Kids and Veggies

A few weeks ago I ran a guest post from Katie about raising good eaters. This post created an interesting discussion in the comments about hiding veggies in your kids’ food. This technique while not new, is currently generating debate, thanks in part to cookbooks such as Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef.

Yesterday afternoon I sent out this tweet.

Kids and Veggies…. do you hide veggies in your kids’ food?

I received the following responses.

BetterisLittle@HappyHousewife No not really. =) Other than the occasional zucchini bread or such. Pretty much they’ll eat veggies w/out much coercion.
Lynn Wallslynnskitchenadv@HappyHousewife Nope, I am not into the whole hiding thing. We have given our kids veggies since all along.They are used to them 🙂
January ElleJanuaryelle@HappyHousewife I have done the Sneaky Chef hiding veggies thing in my kids food.

Jennifer Wilsonstarxlr8@HappyHousewife I hide veggies in my husband’s food!
eorangeflowersIcon_lock@HappyHousewife No never tried that with my kids.

Miss Jocelynaponderingheart@HappyHousewife nope, our kids like veggies.
Upstatemomof3Upstatemomof3@HappyHousewife nope – my kids LOVE salad – but they don’t really eat cooked veggies I am okay with that

earth momearthmom22@HappyHousewife No, because I want them to learn how wonderful real veggies are, not eat them without knowing.
highandnoble@HappyHousewife Nope, I make them eat ’em straight up. I tell them all the wonderful nutrition God made in them 🙂

Ann GilchristannNow@HappyHousewife *Absolutely* hide veggies in food, while serving them, also. I do not require their being eaten. Usually try eventually.

Courtney Fostercookingupfamily@HappyHousewife not yet, i want my daughter to know she is eating them. we will see if she ever tries to go on a strike.
Amanda McKeeladyevelyn@HappyHousewife Yes! I sneak them in for my husband too =)

In my opinion hiding veggies in food is not the worst thing you can do to your children. But, if that is the only way your children eat vegetables there might be a problem. For our family, I put veggies in food, but I do not hide them. When I make smoothies, my children see me shove a carrot or handful of spinach in the Vita-Mix. The help me shred vegetables for meatloaf or pasta. I like to add chopped, shredded or pureed veggies to foods because it gives my kids an extra serving of vegetables.

One of my favorite veggie recipes is spinach pizza. I take frozen spinach, let it thaw, press it between two towels to get rid of the excess water, and then chop it in the Vita-Mix (you could also chop in the food processor). I then add the chopped spinach to my pizza dough. Just add the spinach before you add the flour and decrease your liquid a tad because the spinach is a bit watery.

Your pizza dough turns a fun shade of green, which for kids seems to be a real treat!

I do think it is important for children to eat veggies and fruit separate from other foods. I realize not every child will love every food, but I continue to offer them healthy choices and they have all learned to eat a variety of foods. I am not opposed to a little bribery when it comes to food either. Last summer I paid my kids to try new fruits and veggies. They received a quarter for each new food they tried. As crazy as this idea sounds it actually worked. I used money as a motivator for them to try something new. I realize I could have used my parental authority and asked them to try new things but the money gave them a choice. If they tried it they got paid, it was their decision. Most of my kids found several new fruits and veggies that they liked thanks to my system.

If you have a reluctant eater do not give up.  Last summer no one liked blueberries. This year several kids decided they loved frozen blueberries mixed with cool whip. One even said it tasted as good as ice cream. Just because a child dislikes a vegetable once does not mean they will dislike it forever. Tastes change.

Finally, be willing to accept the fact that your kids just don’t like certain things.  I know as an adult there are some foods I would be happy to see disappear off the earth, like mushrooms. I just don’t like them. If your child likes a wide variety of foods don’t worry if there are few items they prefer not to eat.

One of my readers has written a free downloadable eBook titled Eat Your Veggies, it has some great simple suggestions on incorporating more fruits and veggies in your child’s diet.

Time for some reader discussion! Your opinion on kids and veggies is welcomed, just remember to keep the conversation friendly.

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Comments

  1. Mine love vegetables, but I do use vegetables when making other items. They love the zucchini cakes, lasagna with spinach and eggplants, carrot cakes, soups, sandwiches, vegetable noodles, stuffed vegetables, and lots more.

  2. According to the “experts” you have to offer a food 15 times before a child will accept it. (Obviously, some foods don’t take as long to gain acceptance!) It’s a little boring, but if you serve broccoli every night for 15 days, your kid will eventually break down and try it! 🙂 Limit the inbetween snacks, keep them active, and if they’re hungry come mealtime they’ll eat what you serve!

  3. I do like to add veggies to a lot of our recipes where they will be consumed with little or no attention. 🙂 I also just continue to offer a variety, and hope the kiddos will try and maybe like a few new things. I have a great veggie cookbook pdf on my blog – it has all kinds of kid-friendly recipes and tips submitted by my readers. You can download it here:
    http://lets-explore.net/blog/2008/10/veggie-cookbook/
    Enjoy! 🙂

  4. I think that adding disguised vegetables to foods kids eat is a helpful tip. However, the goal is to raise children who enjoy the flavor of vegetables and fruits AND who make healthy eating choices. It is a process that may include hiding some vegetables for a time. But, the long term goal is for children to willingly eat what is good for them… even choose it for themselves.

