising. Marketers can’t sell quick fixes without also figuring out some way to assuage the guilt. Sad results all around.

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22 Jen October 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

Great topic! I also waver on this one. I do want my children to eat and enjoy veggies. (They love fruit…I never have to hide it, but I’m amazed by my friends who tell me they don with their kids.) On the whole, I feel like I’ve done a good job — my 2 yo ate up kale with dinner last night like she’d never have it again. But on the other hand, I do like to get in EXTRA veggies by stealthily infusing them into popular dishes. I grated up lots of carrots and spinach and threw them into my turkey meatloadf last night. I also grate up and lightly saute yellow squash and make “yellow rice.” My kids would normally not eat squash…but love the yellow rice. So I think as long as we are doing it mindfully, hiding veggies isn’t the end of the world.

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23 Christina October 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Well, I put squash and spinach and all the rest in as much food as I can simply to use up our gigantic CSA share. So there’s that.

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24 Kira October 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Enjoy finding ways to use up your ridiculous load of peppers this week…

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25 Christina October 15, 2010 at 12:43 am

Yeah, thanks a lot for that, Mud Creek.

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26 Bri October 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

Make the veggie bread that’s on my blog! You can add more peppers to the recipe if you want, and it freezes really well. :-)

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27 The Yummy Mummy October 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Christina –

Okay, I may be the lone dissenter on this one….

I thought this commercial was very funny. As did my husband. I read it a certain way – not that there was a message that hiding veggies is good – but more that parents are walking on fragile turf when it comes to getting kids to eat.

I mean, I’ve been there, waiting to see if Edie will or will not put the meat in her mouth and swallow. I’ve quieted Lucy when I know she’s going to tell her sister something is gross and I know once she says it, the meal is over, the partially chewed-up food will come tumbling out of her mouth back onto the plate. I feel like the commercial just taps into that anxiety and makes fun of it. Even though I’m not a veggie hider, by any means, I saw a bit of myself in the women in the chairs.

That said, I’m feeling like making healthy claims about pasta in a can is stretching the truth pretty far. That seems more problematic than anything. Although, Chef Boy R Dee was my lunch of choice when I was a kid. So funny, that my kids don’t even know that it exists.

Thanks for posting this. I do love the debate and discussion.

Kim

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28 Christina October 15, 2010 at 10:21 am

I dunno, Kim. I don’t know you IRL, but I have a hard time seeing you as one of those moms! I do see your point, though, about fragile turf. And you handle that topic so deftly and compassionately on your blog. I’m just sooo tired of people dumbing things down for kids, especially when it comes to food.

Now, it’s entirely possible that my ability to see the humor is tainted by the fact that we’re talking about Chef Boyardee. I’d probably be a little more forgiving if the commercial came from a company that didn’t so blatantly try to pass off crap-in-a-can as a secret source of good nutrition.

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29 The Yummy Mummy October 15, 2010 at 10:48 am

Okay, I’m probably not one of those lawn chair moms. I think the sarcasm melded with my lame sense of humor. That whole “I’m watching you” hand gesturing made me fall out laughing.

Anyway, humor aside, we really are on the same page. I hate the dumbing things down issues that come up with kids and food in the media, and yes, that stuff is definitely “crap in a can”.

You go, girl. This stuff is FUN!

Kim

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30 Christina October 15, 2010 at 10:53 am

OK, the hand gesture might have been a little funny.

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31 Monica October 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I am not sure how I feel about hiding healthy food…I think if a child is definitely unwilling to eat their fruits and veggies, it might be a good tactic. But as they grow up, I agree that they should want to eat the food by itself, standing alone and enjoy it from its own merits.

I also wonder, perhaps I don’t know all the facts which I probably don’t, but say if a brownie contained 2 hidden servings of veggies, would the sugar/fat content rule out the veggies servings? Deeming the stealthiness useless because there is more fat/sugar?

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32 Christina October 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Monica, that’s one of the points Catherine Newman makes in her very funny essay on this subject. She says something about Thumbelina-sized portions of puree and how it’s kind of a joke to think kids are getting much nutrition that way. And, really, if you’re going to eat a brownie, then just enjoy the brownie.

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33 Dana June 6, 2011 at 2:01 am

You need fat in your diet. Fat is required for the formation of cell membranes and hormones, aids in fertility, and keeps the skin supple and younger looking. It is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. And studies have found that the more fiber you eat in your diet relative to the amount of fat you eat, the less calcium you will absorb and, presumably, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.

There are people out there getting 70 percent of their calories from fat and they are healthy as horses.

Butter in a brownie would be a selling point to me. Ditto for coconut oil. I’ve no use for canola, which might as well be liquid plastic. Soybean oil can be destructive to the thyroid (as virtually all soy foods are).

