'Hiding' Vegetables for Children

@GreenMoo (11842)
March 22, 2008 7:34am CST
I have a friend who's child claims not to like any vegetables. So she spends loads of time & energy working out ways that she can hide the veggies in the meals that she cooks him. The meals are delicious, and packed full of nice healthy veg, but I don't feel that this is the best way to deal with a child who won't eat veg. For a start, he is not learning to eat veggies and will grow up believing that he doesn't like them. And secondly, she's decieving him. When she's no longer cooking for him, at school for instance, how is he going to get veggies? What do you think about this? What would you do in a similar situation? If you do hide veggies in your children's meals, how do you do it? I have to feed this child when he's at my house, and I'm not so skilled at it as she is!!!
1 person likes this
5 responses
@ersmommy1 (12605)
• United States
22 Mar 08
My daughter eats most veggies. We have told her from the get go, they help you grow well, and strong. A healthy body is better than a sick body etc. Her first solid food was veggies. Peas to be exact. Hiding veggies doesn't inspire good lifelong eating habits. If my daughter won't eat a veggie(usually green beans) we serve the ones she does like. Spinach is a hit along with broccoli cauliflower, carrots. The list for what my daughter will eat is longer than those she won't.
2 people like this
• United States
23 Mar 08
I think thats a great way to handle things, ersmommy. You are definitely doing the right thing!
@GreenMoo (11842)
27 Mar 08
Yup, I agree. You're definately doing the right thing there. My kids are big veg eaters too, & the eldest certainly appreciates the health benefits of doing so.
• United States
22 Mar 08
I have found that kids that "dislike" veggies often just dislike how they are prepared and/or will change their minds if they are included in the choice and preparation of the veggies. My family has always boiled the heck out of broccoli and only a few kids would eat it. One Easter, I steamed the broccoli and gently tossed it with a little butter and salt. Only my kids ate it initially (they were used to eating steamed veggies), but later, after all the kids had bags of candy, some of the other kids saw my kids going back for more broccoli instead of eating their candy. They decided they would see what the big deal was and all but 1 (of 12) ended up eating the broccoli instead of their candy. I ended up leaving with an empty dish instead of the half-full dish I had started with. To this day, their parents swear none of them like broccoli, but when I steam it, they all eat it. Another way to help kids get used to veggies is to give them a "sauce" (like Ranch dressing) to dip them in or to cover them with a bit of cheese sauce. As time goes on, you can decrease the amount of sauce they get so that they are eventually eating more veggies than dip. I have also found it helpful to let the child grow their own veggies in a small garden or even in a pot (tomatoes grow nicely in pots), or if nothing else, bring them to the store and let them select what veggie they want to try. Then let them help prepare the veggie as they are able. Even the littlest ones can help wash the veggies and older ones can help peel and serve them. This gives them a sense of "ownership" of the dish and they are not only proud to serve it, but to eat it themselves. After saying all this, I still add veggies to much of my cooking in ways that could be considered "hiding" them. I add finely chopped broccoli to many dishes (especially mac and cheese). If a veggie-hater were to ask what it was, I tell them it is "special spices". Finely grated carrots and zucchini can also be added to many sauces (don't forget tomato sauce also contains veggies themself) and you can add well cooked, pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes or even pureed carrots to make "orange" potatoes. i hope some of this is helpful. The best way to get a child to eat veggies is to set a great example and talk about how yummy the veggies are. We also have a standing rule in our house that everyone must try one bite of everything, including veggies. The rule applies to everyone who eats at our house, guests included. My 5 year old was born a veggie-lover (I even craved fresh veggies during the pregnancy) so she was easy to convince that veggies are good, but my oldest took a bit more coaxing. She now enjoys veggies almost as much as her sister. I have also found that telling her the health benefits of veggies (strong muscles, healthy heart, smarter) help to sway her during those more difficult times.
