09 July 2008

Hidden Veggies


The issue of kids and healthy eating is always a topic of interest, especially with the summer holidays in full swing and kids being at home full time. Hiding pureed vegetables and other healthy foods in everyday foods which kids love, is a concept that has been tackled by books such as "The Sneaky Chef" and "Deceptively Delicious", from broccoli and carrots in brownies to cauliflower in mac & cheese. In fact, many adults could probably do with this technique too, because lets face it, vegetables are not the best eaten food group.

I admit that as a child I hated vegetables myself, and you couldn’t have gotten me to eat a slice of tomato if you dipped it in chocolate and drizzled caramel all over it. I thankfully got over that phase though and began liking vegetables as an adult. So this anti-vegetable childhood story had a happy ending after all, “Ex-Vegetable hating kid becomes a nutritionist and lover of all things food”.

When it comes to vegetables and kids, the scenario is simple. When fiber, vitamin/antioxidant rich and generally nutrient dense stuff like vegetables are removed from the diet, they are very easily replaced with foods with excessive calories and low nutritional value. The result is often weight and food intake issues in childhood carried over into adulthood.

Adding vegetables to foods children already like decreases negative food labeling, because suddenly mealtime becomes a more positive experience rather than being a constant fight to get kids to eat their vegetables. Hiding vegetables in their foods may seem a bit deceptive, but sometimes what they don’t know can do wonders for their well being. But once the cat is let out of the hat (‘cause you have to tell them at some point), then perhaps little Tim or Sarah may pleasantly find that he/she does not hate vegetables that much after all. Then the door is opened to slowly wean them to the real stuff.

Other suggestions are to get kids involved in the vegetable preparation process and in the cooking process in general, and to be the example. If you don’t eat vegetables or eat it with little enthusiasm, then how can a child observing you be expected to love vegetables?

It’s important that we raise a whole new generation of health conscious kids with an optimistic view of food and eating, who are less likely to become guilt-ridden and discouraged about eating and weight management in adulthood.

3 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

I have seen people do it both ways. I am not a parent yet, but when I am, I will try plan B - eat my veggies with enthusiasm and make them interesting enough to eat. I have seen that work numerous times with many different children, my hope is that it will work for mine someday! :)

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Katie

Hi - I love your blog!

I still consider myself a kid and I love vegetables. (I also loving get up early...I'm definitely not the norm!) My sister and my friends, on the other hand, are not so enthusiastic. I think that hiding veggies probably works really well for younger children, but if they're not eventually taught about healthy eating, it will still be lacking in their adult life.

CookiePie

There was a study done recently with kids from China, in which they were given American fast food. Most didn't like it because there weren't any vegetables! To me, that says that not liking vegetables is cultural. If we, as you suggest, eat veggies as a matter of course, prepared in different ways and with every meal, won't they eat them too?

Of course, I'm not a parent yet... :)

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