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disguising veggies so your kids will love them

From clandestine cauliflower to shrouded spinach, parents and professionals everywhere are hiding vegetables in children’s food in some extremely clever ways. While hiding veggies in your children’s food may seem harmless at first and can help ensure your child is obtaining the amount of necessary nutrients, this new method of food preparation is raising some eyebrows as well. Here, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of hiding vegetables in your child’s food and give you some helpful tips if you have a particularly picky eater in your household.

The Pros

Just about every parent out there can see the positive side of disguising veggies in your children’s foods. It’s truly rare to find a child who enjoys eating vegetables and for that reason, sneaking in a few servings of veggies every now and then may actually help children obtain the nutrients necessary for proper growth and development. Some parents have particularly picky children. In these cases, it can be next to impossible to get your child to eat vegetables without disguising them. The fact is, children will likely eat more vegetables if you disguise them. In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Barbara Rolls at Penn State University found that many children were more eager to eat the foods with hidden veggies than the traditional, less-nutritious option.

Another reason why more and more people are hiding veggies in their children’s foods is to help avoid childhood obesity and the health problems associated with it. Data from the Centers For Disease Control from 2015-2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity. Dr. Rolls also found that hiding vegetables in foods prepared for children reduced the total number of calories that they consumed by 140. She concluded that hiding veggies in children’s foods may help lower a child’s overall calorie consumption while providing them with vital servings of vegetables, lessening the frequency of childhood obesity.

The Cons

While sneaking veggies into your children’s foods can help them obtain vital nutrients, it can also have its downsides. Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University suggests that hiding veggies in your children’s food is a lose-lose situation. To start, children have excellent taste buds. He asserts that children will eventually realize that you’re trying to trick them as they slowly discover disguised vegetables on their dinner plates. This sends children a distinct message: Vegetables are so gross that Mom and Dad have to hide them in my food. Your children may begin to become even more picky as they begin to distrust every food at every meal.

Dr. Wansink also asserts that as a parent, it’s your job to help educate your children about the importance of a balanced diet containing vegetables. As your child grows up, it’s critical that they learn what a healthy and balanced meal looks like. That way, they’ll have a firm understanding of the difference between “sometimes foods” and foods that have nutritional value. He also suggests that by renaming a dish, you can curb your child’s distaste. For example, Wansink suggests renaming peas to “princess peas” or carrots to “x-ray carrots.” This tactic is sure to nudge any picky eater in the right direction by changing the overall sentiment toward vegetables without disguising them altogether.

Recipe Ideas

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, you’ll never really know what works for your child or your family until you’ve tried a few different options. All children are different and have different tastes and reactions to foods. That’s why it’s important to remember that disguising vegetables in foods should be Plan B, not Plan A. Try to educate your children about vegetables and create some excitement about them at the dinner table. If all else fails, then you should try these helpful recipes. One thing that’s important to remember here is that you do not want to only prepare “junk foods” like pizza, cookies and cakes. Even with the hidden veggies, your child will still get the impression they can eat greasy or fat-filled foods whenever they’d like. That’s why it’s important to also serve undisguised vegetables on the same plate as their incognito counterparts if you’re considering disguising vegetables.

Consider a Multivitamin

If all else fails, some parents opt for a multivitamin option. These daily, often chewable vitamins can help your child obtain the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals each day. When considering a multivitamin, it’s important to consult your pediatrician before integrating any supplements into your child’s diet. Your pediatrician will have insight into exactly what nutrients your child’s diet may be lacking and therefore can often recommend the right multivitamin for your particular needs. You can learn a bit more about multivitamins here.

Whether you’ve got a picky eater on your hands or not, increasing the amount of veggies on your child’s plate is always a good idea. For more information about your child’s specific dietary needs, contact Glen Allen Pediatrics today by dialing (804) 282-4210. As a small practice, the doctors, nurses, and staff at Glen Allen Pediatrics will get to know you and your child, providing continued, quality care that is customized to your child’s needs.  

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