    Amy Ellen from HealthBeginsWithMom.com

  5. We have the “one bite rule” You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat one bite. Spitting it out is not an option. One of my kids gags everytime she has to take a bite of sweet potatoes, but she has to try one bite eveytime that they’re served. I suppose sneaking in veggies is okay if the kid won’t eat them any other way. Better to get some than none at all.

  6. My kids eat veggies very well. They like salads the best and will eat most raw veggies.

  7. My daughter is not a fan of mushrooms either and I know her dislike is authentic because I’ve hidden them in food before and sometimes she “catches” me. So I then will allow her to pick them out. Sometimes, if they are really small and not many of them, she will mix them well with other food and eat them anyways saying she really can’t taste them.

    I agree… I am not opposed to hiding veggies in food, but it shouldn’t be the only method of serving up veggies.

    My children have there share of likes and dislikes and I believe they have enough “likes” to be healthy. 🙂
    Great topic!

  8. I don’t hide veggies. My daughter cannot eat gluten which is found in wheat, rye, oats, barley, malt, or anything derived from those grains. She is only four, but we read food labels together and talk about cooking everyday to make sure she can stay safe with food. She knows exactly what is in her food. I suppose I could hide veggies in things since I would know if it were safe, but I think that would be counter to my goal of having her become an independent eater.

    Luckily she has always loved fruits and vegetables so it’s a mute point in our house. I can completely understand why other parents would hide veggies.

  9. Excellent comments so far! I have used the sneaky chef principles to add nutrition to our favorite foods, but always serve a veggie as a side dish. Our toddler doesn’t like salad fodder, which is okay, because we don’t eat them often at home. But fresh raw or steamed veggies are always available. We want our kiddo to enjoy eating a healthy variety of good foods.

    I love the “one bite rule” that someone mentioned. I’ll have to keep that in mind if we ever have struggles in that area.

  10. I add vegetables to things like grated carrot to meatloaf or zucchini to spaghetti sauce, but I’m not really trying to hide it – just give us all an extra boost of veggies. My DD will normally eat fruits and veggies just fine – of course some more than others.

    I offer her at least one fruit or veggie each time I offer her food – 3 meals and 2 snacks. She may eat as much or as little as she wants, but there is no grazing in between. If she’s hungry, she eats!

  11. Great topic! My kids generally will eat vegetables, so I don’t hide them. Plus, we are vegetarians so vegetables are what we mainly eat!

    However, I do have a hard time getting my oldest to try new things, so I absolutely LOVE your idea of paying them for every new food they try. Thanks for the great idea!

  12. I have that book Deceptively Delicious and I love it. I’ve only tried a couple of the recipes but they were good.

    The one that really was a hit was hiding cauliflower in the mashed potatoes. My dd who is 5 hates mashed potatoes and she loved those.

  13. Thankfully, mine love most fruits and veggies. 😀 I even got dh to have a green smoothie with spinach and he didn’t even know it was spinach. I did tell him though. I have put veggies in spaghetti sauce. I’ll have to try the spinach in the pizza. Sounds neat!

  14. Funny. I just posted my strategy for getting my picky kids to try new foods. I have hidden veggies (like carrott puree) in other foods (like spaghetti sauce) occasionally, but it isn’t my routine because, like you, I think we all need to learn to eat healthy foods because they’re healthy. I usually use this method when I have a few leftover carrots or something that’s about to go bad.

    PS: you can see my strategy here: http://unfinishedmom.blogspot.com/2009/05/coping-with-picky-eaters-ten-ways.html

  15. You have made some good points. I do not hide veggies in our foods. I am too lazy to go the extra steps to do that. lol

    I have put spinach in our pizza dough and wouldn’t tell them what it was. I said it was frog guts and they ate it. Once they found out it was spinach, they refused to eat.

    In my house if the kids don’t want to eat, then they have our permission to go hungry, but they can’t complain about it and they’ll see it again the next day for lunch.

    This method has not made them better eaters, but it is an easy one for me to handle. We have tried every trick there is to get the kids to eat better, but nothing works. They are older now and know better. They make the decision to go hungry, even if it is a couple of days.

  16. My kids will eat anything I give them and are always willing to try new things … well, almost, I don’t know if they would try chocolate covered bugs. But DH is the one we all hide veggies into his meals. My girls are quite good at it. I think he knows we do it – but it’s hard to say.

  17. I have hidden veggies in food but also, like many have said, serve them in plain site with the meal too. My son (2-1/2) likes to help me cook so “hiding” them isn’t really hiding, they’re just not always visible in the finished product.

    You mentioned your Vita-Mix – would you talk more about it? My blender bit the dust (still have a food processor and magic bullet plus a stick blender, so I get by 🙂 ). I would love one of those but wonder if its worth it??? Do you use it for making soup and all of the other things it claims you can do?

  18. I think I may try this for my dh! I see several people have said that! LOL

    My kids like all sorts of veggies. Except my teen. She is ultra picky, but I think it is mostly for attention, so I am not worried about it.

