The Kids Are Home, Hide the Veggies!

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

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Time for a mid-week rant.

NPR did a story about what a great idea it is to get kids to eat vegetables at school by adding vegetable puree to the school lunch cheese sauce at lunch time.  There’s a whole movement, including cookbooks, on how to get your child to eat vegetables by hiding them in brownies, cakes, cheese sauces, etc.  I can’t even begin to express how much I loathe this entire idea. It’s faulty from it’s toes to it’s nose, it’s destructive, and it’s just stupid.

What, exactly, does this teach children about healthy eating? Nothing. They don’t learn to make appropriate food choices, they don’t learn to like healthy food. In fact, they don’t even learn what “healthy food” actually is, because as far as they’re concerned, they’re not eating it. It does teach them, however, that they don’t have to ever eat anything green. It teaches them that yes, “healthy” foods must taste crappy or why would we have to hide them? It also teaches them that they are correct when they assume they should get everything they want, that they should be catered to.

Here’s a radical thought: don’t hide children’s vegetables. Instead, let’s serve them well-cooked, healthy vegetables and then, like adults, make sure they eat them.

This is going to get really controversial, and it’s not going to be sugar coated. I am tired of all the namby-pamby advice about how to get kids to eat well. It’s not that complicated.

-Be a parent. We need to stop pandering to children. Parents get to control your child’s diet, the child does not.  Do parents let kids control the finances simply because they want to? Do parents let kids skip school because “they don’t like it?” So why in the world do they let their children control their food. Look, kids are NOT going to starve themselves to death because they’re not fed their three favorite foods every night. They CAN go to bed without dinner and not wake up emaciated and ready to die, no matter how big a fit they throw to the contrary. No one should starve their child, obviously, but unless a child has an emotional or intellectual disability, they aren’t going to starve to death because they are only presented with healthy options for dinner every night.

-Children are smart, and will manipulate you if you let them. Most of the kids who are “picky eaters” have learned that if they say “I don’t like this food,” someone will get up and make them a favorite food instead.  They have adults trained. This is a great racket, right?  This has got to stop. It’s not appropriate parenting, and it’s not doing the child any favors in the long run.

-There is a difference in “don’t like” and “not favorite.” Everyone has things they don’t like. Most people have 3-5 general things they don’t like. A child who *only* likes 3-5 thing and “doesn’t like” everything else knows how to get what they want.  Most of the time, when a child says they don’t like something, what they actually mean is they prefer something else. Time for a valuable life lesson: Too Darn Bad. We Don’t Always Get What We Want In Life.

-Kids learn to like what they’re fed. As I’ve said a thousand times, children in India are not born liking curry, children in Japan do not come from the womb craving udon,  and kids from Louisiana aren’t genetically predisposed to loving jambalaya. Children like their ethnic/cultural cuisine because it’s what they’re fed when young (and, if a child of one ethnicity/culture is adopted as a baby someone from another culture, that child does not grow up craving it’s birth-parents home cooking). A child isn’t going to learn to like legumes if they never eat them.

-Kids eat what their parents eat. Simple as that.  Just like smoking or drinking, parents need to look at what they’re eating in front of their children.

There are other things, such as it’s been proven that children who help grow and cook vegetables are far more likely to choose to eat them. Or, that children who are taught to cook tend to eat a wider variety of healthy foods. But, the main point is this: Children are children. They do not get to make the decision on whether or not they eat their vegetables. That is what parents are for. Hiding healthy food in “unhealthy” food teaches children bad eating habits, poor decision making skills, and that they don’t have to do anything they’d rather not do.

2/3 of the children in the US are obese. Most of these children will grow up to be obese adults, with all the health issues and concerns that go along with that.  This problem will not be solved by hiding vegetables in cheese sauce.

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122 responses to “The Kids Are Home, Hide the Veggies!

  • The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

    You make great points. They will eat veggies if they have no alternatives. And it probably helps to see mom and dad eating them, too.

