Veggies are an important part of a nutritious diet, but what if your child won’t eat them? Should you try to sneak them into other foods, so they get the nutrition? Or is sneaking a bad idea? The answer, like with most things, is that it depends what you want to get out of it.
If you want a way to get a little extra nutrition into your kids and they’re not questioning what’s in something (ie: you don’t have to lie), then there’s really no harm in it. Veggies are great for you. We want kids to eat more veggies, so go ahead, make muffins, pancakes or smoothies packed with nutrients!
But that’s really all you get out of it. It’s a quick fix, a one-time deal, because there’s no learning involved in ‘sneaking’ in veggies. Your child doesn’t know the veggies are in their food, so they’re not learning they like the vegetable. They’re not exploring that taste in their mouths and visually finding out how to recognize that food in the future.
The other pitfall with ‘sneaking’ in veggies is that there’s sneaking involved. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to lie to children. They are way more intuitive than we give them credit for and usually when we lie, even if they don’t know exactly what the lie is about, they know something’s up and they get wary. On that note, it’s definitely not a good idea to lie to kids about food, especially if you have a picky eater or a child needing feeding therapy. These children are learning to trust new foods and feel safe with them. If we lie to them, it adds to distrust around the whole issue of food.
There are, however, a lot of great recipes out there that taste delicious and are chock full of healthy veggies. I love Larice’s nut and veggie-based cheezy sauces from her blog Feeding Your Beauty. I tried the Mexican cheese dip (above) and it was delicious (though it might be better for kids who like stronger, alerting tastes) and her mac and cheese sauce looks much milder and pretty awesome, too! Then there are the myriad of smoothie, muffin, and pancake recipes out there that pack a delicious, nutritious punch!
I like taking the best of both worlds. You can make any of these recipes into a food play cooking activity. Then your child can learn about the foods while you cook. And when they’re ready, you can have a snack time or some fun food play with the finished product, if your child isn’t ready to take a bite yet (and maybe they’ll feel comfortable enough to taste while exploring). And, if you make a dip like the one above, check out some of the fun ways we explored playing with dips during our week of purees last winter!
So, is it a good idea to sneak in veggies? Like with everything, it’s always up to you and what you think is right for your child and your individual situation. But it’s best to make that decision knowing what you’re going to get out of it: a one-time veggie fix or a learning experience that will keep them coming back for more.
Enjoy and happy food play!