To Sneak or Not to Sneak (Veggies into Your Kids’ Foods)

Here it is, yet another parenting conundrum: do you sneak veggies into your kids’ foods or do you absolutely never sneak veggies into your kids’ foods. Where does that leave us? What to do?

A quick google search on this topic will reveal, as many parenting topics do, an array of polarizing articles which vehemently agree with or oppose different sides of this issue. One online news outlet literally has two articles promoting each side of this argument written within weeks of each other. No wonder everyone’s confused!

The Harm in Sneaking Veggies

Needless to say, there is no shortage of articles that explain the numerous clever tricks to hide veggies in your children’s foods. Discreetly puree some spinach into that tomato sauce and pour it over their pasta, and feel the satisfaction of knowing your child has gotten his veggies for that meal. Mash that cauliflower and fold it into little shapes before frying them up to resemble chicken nuggets. Score! You just ate cauliflower, kid and you had no idea! Mom – 1, Child – 0!

But it is not that easy. While utilizing this barrage of tactics might feel good in the short term, it will likely not feel so good in the long term. After all, the goal is of course to ensure that your kids eat vegetables when they are older and throughout their lives. By sneaking veggies into their food, they have no idea what the vegetable actually tastes like or what its texture really is. Yes, it is true they may not love it at first but research shows that repeated attempts (that may even take months) can ultimately lead to food acceptance.

Lead by Example

So instead of liquifying that broccoli, mixing it with ground beef and turning it into a burger, try preparing whole pieces of vegetables using different cooking methods. Maybe they don’t like the soggy nature of steamed asparagus, so try roasting it in the oven. Play around, get creative, and don’t give up!

By sneaking veggies into their food, they have no idea what the vegetable actually tastes like or what its texture really is.

It is also important to remember that kids learn by example beginning at a very early age. If they see you enjoying different types of vegetables, prepared in different ways, they are likely to follow suit. Heap some veggies on your plate and let them see how you enjoy them too.

Be Sure to Let Them Know

If you do want to hide some veggies in your kids’ foods, then let them know! Sneaking them into their meals without their knowledge is a recipe for disaster. Ultimately your child will figure out what is going on and when she/he does – they will feel tricked and betrayed. They may start to question and doubt other foods you give them which could lead to a whole additional array of problems at the dinner table. So if you want to include spinach in their smoothies, include them in the process!  Let them add the spinach themselves and watch the ingredients mix up in the blender. If you’re adding zucchini to their muffins, let them mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl. There is a much better chance of your children eating the finished product if they feel some ownership and pride over it!

Repetition is Key

Remember: when you put a plate of broccoli in front of you child, they don’t have to finish the whole serving. Commend them if they take even two bites of it. That way at least they are trying it and giving it a chance, learning the taste and texture. Over time, those two bites may turn into 2 whole pieces, and eventually into an empty plate. Most of all, be patient when it comes to food. Easier said than done of course! Continue to offer vegetables in their original form – repeat exposure is key!

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