  • lifeintheboomerlane

    I’m so glad you wrote about this! I heard the NPR story. I agree totally. Hiding vegetables in food changes nothing. It misses the point entirely.

  • Mikalee Byerman

    I whole-heartedly agree. But in addition to parents stepping up, a fundamental shift also needs to take place in schools, where home-based dining habits are circumvented by giving “treats” as rewards.

    When I send my children to school with carrot sticks, but they are presented with cookies in class without the scornful look of their mother to guide their decisions, what choice will they make? Ugh.

    I know I’m setting them up with good habits, but I often feel trumped by such pandering in the classroom.

    • shwankie

      Mikalee, oh, that must be incredibly frustrating, and I can totally understand how upsetting that must be as a parent trying to develop good habits in children.

      What also gets me about this kind of things is that then teachers and administrators get mad when kids get rowdy or unruly. Um, hello…sugarbuzz?

      Children are not pets. Food should not be a reward, it can be a setup up for some fairly unhealthy emotional eating.

    • seyruun

      Here’s what my parents did: Favourite cut up fruit (we, the kids, chose, normally apple) plus one small treat (usually a small chocolate bar) and a sandwich with chosen stuff (cheese, salami, ham etc) (German bread, admittedly, some which consists to a great part of seeds).
      I think if kids have choices they are more likely to eat the stuff…

  • dennisfinocchiaro

    Love this! I always hated when someone tricked me into eating something! Great post…good ideas!
    http://www.denwrites.com

  • pittsburghspoon

    I have to agree – this whole trend of masking the presence and taste of veggies is counter to the very reason we should be eating them in the first place. If you have to hide the veggie in breading and oil or cheese and salt, than it’s not doing you much more good than just eating a microwaveable frozen chicken nugget.

    The antithesis of this hide-the-veggies-right-now! trend is the Edible Schoolyard ideal, where kids are not only taught to appreciate and gobble down veggies, but to learn them, cultivate them, and live a life of providing food, not just consuming it. Get a kid to grow a carrot, and it’s guaranteed he’s more likely to be interested in consuming it.

    • shwankie

      Pittsburghspoon, I am a huge fan of the Edible Schoolyard movement. If you look on my blogroll, you’ll see the Buford School Garden. I am lucky enough to get to volunteer teaching a cooking class to the children who help in the garden for the Cooking Club, and we have kids clamoring to get into the club (we have limited space, so we’re rotating through). It’s amazing to watch how excited these kids are to eat vegetables, to learn to cook, to learn to be healthy!

      If you get time, look up the stuff Shaquille O’neal did in CA, if you haven’t read it already. It’s great stuff, and is one of the projects that shows children make healthy choices, as you point out, if they’re involved in growing and interacting with the food!

  • Jen Quon

    Can I “Super”Like this post?

    I have a picky eater at home. But he’s still an eater.
    Being a parent is difficult and rarely convenient (which is what I think those veggie hiding things are all about). Being a good parent takes time, effort and thought.
    Love this post (love the title as well).

    Congrats on being Fresh Pressed!

  • Ava Aston's Muckery

    Agreed. Parents need to adopt a “no carrot stick left behind” mentality with their children at an early age.

    Great post/rant. 🙂

    Blessings,

    Ava

    • shwankie

      “No carrot stick left behind!” I love it. And I bet it would be a lot more effective than the “no child left behind” policy!

