Is Hiding Veggies the Way to Feed Your Kids?

November 15, 2008 at 3:03 pm 6 comments

Some children refuse to eat anything green; an experience I had to endure when my younger one was 2. And, yes, I had to work hard not to feel like a failure, being a dietitian and all. It’s common for children to leave vegetables on their plate, untouched, unless coaxed to try them. Whatever the relationship between your green_vegetables_food_tf01995166171109_stdchildren and their vegetables, given time it will change. It may take years and excruciating patience not to force feed your stubborn eater. While it may defy your good intentions, and frustrate your inner mothering, most children manage to consume the nutrients they need. More importantly, they follow by example–your example.

So what about the premise of the highly featured book “Deceptively Delicious,” by Jessica Seinfeld, which encourages parents to get the all important vegetables into children by hiding them in their food.

The supposition that you need to sneak vegetables into every meal as the best way to get kids to eat well troubles me. It ordains a relationship of distrust; of “I got you”! That is not a good foundation for instilling lifelong good behaviors or honesty between parent and child. I’d rather see parents approach eating from a more positive position–vegetables are a regular and important component of a meal. There’s no need to measure your success by the amount of vegies eaten in a given meal. This is a long term proposition. As the adult, you can modeling healthy behaviors by serving vegetables and eating them, which promises to create a scenario for children to grow into vegetable-eating adults.

That said, it’s good practice to add cauliflower and peppers (as well as other desired veggies) to eggs or tp put butternut squash in a grilled chicken quesadilla (one of Ms. Seinfeld’s suggestions) or tomato slices in the grilled cheese sandwich (on whole wheat bread). Where I draw the line is at the idea of adding spinach to Blueberry Bars, or sneaking broccoli and carrots into the brownies. It’s just not appealing and not natural! Would you want your desserts laced with vegetables?! Let’s give our children more credit than that. If they are not exposed to vegetables in a natural setting, how will they ever grow into informed adults who are prepared to make wise food decisions?

For now, lead by example. Eat your vegetables. Babies learn by imitating, so let them have toddler sized portions right from the start. As they grow, make sure the vegetables are appealing –crisp, crunchy, slightly steamed (provided their teeth are in) and brightly colored, and most importantly, cut everything into bite-sized pieces—and find ways to incorporate vegetables into meals at every opportunity. Odds are good that your children will eat the vegetables if they have no reason to think they shouldn’t. If they don’t, resist nagging or threatening to withhold dessert, simply continue to make vegetables an expected part of the meal, instead of chips or fries, and they will–hopefuly– get eaten, if eventually.

Here are some creative serving strategies:

Breakfast time Veggies:

  • Egg Frittata with broccoli, tomato, pepper and purple cauliflower
  • Whole Wheat English Muffin sandwich with eggs, sautéed spinach, and lite cheese
  • Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, peppers, onion and salsa wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla

Lunchtime Veggies:

  • Cut carrots into large oval shaped “chips” that scoop up humus or guacamole with ease
  • Fill celery stalks with peanut butter
  • Send a chicken Caesar salad in the clever single serve “Blaster” bowl with a push button delivery system that adds in the dressing when ready to eat. (I put whole wheat croutons in a separate container so they keep their crunch until lunch; add last minute)

Dinnertime Veggies:

  • Serve salad. Romaine is a simple, readily accepted lettuce that stands well alone (as a Caesar); or, let them pick  ingredients to add to the salad so they’ll make it their own. My favorite version is my mother’s specialty: “Kitchen sink” salad, meaning everything and anything including raw broccoli, artichoke hearts, raisins, nuts, chopped apple, sunflower seeds, wasabi peas and whatever else is handy at the time and in season, is tossed in the bowl and mixed with a vinaigrette or creamy Parmesan style dressing.
  • Stir fry any vegetable with a little olive oil and mineced garlic and you’ll having your kids asking for seconds. Try brocolli, cauliflower, green breans, spinach and even bok choy.
  • Smashed sweet potatoes or butter nut squash with a little brown sugar and margarine.
  • Steamed spaghetti squash served with a little olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese and pepper.

RECIPE for Breaded Caulilflower (4-6 servings):

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower, washed and patted dry
  • 4 ounces margarine
  • 1/4 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 3-4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped parsley (fresh or dried)

Preparation:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Cut cauliflower into flowerettes and steam just until tender; drain.

3) In a large saute pan, melt margarine; stir in bread crumbs, mixing until lightly browned

4) Add cauliflower and toss until well coated.

5) Place cauliflower into large casserole dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley.

6) Bake for 20 minutes.

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Entry filed under: Eating Together Matters, Food Ingredients, How Do I Get My Child to..., Making Meals that Matter, What's For LUNCH. Tags: , , , , , , .

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