3 Reasons Why Hiding Veggies In Your Child’s Food May Not Be A Good Idea And What To Do Instead
Black bean brownies, chickpea cookies and sweet potato pancakes are becoming increasingly common, particularly on social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. But is hiding veggies in your child’s food really worth the trouble? Below are 3 reasons why it may not be such a great idea after all.
I want you to stop and think for a minute. What’s a food you really, really don’t like. For me it’s mushrooms. Now imagine you went to a friend’s house and ate a delicious dinner only to find out it contained your most hated food. To make matters worse your friend knew how much you didn’t like mushrooms! How do you think you would feel? Upset, betrayed, hurt, confused, annoyed…. Would you want to go back and eat at her house again any time soon? Probably not, because you don’t trust that she won’t do it again. The same goes for our kids. When we hide veggies in things like cake and brownies, that are not ‘supposed to have veggies in them,’ it’s likely to damage the trust between you and your child.
There’s no problem with zucchini chocolate muffins, black bean brownies or chickpea cookies if you involve children in the process and they are fully aware of what’s going into the food. This will not only strengthen your relationship and build trust, but will also allow them to explore a variety of foods in a safe environment without feeling pressured to eat.
2. Creates Confusion
So you want your child to eat more veggies, right? Who doesn’t? But just stop to think for a moment. So often we talk to our kids about healthy and unhealthy foods. Generally, muffins, cakes, biscuits are unhealth or “sometimes” foods. However, when we sneak veggies into them, we are all of a sudden happy for our kids to eat them everyday, maybe even more than once a day. What is this teaching our kids? That it’s ok to eat these types of foods all the time. Talk about mixed messages…
Talk to your kids about the different ingredients in the food and how even though it might have zucchini which is an everyday food, it also has sugar, butter etc which are sometimes foods, therefore we only eat these cookies sometimes.
3. May Affect Normal Development
While blending and pureeing vegetables still provides fibre, vitamins and minerals, the problem is that children may not develop the skills needed to chew properly. This can lead to long-term problems such as delayed speech development.
Look at your child’s diet as a whole to see whether they are eating a variety of textures and flavours. If they are eating foods such as hard, grainy crackers or whole fruit, then grating or blending veggies into a pasta sauce is not a problem. If you’re child is not eating a range of textured foods, then try offering appropriately cut (and cooked) veggies alongside the meal with blended veggies. This will help them become familiar with different veggies and increase their likelihood of trying them.
What about hiding veggies in savoury dishes like pasta or meatloaf?
This is the one time I would say hidden veggies is appropriate as you’re not being deceptive and the veggies would have been served alongside the meal anyway. Vegetables such as pumpkin, zucchini, carrot and broccoli can be steamed and blended to add to pasta dishes, home made pizza sauce, savoury muffins, quiches, or rissoles. Doing this will ensure your fussy eater is still getting essential fibre, vitamins and minerals, without having to sacrifice on taste or texture. You can find my Veggie Packed Spaghetti Bolognaise recipe here.
Other ideas to get your kids to eat more veggies:
Make sure they taste good to you
Offer sauces or dips
Cut them in different shapes
Offer small serving sizes, particularly for new or unfamiliar veggies
Let your kids choose at the grocery store
Keep offering and don’t give up, even if your kids don’t eat them the first few times
Hi, I’m Aspen, a university qualified teacher and nutritionist. As one of seven kids, a mum and ten years teaching experience, I understand just how challenging mealtimes can be. That’s why I’m so passionate about giving families a range of strategies to reduce fussy eating and make mealtimes an enjoyable family experience. I also work with schools doing incursions, parent information sessions and canteen menu assessment.