  • Stacy

    I agree completely and love this post! I feed my children vegetables regularly and they love many of them. They are not school age yet so I have not had to fight cafeteria food syndrome thankfully! We cook together and talk about our food. I grew up on a farm and we raised a garden every year that we ate from throughout the summer and year round from canning and freezing. Love that I was privileged to have that experience! We also blend vegetables and fruit in our Blendtec blender. And no I am not a representative for Blendtec. It was an investment but my children love “green ice cream”. They VERY rarely have the chemical and sugar mixture called ice cream from stores. Occasionally we have Natural Breyer’s with every ingredient listed that I can identify. I read once that many ice cream’s can sit out for hours and not actually melt completely. Seriously? I wonder if that is true? If it is, what is in there? And most importantly, do you want to put that into your body? “Green ice cream” for us is water, spinach, kale, collard or mustard greens, strawberries, bananas, agave or honey, blueberries, mint, lemon, and many others. They love it and drink it to the last drop. They also have a good balance of starchy vegetables like corn or peas, greens, legumes, squashes, and fresh fruits. I agree that hiding veggies in foods is a temporary fix at best. If the education doesn’t accompany the action, then there will be no lasting results. It may help with health for a bit but it’s kind of like brainwashing while blindly protecting. What a message to send…and not send!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Stacy

      I realize you could consider blending hiding the vegetables also but we do it together and they see all the vegetables go in as we do it. My barely three year old can name everything we put it to the foods we blend and the foods we cook! And they still eat those vegetables when they are not in blends as well. It increases the number of fruit and vegetable servings they get in their diet and without so much bulk.

      • shwankie

        Stacy, I am now going to have to make green ice cream–that sounds yummy! And, I don’t think blending veggies into some foods is unreasonable, if it’s not hiding them. I blend all kinds of vegetables into my tomato sauce for pasta (kale, spinach, mashed sweet potato, etc.); but, I’m not hiding it, I am giving it complexity and thickness (without the corn starch). If you’re kids eat vegetables, and know they’re in there, then I don’t see that as the same things as the “sneaky chef” thing, personally.

  • Maureen

    I never thought about the “deceptive cooking” method from this angle–but you make a great point.

  • Lindsey

    I agree whole-heartedly that hiding vegetables in the crap food is not the way to improve kid’s nutrition!
    I just posted about the sad state of our school lunches, and what counts as a ‘vegetable’ on our menu(http://coreylations.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/oh-potatoes/).
    I love the suggestion of teaching kids to cook, it’s a great way to help them understand healthy eating, it is hands-on learning.
    The only thing I wanted to point out was that (fortunately) our childhood obesity statistics are not quite that bad yet. The rate of obesity in children has reached almost 20% though; 1 in 5 is still tragic.

    • shwankie

      Lindsey,

      Thanks for the comment! The statistics depend on how you look at them. You are correct that only 1 in 5 are technically obese, but statistics also show up to 2/3 are overweight (which is defined differently than obese). Let me see if I can dig up those studies and post them.

  • santasown

    HA, hide a carrot in a brownie.. yeah that’s gonna work. I agree with you, this idea is plain stupid. With the holidays coming up, this is my advice to parents, make sure your kids eat their veggies with the turkey!

  • Catherine

    I agree completely! Now if your child is eating plenty of vegetables already and you are just trying to make sure they are really getting enough, perhaps if they are low weight or something, I see nothing wrong with “hiding” veggies, fiber, etc, in your regular food. But it should not be some kind of secret way to sneak vegetables into your child’s diet by pureeing them and hiding them in comfort foods. I’m so glad you wrote this post – you are right on!
    http://simplysolo.wordpress.com

  • dearliv

    A friend of mine told me that her son’s preschool teacher asked her to help stock the snack cabinet. “What kind of snacks?” she asked the teacher. “Oh, healthy stuff,” she replied. “Like Cheese Nips and Juice.” She later added, “I just hate for the children to drink water all the time.”

    Thank you for this post. As a fitness instructor and Elementary PE teacher, I find that we need to educate the parents as much as the students. I am amazed at what clients/parents consider “healthy options.” Keep up the good work!

    • shwankie

      Dearliv, that just makes me want to *headesk* until it feels good to stop. It’s also, as you say, such a huge part of the problem. Many adults have no idea what’s healthy, so how can they teach children?

      Adults are told that granola and juice are healthy, which can be true. They’re not told that most granola bars have more calories than some candy bars, and juice is usually full of HFCS and devoid of fiber and many nutrients. The health education in this country is appalling for the most part (I realize there are exceptions, of course, but the overall trend is abysmal.).