    I remember how awful I ate as a teen, but I have always been healthy, so I guess I am under protective because of that maybe? :-p

  19. I think I got our family into a vegetable rut because personally, I don’t like a ton of vegetables. I eat tons of salad and often serve it before dinner, but other than broccoli, green beans, corn and carrots, I know I don’t serve enough of a variety. Everyone picks around the tomatoes, red peppers and cucumbers in their salads, but I continue to offer them.

    Sneaking cauliflower, sweet potatoes and spinach into foods is the perfect solution for everyone in our house…even me. There are great nutrients in each, but I’m still not fond of their taste when served alone. I LOVE the spinach in the pizza dough idea and can’t wait to try it!

    Also, I think I got the “pay your kids to try ____” idea from you and it’s worked. My son loves coins, so a dime for a hearty bite of something is a win:win for us. Especially since he’s at the “I don’t like it” stage, after just getting a quick look at a food.

  20. My husband is not a big veggie eater. He especially HATES tomatoes but loves pizza and some salsa. I am able to sneak A LOT of tomatoes into my homemade chili and of course my favorite, chili cheese etoufee
    http://theburbblog.com/Home/tabid/55/EntryID/261/Default.aspx
    The first time I made this he looked into the pot and I had just added a can of diced tomatoes to my roux and he gagged and said he wouldn’t eat it. He ate more than anyone!

    Also, I’ve been successful with adding frozen spinach into lasagna sauce. He can see it and said he would try it but wouldn’t like it. He finished and had seconds!

  21. I don’t know. I suppose it depends on the age of the children. I’m actually going to blog about how my Mother not teaching me about foods turned me into a bad eater, and how only as an adult with kids do I really know WHY we need the foods we need.

    But I do get MOST of my daily veggies and greens in by making smoothies out of them. Otherwise I’d be spending my entire day eating! I don’t see anything wrong with finding clever ways to get the servings into our kids, as long as they are still eating (or they at least know what they are drinking) some of their servings with meals.

    Nell

  22. Thanks for this post! I think it’s a little funny how controversial this always seems to be. My kids are great veggie eaters (better than hubby and I, usually), but I like to add them into other foods, too. How can more veggies be bad? 🙂

  23. My kids love veggies AND I love to ‘sneak’ them into things.

    They think it’s so cool how beets turn oatmeal, pancakes and anything on your plate by them PINK!

  24. I have been trying to get my 21 month old to eat fruits and veggies and it’s not going well. He ate corn one day and not the next. He doesn’t like any fruit. Maybe later he’ll like them.

  25. Both of my kids (5 & 2 yrs) are very good veggie eaters. I started from the time they were about 6 months old when we began introducing fruits & veggies. Hubs and I do our best to set a good example by eating lots of veggies ourselves, and we’ll talk about how good they taste and how good they are for us. We tell the kids that they don’t have to like a veggie but that they do need to try at least one bite first before deciding whether or not they truly don’t like something. And 9 times out of 10, they don’t just like, they LOVE what they tried. Some of their favorites include broccoli, cucumbers and salad (I didn’t even know what a salad was until I was about 10!!)

  26. These posts get me excited! I am a nutrition student looking forward to becoming a registered dietician. I have a 4 1/2 yo son and a 1 yo daughter. My son has amazed me these past few months. He has turned a corner in the eating dept. He never fussed about fruits/veggies, it was just getting him to sit still long enough to eat. He did the occassional “I don’t like such and such..” but I kept presenting it to him over and over. It takes at least 10 different exposures for kids to even try something sometimes. Right now he is eating a great variety of foods and tells me how much he loves them. (swoon) Last week he ate raw spinach and raw mushrooms (even asked for the mushrooms). Tonight he asked for an apple to go with his dinner and then asked for blueberries and yogurt for dessert. He loves my fruit/spinach smoothies…we make a big deal about making them and his eyes light up. I just love how much he loves his food…be still my beating heart!

    I do want to encourage parents though….it starts with what you eat. If you want your child to eat a certain food but you won’t eat it yourself, your child will more than likely not eat it either. Okay…almost certain they won’t. They have to see you enjoy it too. We discuss why each food is important to our bodies (like building muscles, strong hearts, etc). This makes my son happy. He knows he can run fast if he has the right fuel for his body. lol Get some books from the library to help your kids see how food is connected with their bodily functions. Connect foods with types of playing/sports so kids can see what that broccoli does for them. My son will drink milk and then flex his muscles. 😉

    Of course, it’s not always this easy going at my house…we have our seasons and right now just seems to be a good one….one I hope sticks around.

    Best Wishes and Happy Eating!

  27. We always added chopped veggies for spaghetti sauce since they love spaghetti. Since AA is 2.5 years and she will eat most veggies, in addition, we still buy (or make) organic baby food veggies and add them to portions of our homemade soups and sauces. She sees us doing it so don’t think it is “hiding”! 🙂

    Alyzabeth’s mommy for Eight Months

  28. Somebody's Mimi says:

    I just love reading the “tricks of the trade”. Sounds like there are some very crafty Mothers out there.

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