Don't Hide Those Vegetables!

Chow on 04.02.11
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A few years ago when the news came out about arguments and lawsuits which erupted between Missy Chase Lapin and Jessica Seinfeld over their cookbooks extolling the virtues of hiding vegetables in other foods before serving them to your kids, I thought the brouhaha was completely missing the point. The problems between these two writers notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that hiding vegetables from your children is a bad idea.

Children Need Respect

To be generous, by putting spinach in the brownies and fobbing it off as dessert, you are tricking your children. Not so generously, you are lying to them. How would you feel if you discovered that the most important person in your world has been regularly tricking you and lying to you, even for the most altruistic reasons? And trust me, they always find out. I recall the true outrage of a 3 year old when he discovered that the carrot sticks his parents had told him were cookies were, in fact, not. Trust is a hard thing to come by as many parents discover as their children approach their teen years. To squander it when your child is a pre-schooler is foolish.

What Message Are You Sending?

By sticking the spinach in those brownies you are reinforcing (or perhaps even planting) the idea that dessert is more desirable than the rest of the meal and that vegetables are icky.  Also, by doing this, you are indirectly telling your child that there is no other way for you to make vegetables palatable. I'm all for making vegetables more desirable for kids to eat, but do it in a way that makes sense. Add a bit of cheese sauce, make a spinach souffle, add it to soups or make a spinach pesto pasta sauce. There are plenty of ways to get kids to eat vegetables without resorting to this.
How Will They Know If They Like Vegetables?

Children should see vegetables for what they are and have the opportunity to eat them that way. If you child actually likes broccoli, how would they ever know if you've always hidden it? Then when they are served broccoli in all it's glory, they are more likely to turn it down, because they don't recognize it as soemthing they enjoy. They have to learn what they truly like and dislike, which they will never do if they have never tasted the real thing.

Modelling is a Much More Effective Tool

There's no question that some kids are picky eaters, and that often revolves around vegetables, but I don't believe for a minute that most kids automatically dislike vegetables. Children naturally emulate their parents, it's how they learn. They are much more likely to eat vegetables if you do. Even if they don't like every vegetable, what's the problem? Do you?

How the Heck Do You Hide Them Anyway?

My kids were always underfoot when I cooked dinner. When they were little, they played at my feet, when they were a bit older, they did their homework at the dining room table. Both of them asked me every day "What's for dinner?" while they checked out what I was doing. So how does this covert cooking even happen? Besides, your child is much more likely to eat dinner if they helped cook it, so you could do away with the subterfuge altogether.

Teach Your Child About What Is In The Food They Eat

I wanted my children to question what they were eating. I wanted them to be able to read a label and understand what they were getting. I wanted them to be able to differentiate between foods that were good for them and those that weren't. I wanted them to realize that dessert was a treat, not a mainstay.

Back To Trust

Trust your children to grow with your guidance. Give your kids the opportunity to eat vegetables every day and sooner or later they will take it. 

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