  • Mayberry Mama

    So true! Why is it kids are (generally) fed a strict diet of hot dogs and mac & cheese? We try to feed our son healthy meals. It requires planning in advance and is harder than just nuking a hot dog, but our son’s health is so worth it!

  • dellajune

    Thank you. It’s about time people started speaking out, and you did so quite eloquently.
    Congratulations on making freshly pressed!

  • Crystal Cranmore

    I agree. I think as adults, we should stop finding excuses for children to not be healthy. I think many parents in this day and age have forgotten to be parents and submit to their kids because they are tired of screaming little kids. Compromise is one thing but to come up with ideas like putting veggies in sweets is clever, but still stupid.

    I did a story on compulsive eating this week. http://www.ccranmore.wordpress.com

  • EmmKay

    Couldn’t agree more. Simply learning how to cook vegetables correctly goes a long way toward getting kids to like them.

  • pen2sword

    Could not agree more. And, I also think it’s a little… sad? bizarre? that kids are going to grow up and realize that those yummy brownies were a big fat lie. Like, that will make me trust my parents.
    Although my mom did try to pass off burned food as “chocolate” to me when I was a toddler… LOL. Let’s just say I was NOT falling for that one.

  • Michelle Earl

    I agree that you have to be a parent and guide your child through proper nutrition, but starting out with hiding the veggies is a good thing. I have done a similar thing with my husband who has a sensitive palette, and he now likes a lot more things than he used to. I think for the schools it’s a good idea because if you have a kid whose family is poor and they don’t eat properly, and he/she doesn’t like vegetables, it’s a way to get it into them. Then they can learn about these things in health class – there are interactive ways to do that.

    So while I agree with your little rant, I have to disagree. How long are you going to make a kid sit there and eat his / her vegetables. Putting it as a sauce with pasta for example can get them used to the taste. Then you can ask “Did you like that?” If they say yes, then you can say, “That was such and such vegetable.” Then it turns it around. You can change it. It’s not manipulation, it’s education.

    Great article though. Keep up the good work.

    • shwankie

      Michelle, I do see your point, but I am still going to disagree. Many studies have shown that children, poor or otherwise, will make appropriate, healthy choices given well-cooked food and some education–even if they don’t get those same choices at home. I do agree that we need more health education, but without pairing it with appealing healthy choices, it will do little good. To my knowledge, there’s no studies showing that the “hiding” method encourages healthy choices by kids (though I’m always open to new research if there’s something out there), while there’s a lot of good research showing simple honesty, good modeling by adults, and decent food results in a significant change.

      The wonderful people who raised me (my grandparents–my mother is dead) didn’t sit there for any length of time to make me eat my vegetables. They just simply said “this is what’s here, it’s what we have. Eat it, or go hungry. ” If I chose not to eat it, I went hungry that meal. There wasn’t enough time for grandma to do a lot of blending or “hiding.” She had 5 other children besides me, a husband, and a farm to run. That she got dinner on the table at all was amazing, some days.

      Also, I just don’t believe in dishonesty or trickery, to children or adults. I would never, for example, put something into a dish I am making for a friend, and then pull a “Gotcha!” on them. It’s rude. They ask what’s in something, I tell them–before or after they eat it. It’s disrespectful to do otherwise, and I feel the same about doing it to kids.

      My DH, at one time, thought he didn’t like a lot of things and had some issues because of all the starches he ate (it gave him some symptoms of ADD, but because he’s so tall and active, it never made him overweight. Therefore, he never knew it was a problem). He’s an adult, and I respect him, so when we started dating I was honest and upfront. I didn’t hide things, because I certainly wouldn’t want him hiding things from me. We talked, I told him I’d like him to try new foods because food is so much a part of my life, and I wanted us to both be healthy. He agreed because he respected me and wanted good things for us. If I’d been “hiding” ingredients and he found out, I am fairly certain that we wouldn’t be together, and I wouldn’t blame him. I’d never stay with someone who would do that to me without my knowledge.