It amazes me, with everything I’ve learned, that the focus with healthy eating is so often centered upon fruits and vegetables. For a confirmed picky eater who refuses to touch animal fats or liver, fruits and veggies have a certain role–they contain micronutrients you should have been getting from organ meats. But the minerals are not as easily absorbed, and the vitamins are not always in their best form. I’m given to understand based on the sources I’ve read that as many as 40 to 50% of the population can’t convert enough beta carotene to use it as their only vitamin A source. Yet, many do use it that way. Hasn’t anyone found it odd that so many people need Lasik surgery now? Or that urinary tract defects are the most common class of birth defects in the United States? The development of the urinary tract is governed in part by vitamin A. So’s external symmetry–how many people with crooked faces do you run into nowadays? I’ve got one.

They’re telling pregnant women not to eat liver. Good lord.

I hate liver. And I’m starting to look for recipes that incorporate it in a way that makes it palatable to me because you know something? Whether I sneak it into meatloaf or eat it sauteed with onions (OMG EW, I hate those too), it’s going to have the same nutritional profile either way, or close enough to count. Who cares whether I *suffer* through it or not? It’s all a matter of opinion as to how these foods should be prepared and eaten. Did you know coffee beans used to be eaten instead of made into a drink? True story. Coffee beans are actually edible roasted, as any aficionado of chocolate-covered espresso beans will tell you. Most of us, though, consume them as a drink brewed through the ground beans. Is that wrong? Of course not. Is eating them wrong? Of course not. Are you going to get your caffeine either way? You bet you will.

You’re going to show your kids how to cook anyway, right? So the veggies are your special secret ingredients that make your foods taste better than anybody else’s. Big deal. Most of us don’t teach our kids to cook at age three (though if you want to start trying then, I sure won’t judge you–some kids just have the ability that early), so there’s no reason to share all our ingredient secrets with them either, until they’re ready to hear it.

It doesn’t matter. Their bodies are not going to obligingly wait to need those nutrients until you can force them to eat veggies in (to them) unappetizing ways. Just get it into their meals and worry about the fine print later.

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34 Christina June 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Dana, that’s an interesting point about picking the right time to share ingredient “secrets” with kids. I lean toward full and early disclosure, since kids start identifying foods at an early age. So it’s pretty easy to educate them about ingredients long before they get the concept of cooking.

(BTW: Chocolate-covered espresso beans? Now you’re talking my language.)

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35 Michelle (What's Cooking) October 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

This ad made my skin crawl. Since I make my living by being honest with kids and their families about food, the concept of sneaking simply makes me sad. I love that parents want their kids to eat better – and am thrilled that they are adding veggies to their kids food. But what I don’t like is when they lie about it and pretend it’s not happening. It’s hard to imagine that a child who is encouraged to eat (spinach) brownies will show any restraint when regular brownies are at a party or a friend’s house. “Mom loves it when I eat brownies, so I’ll eat a few more…” Talk about teaching balance and moderation. Ugh.
By including the kids in the process, parents take advantage of what we teachers call “teachable moments.” They can teach their children about chemical additives, real ingredients, pollution, packaging, flavors, cultures, math, etc…But by shooing them out of the kitchen so they don’t see what is really in their food, they are missing out on so much with their children. No, my kids don’t love veggies. But they are working on it and we learn a lot and celebrate the seasons, flavors and health benefits along the way.

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36 Christina October 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Michelle, such a good point about how being sneaky makes it difficult to cook with your kids. What do people do? Distract junior while they slip carrots in the casserole? Or just not cook with their kids around? Either way it’s a lost opportunity.

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37 Melodie October 16, 2010 at 10:41 pm

When I first heard of Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook I thought it was a great idea. Not for me, my kids actually like veggies, but for other parents whose kids are more picky. But I do agree with you that it is important to tell our kids what they are actually eating. It reminds me of the time when I was a teenager I first made my now infamous vegan pumpkin pie and after my step dad finished it I told him he’s just eaten tofu. He was quite perplexed about how to respond (he who refused to ever even try it) but he loved it. I don’t eat a lot of tofu these days but I still remember that moment with fondness. Hey, but at least I told him what he’d just eaten!

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38 Christina October 20, 2010 at 11:13 am

Melodie, that’s my favorite part of telling my daughter (or anyone) what’s in a dish. That look on their face when they realize, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge…

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39 Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm

What a great post. I’m going to have to try to find a recipe for the chocolate avocado mousse.

My son is not averse to vegetables, but he is averse to certain textures, which makes it very difficult to get him to eat enough fruits and vegetables. He will, however, happily and knowingly eat them as long as the texture is changed/masked.

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40 Bri October 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Annie — I’ve got a recipe for chocolate-banana-avocado pudding on my blog. http://redroundorgreen.wordpress.com/recipes

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41 Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Thanks! You have some great recipes on that page.

