20 January 2012

To spike or not to spike: Should parents sneak vegetables into their children's food

Spiking kids’ food with vegetables is a common thought that crosses your mind when you’re entrenched in a food battle with a persnickety 3 year old. I do think that pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into all of their favorites sure does seem like the easy route. And it might just be the solution to your picky eater who tightly seals up his lips as a new food approaches his mouth. Unfortunately, children are naturally “new-food-phobics.” We also know that it takes numerous exposures to convince them to try something they haven’t had before. But my concern about this deception is based on the reality of childhood obesity. And by sneaking in the “good” stuff are we doing any justice to providing our kids with the right tools in life to make healthy food choices? How can we be honest with ourselves and say we are; when all along our kids didn’t know what vegetable they really ate.

I know many of you reading this might think this is an overreaction. And to some extent I’m all for doing what you got to do to get those nutrients into your kids. But personally, I’m tired of the common response being to read books like Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef and that the only solution to this picky problem is hiding healthy food in kids’ favorite meals. I get it, parents are desperate, tired of the tricks, daily fights and some kids go on a food strike for days. Then things just get compounded and you’ll have the whole pooping issue to deal with. But when you stop and think beyond the moment of secretly pureeing cauliflower and hiding it in their mac & cheese, really is this the right way to go about it? Because will these kids grow up and make the right food choices on their own when it comes time? How could they when they’ve never seen what a cauliflower really looks like?

This might sound like a contradiction, but I do commend the parents who are whipping up purees and steering their kids away from stuff that comes in a box or a frozen container. I’m just asking you think about, “What happens next?” -- Will our schools be blending veggies and hiding them too? Most likely no. And you might be saying that it’s not a problem because you’ll be packing their lunch everyday. I’m with you, I’ll be doing that too. But I guess the extent of the problem goes beyond that controlled environment. I’m speaking about when it comes time for kids to make their own food choices. Wouldn’t it be better to have been honest with your healthy ingredients? It leaves open many more exciting food avenues to explore together.

Listen, we all want to put an end to the food wars in our house and have peace at the table but I would rather have my kid on the front line knowing what he’s eating for dinner tonight. Nobody likes to be lied to.

If the stealthy route is your way to approach this rough patch, it’s still important to get your children to learn what vegetables look and taste like. Although, I still question the concept of the alternative to pureeing, that is using jarred baby food. Huh! We moved past this phase -- why would you ever want to go backwards?

I know many parents are worried about their child’s growing body and letting their nutrients slide can be a slippery slope. But hang in there, feed them whatever healthy stuff you can, it will pass (I’m waiting too!) and this will inevitably lead to them becoming informed grown ups who make healthy decisions later in life.

Thoughts?  Join the conversation on Facebook.

Josalyn Wilder | Blog
Albany, NY Josalyn is the author of the blog London Loves, a cooking project that shares vegan recipes that are kitchen tested & kid-approved! She's also a children’s librarian and a compulsive vegan baker. But her most important role is acting as the entertainment director for her 3 yr. old son London. The recipes on London Loves reflect her food philosophy… that there is no need to compromise taste to make cruelty-free food that you can feel good about eating & feeding to your kids. Josalyn believes that there is nothing more rewarding than sharing her passion and realizing that her recipes have the potential to change lives, change habits, and even change the world!

Photo credit: Liz West