      • Michelle Earl

        My husband had bad experiences when he was younger with different consistencies of foods that would make him gag so there was a mental blockage there – that’s why the hiding – if you can get through the blockage that someone doesn’t like a certain vegetable or food, by telling them after, it can open up the door. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t hide things – it’s just a way I have had to work with him to EDUCATE his palette. Again, such can be the same with kids. I’m agreeing with you that it needs to be better in schools – we’re arguing semantics here.

  • hunter71

    I am a kid and I agree you should not trick kids to eat veggies. As adults, I am sure you would not like to be tricked to do things and it is not cool for kids either. My Mom knows that I don’t like cooked carrots but love them uncooked and gives them to me the way I like them. I like corn on the cobb or canned, but not creamed. Maybe we should find different ways to cook healthy food that we like. If we don’t like it one day, try cooking it a different way and we may like it. Hunter71 http://www.hcrproducts.com

    • shwankie

      Hunter, thank you for commenting, and you’ve made a great point. Many people, as you say, don’t necessarily like things prepared one way, but may love them prepared or served differently.

      And, fun blog you’ve got there! My nephews ride, though not as much as they used to. Great vids!

      • Michelle Earl

        That’s what I’m saying – what I do isn’t always ‘hiding’, but getting my kids to start with a vegetable one way (it may be hidden) and then GRADUALLY bringing it into open, it may bring them forward. Hunter, that’s where I started with my husband and we went from you, so I like your opinion.

  • jenstate

    A big part of not offering healthy meals is parents say they run out of time. At babyminding.com, we have a section dedicated to offering quick, easy meal ideas that are much healthier than fast food. Please check it out!
    http://babyminding.com/2007/09/12/is-this-a-healthy-dinner/
    Here is another great idea to get kids to eat their veggies: Right before dinner when they are begging for a snack, set out some homemade ranch dip and chopped raw veggies for dipping. If they are really hungry, they will eat it!

  • Hannah

    I completely agree! I grew up eating everything on my plate, and it always appalled me how other parents pandered to their child’s every desire. As a result, I love all different kinds of food and enjoy trying new things all the time – and I’m healthier for it! Thanks for a great, candid post.

    • shwankie

      Kudos to you! I was raised the same. My grandparents raised me in a house where the rule was “you get what’s on the table, or you go hungry.” We were poor, but were very fortunate that we lived on a farm, so pretty much all we had were vegetables, fresh milk, and freshly-slaughtered meat. There were too many of us to buy the (at the time very expensive) “convenience foods, and I am so glad I grew up this way! I’m healthy, active, and love all kinds of food because I wasn’t able to be picky–I had to try it all!

  • land animal

    I completely agree! This has been my beef with Jessica Seinfeld for years. Vegetables are delicious. Teaching kids they must be hidden in food teaches kids the opposite!

  • seekingzeal

    Amen to that! I’m baffled by the number of people who make a meal for themselves and then make something completely different for their children who claim they “don’t like it.” We grew up under the rule of “Your mother made it, so you’re going to eat it,” and for the most part, that worked out just fine. We’re running our own home under the same basic theory, and unsurprisingly, our kids will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them. Do they like some things better than others? Of course! But that doesn’t stop them from at least having small servings of everything we make, and that certainly doesn’t entitle them to eat chicken fingers and hamburgers while we have lamb stew and salmon.

  • Club Dine In!

    I really, really liked what you had to say and how you said it!

  • CrystalSpins

    “Be a parent. We need to stop pandering to children. ”

    Preach on! I love it.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  • Kwiatkowski

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    This article gets five stars, a standing ovation, and a resounding AMEN!!!

    Eat your spinach. I did when I was a kid, and it’s still one of my favorite foods! Oh, and by the way . . . that canned stuff Popeye guzzled down? Disgusting. The best and most delicious way to serve vegies is in their most natural state: raw or very lightly steamed.