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42 Bri October 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

*Blush* You’re too kind! Hope you enjoy it.

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43 Christina October 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

Annie, it’s great you tell your son what he’s eating even though you need to prepare the fruits/vegetables in a way that might make them unrecognizable. It would be so easy to puree it all up and label it with some goofy name.

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44 Christina October 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

Annie, after we had the mousse, I went looking for a recipe, too. Haven’t made it yet, but this one looks great to me: http://sweetandnatural.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/chocolate-avocado-mousse/

I like that it uses dates, and that it doesn’t have soy or added sugar. Now I just need to try it.

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45 Michelle (Health Food Lover) October 18, 2010 at 7:31 am

I definitely think it is much more positive, long term, if you tell kids what’s in their food otherwise how will they learn? Not telling them will make fear the “unwanted” veggies even more and as well all know, kids do need vegetables for nourishment!

Though I’m not a mother, I have babysat many kids and have met many who love cooking and eating healthily! The ones that do, are often taught to cook and eat healthily from an early age, I think that’s really the key.

There is a really good book called ‘Don’t Tell Them It’s Healthy’ by Karen Fischer (she’s an Aussie Nutritionist). It teaches parents how to go about teaching their children about healthy eating. The reason it’s called ‘Don’t tell them it’s healthy’, its because to kids, calling food ‘healthy’ doesn’t really appeal to them. Karen says, to encourage kids to eat certain foods, tell them benefits that will appeal to them (depending on age). Such as “It will you make you jump faster” for young children or a certain smoothie or food is a “beauty food” for teenagers. The book also drives home the need to keep giving a certain food to kids so they get used to it and also to be upfront about the fruit or vegetable your giving to them. Anyway I just really like that book!

That video is frustrating…as if a parent would shun a child for knowing there is veggies in their food! So silly!

Every week I babysit my little nephews…I try to give them healthier foods when I can because they are sick a lot. I give the elder one (with his mums permission) vitamin C tablets and call them lollies (maybe not the best thing to call them lollies, but he doesn’t know what vitamin C is). one time I gave one of them a green smoothie and he loved it! A week ago I made banana and peanut butter ice cream and gave a little bit to both of them and they really loved that too! (The ice cream only contained organic frozen & blended bananas and organic peanut butter).

Great post Christina, keep up the good work! Thanks for linking up to Wholesome Whole Foods. :)

~Michelle

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46 Christina October 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the book recommendation, Michelle. I’ll have to look that up. We try to focus on taste more than anything else. I want my daughter to realize that real food just plain tastes better.

Thanks also for mentioning the frozen-banana ice cream. I’ve been meaning to try that ever since I saw the technique on someone’s blog (perhaps yours?). Think I’ll add some cocoa powder, too. Yum.

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47 summerbl4ck October 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm

This is something I wrestle with all the time. My 5 yo is definitely not in the happy veggie category. I guess I just wanted to say that it’s not as easy as you might think. Believe me, I’ve been trying everything I can think of, including trying to add veggies to other dishes. Faced with a very willful little one, I try to be persistent, but I also don’t want every dinner to be a battleground. I don’t consider it “hiding” but it’s just another ingredient. I guess I like to keep my options open.

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48 Christina October 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Summer, I think you hit on a key difference when you said you consider the veggies just another ingredient. We all do that! And my 6-year-old can be stubborn as a mule. Tonight she kept telling me how “yucky” dinner was, a dish she should have loved (whole-grain flatbread topped with parmesan, feta, roasted tomatoes and kale — basically just fancy pizza). I got so fed up I wanted to get up and give her a bowl of granola just to make it stop. Turns out she was very tired (and ended up going to bed early, without eating anything else), so that almost certainly played a part. But it’s never fun facing down a stubborn, hungry child. So, yes, options are a good thing.

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49 Alicia November 10, 2010 at 11:15 am

I seem to recall when Jessica Seinfelds book came out, she was on the talk shows and saying the she does serve veggies along with the other foods she made that included the sneaky veggies. I don’t think there’s any need to hide the fact that the foods contain veggies. Some veggies we eat by themselves, and some are ingredients. Nothing wrong with putting in some extras, and as the kids get older, teach them how you make those foods. I haven’t bought that book, but I do find myself adding spinach and zucchini to meatloaf , pasta sauce and such – why not?

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50 Karen June 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

Christina,
I just came across your blog and just LOVE it! We seem to share the same attitudes and beliefs when it comes to eating (and feeding your children). I wrote a post on this same topic a while ago because it just got under my skin seeing all the sneaking going on. Keep up the great writing!

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51 Christina June 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Karen, always nice to find a kindred spirit. Signed: Yours in anti-stealth.

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