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Should I be hiding veggies in their food as a last resort?

You’re fed up.

Your little one eats NO VEGGIES.

It’s been days, weeks, maybe even months since little has willingly eaten veggies (does ketchup count?). It’s especially frustrating when your little use to be a ‘good’ eater and now suddenly turns their nose up at all their old favorites. Hey, there was even a book about this right!? Jerry Seinfeld’s wife wrote it!

I know all about this frustration. I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old and I’ve been down this road once before and I’m going through it again now.

You are tired of the battles and wonder if you should just puree some veggies into their brownie and be done worrying. My answer to this question is a resounding No.

Don’t hide veggies in their foods. Sneaking veggies into foods may have short-term benefits but it isn’t teaching them any valuable habits. Children need to learn the tastes and textures of a variety of foods on their own and in their own time. Also, your children will find out somehow if you hide their veggies. Maybe a sibling will spill the details, or a well-meaning grandma there for a visit might slip saying, “he can’t even taste the cauliflower in that mac and cheese can he!”, or they will somehow learn it for themselves.

What you are teaching here is that veggies are ‘so bad’ they need to be hidden in foods. They will also learn to mistrust you. Early years are a time for learning and exploring about food and also developing healthy habits around food and eating.

Next time you are considering puréeing some beets into their brownies try these strategies instead:

Increasing veggie acceptance

  • Get them involved in the process

  • Let them be as hands on as possible in the grocery store. Describe the details of the choices you are making along with the taste, texture, and smell. Let them touch and smell too.

  • Get them in the kitchen: washing, salad spinners, tearing up pieces of leaves, peeling, and supervised chopping are all favorites for my kids.

  • Food play: use food in play activities like sorting, adding to different bowls, or mixing.

  • Serve veggies in a variety of ways, cooked, raw, added to sauces (but be up front about it).

  • Try, try, try again. Did you know that children need many exposures to foods before readily accepting them? I’m talking about 20 or more. So just keep serving them up! And eat them in front of the kids too :)

  • If you are really concerned about their intake check in with a dietitian to assess if they are meeting their needs!

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