  • Qwirkle

    You are 100%, I love your first statement – parents needing to be parents. I think so many parents these days are so focused on being their children’ “friend” that the kids don’t get the proper parenting that they need. Now I’m personally am not a huge fan of veggies but do realize the value in eating them. Find the ones you like and eat more of these. The same can go with your children.

    While not the same as mixing it in cheese sauce, but you can easily include vegetables in some food dishes. Brocoli in bakes potatoes, onions/lettuce in hamburgers, and even side salads with some cheese and dressings. It is possible to add some veggies to a meal without making it a side in itself. In my opinion this does not make you a bad parent, but more creative!

    • shwankie

      I agree that Incorporating vegetables into food is not the same as hiding them. I stuff potatoes with broccoli, I add spinach & black beans to my meatloaf, kale and eggplant to my lasagna, we serve salads, etc. I do it because we like those foods, and they add fiber and bulk while decreasing calories per ounce (at 5’0″, that latter is important for me, but not so much for DH at 6’6″–oh, to be tall and lanky!). Adding vegetables to foods children already like just makes sense–it’s part of presentation and making vegetables appealing.

  • shwankie

    Wow, I came home to an avalanche of comments! Thank you so much to everyone who has commented, on both sides of the argument!

  • Evie Garone

    We always tried to make 2 vegetables a night and tried to get the kids to try one or both—at least a few bites. If they liked one or both then we continued making that and we had at least one veggie a night that one or both liked and so on. As they’ve grown up they now eat them on campus and my one son loves them and V8, so I guess it worked! Yay! But I NEVER bothered to “hide” them, whats the use. That’s my opinion of NPR, anyway, they are ridiculous! Ha, Ha!

    evelyngarone.com

    • shwankie

      Evie, that’s a great strategy (as evidenced by your son, of course)! I actually listen to, and like, a lot of NPR human interst stuff (I also listen to more conservative stations, and like those, too–it’s all about getting balance, which is hard to do unless you listen to both ends). Once in a while, though, they miss the mark for me. Though, this was as much me being annoyed that this is being looked at as a possible “fix” in school lunches, which has nothing to do with NPR and everything to do with our broken food and political systems. Always looking for the “easy fix.”

  • ambermartingale

    When I was really little, I wasnlt that picky. I didn’t start getting “picky” until I was a preteen.

  • Heather Frendo

    Three words: RIGHT. ON. SISTER!!!!!
    And then some more words: we have adopted this strange need to placate small humans (through food and varied bribery) in a way that teaches them the very least healthy ways of coping with life which they then carry and utilize when they are grown. No matter what end of the spectrum, child or adult, the behavior is intolerable. It is our responsibility to kindly, confidently teach kids how to be successful humans and eventual adults. Thanks for not mincing words. ~Heather

    • shwankie

      Heather, this is so true, and thank you for speaking out. I have seen too many examples of adults who were raised like this (in fact, I had a roommate who was a prime example). It’s disturbing how low-functioning someone raised like this can be–even though they have no intellectual or emotional deficits–simply because they were never taught how to be successful human beings and adults.

  • Heather CJ Atkins

    If I didn’t eat what was set before me, I went without… I learned to appreciate being fed (any form of food) from a very young age. Simple as that 🙂

  • fitbodycoach

    I absolutely agree with you. I definitely take the no nonsense approach. My kids know that I’m not a chef in a restaurant and that I’m not going to cater to their individual wants. Whatever is made for dinner is for everyone. My kids learned from a young age to love their veggies. I serve them with every meal and we all eat them. Teach by example, if they see you eating them and liking them, then there’s a good chance they will too.

  • Sunflowerdiva

    When I was little I hated my veggies, and my mom would say I couldn’t have dessert unless I finished up. However, she’d start snacking on chips before she even touched her vegetables, so I hated dinners with her. Sometimes I ate some stuff, and then when she wasn’t looking, I’d spit it into my napkin. Then I’d hide the napkin behind my plate so she couldn’t see it, and soon I’d be “done.” Thankfully I’ve grown to appreciate vegetables, but I remember those days when my mom almost taunted me. Haha! Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed, by the way!