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@GreenMoo (11842)
22 Mar 08
What a great response luv2cook4u! You've echoed some of my own sentiments exactly, but I really wanted to get other people's feedback. My own kids have to have at least a taste of everything that I serve, and I find that once they've eaten things a few times they will take them happily of their own accord. I too use veggies in all sorts of cooking, in sauces etc, but I don't beleive that lying to the kids is the way to encourage them to eat. Thanks for writing such a great response.
@GreenMoo (11842)
22 Mar 08
Mrslisae, there's a cookery book I've seen with a title which is something like 'The Enchanted Broccoli Forest'. I always thought it was a great way to describe broccoli trees!
• United States
22 Mar 08
I did forget to mention that I generally do not agree with lying to children about what veggies are, especially my own children. I know that I said I would tell a veggie-hater that finely chopped broccoli was special spices, but that would be in an extreme case where I know they would not otherwise eat anything. It is much easier to help a child overcome a dislike of veggies when you deal with them on a constant basis, such as your own children or close relatives/friends' children. When I add the veggies to my cooking, it is always in addition to veggies served in "natural" form and I only do it to add even more veggies to our meals, not to fool anyone into eating them. But, there is still that rare occasion when a friend/relative with a veggie hating child stops by unexpected right as I am serving lunch and I feel obligated to feed them. Since I am usually not able (nor willing) to prepare something special to please the veggie-hater, and while most of the children who visit know the house rule about 1 bite, I cannot actually FORCE them to eat one bite; in those cases I will not tell them what the ingredients of the dish are and if they ask about something, I will tell that white lie. Even so, I would still offer them whatever other veggies we are having and would use my "other" methods (serving with dip, letting them choose from whatever raw veggies I have on hand, etc) to encourage them to eat the veggies. ***On a side note- I did not write this in response to anything anyone else wrote, I just re-read my response and your original question and wanted to clarify.***
1 person likes this
• United States
23 Mar 08
That really bothers me. I think she needs to put her foot down and be a parent about it. I can understand not liking certain vegetables but to hide them in food and lie to him about what he is eating is wrong. I used to get so mad when I was little and my mom would lie to me about what she was serving me. But I always had to try at least 3 bites of vegetables before I could declare I didnt like something.
@GreenMoo (11842)
27 Mar 08
Your Mum sounds just like me! I make sure the kids have at least a small portion of everything, even if it's just a spoonful or two. Normally, after a few tiny portions they forget that they don't like it & start inclcuding it in their meal :-)
@fizzytom (760)
• Maribor, Slovenia
23 Mar 08
The problem is that you can't hide those vegetables forever. Soon there'll come a time when the child has to eat outside of the home and those vegetables are going to be staring them right in the face. Is the child going to believe the parent who says "Actually, honey, you've been eating them all the time and didn't even know!" We found with my friend's kid that if you sit with a pile of raw veggies (carrots, tomatoes, etc) in front of the TV (so not at a meal time) and don't offer the kids any, then eat them and make a really big deal of how much you are enjoying them, the kids often show some curiosity and want to try whatever is supposed to be so good.
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@GreenMoo (11842)
27 Mar 08
That's exactly my point. At what point is the child going to realise that she's been conning him all these years? Your tip about eating the veg infront of the kids is a great one. Kids always want what they're no offered!
• United States
22 Mar 08
I think Love2Cook has some good input. As to your specific question from my point of view, a child should learn to eat fresh fruits and veggies as they are -- because once they leave the house they are unlikely to hide healthy food in their own preparations. Picky kids are normal and I deal with that with my own daughter, too. There are some veggies she will eat well, and I try to work with what works instead of fighting with her to eat them.
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@GreenMoo (11842)
22 Mar 08
I completely agree. Kids need to learn to enjoy veg for it's own sake, otherwise when they're preparing meals for themselves they won't think to include it. I think all kids go through picky stages, but hiding veg just smacks to me of cultivating that habit.