    • shwankie

      Ugh, that’s awful! And, definitely not good modeling behavior, unfortunately. But, it sounds like you’ve grown up to like your veggies!

      And, thanks for the congrats! It kinda made my day to see I was featured!

  • Basma Mostafa

    This is true. Children should learn to make healthy decisions concerning their diets.

  • Wendy

    I LOVE to smuggle vegies at http://www.vegiesmugglers.com.au. Small children refusing food is demoralising for parents and leads to tension and unhappy mealtimes. Smuggling (hiding) vegies in healthy, delicious meals, introduces their pallettes to savoury, fresh flavours and takes the tension out of mealtimes – parents don’t have to nag at kids to eat, they can sit smugly at the table and watch the healthy food disappear.

    As kids get used to the meals, you can do less to hide stuff. Stop grating stuff, do a fine dice, then a larger chunk, until you’re not hiding food at all anymore.

    Smuggling healthy ingredients is a fantastic parenting technique that solves a food battle and leads to happy, positive mealtimes.

    The most nutritious option for everyone is raw food. So any cooking procedure is done in an attempt to make the ingredients more acceptable for us – smuggling vegies is just taking that process to the point needed to make our children happy and healthy.

    cheers,
    Wendy

    • shwankie

      Wendy, demoralizing for parents? Who is in control there? The answer: The child. Making a child eat their vegetables does not have to “demoralize” a parent. None of the parents here that make their kids do it sound “demoralized.”

      Children can be introduced to healthy, fresh foods by showing it to them. Salads. Raw broccoli, carrots, and beans for snacking.

      The point I was making is that children’ don’t get to “refuse” food. They’re children. They don’t get to refuse to go to school, clean their room, or do their homework. Or, eat their vegetables.

      And, you are incorrect that the most nutritious food is always raw. Many foods, such such as tomatoes and oats, have more nutrients available after proper cooking than they do raw. Generally, raw food is good for you, but cooking appropriately can retain and even enhance nutrients in most foods.

      And again, I can’t get behind lying. Whatever you call it, that’s what this is: dishonesty, deception.

      • Bella

        I actually agree wholeheartedly with what Wendy is saying here. I find it completely disheartening when a child goes to bed having refused to eat their meal with no dinner inside them and all that beautiful healthy food going in the bin. Why not grate something up while they get used to the flavour and then surprise them and tell them that they just ate zucchini and loved it. This is what I did with my girls and it is now a regular in our house. I don’t spend 40+ hours a week away from my children for mealtimes to turn into a fight and for slammed doors and an unhappy house. It’s about a balance. I don’t deep fry veggies or coat them in a cheese sauce, but I may occasionally make it a little hard for them to pull a meal apart piece by piece. I’d rather they ate it and I got a big hug and my girls went to bed happy and satisfied.

    • Janis

      Do you think your kids won’t notice you putting grated vegetables in the brownies? Do you think all the healthy qualities of the vegetables won’t be massively undermined by the shedload of chocolate, fat, and sugar you had to mix with them to get them to go down? Do you think the healthy quality of the broccoli will “cancel out” the fact that you mixed it with several cups of sugar and full-fat milk or something?

      This is crazy. You can’t turn brownies into health food by mixing a teaspoon of grated carrot with them. You can, however, turn a teaspoon of grated carrot into artery-clogging garbage by mixing, fat, sugar, and more sugar with it.

      Seriously — do you think the sugar in the brownies just vanishes when a carrot is waved near it or something?

  • doranyc

    Amen, Amen and….Amen! LOVE this post.

    There is a series of commercials for something that makes me crazy, like Chef Boyarde or something, where they pimp a product that has a “full serving of vegetables” in it (yeah right) and in the ads, they show the mothers going WAY out of their way to make sure that their children don’t hear about the veggies. I know it’s only a commercial but it pisses me off because of each and every reason you’ve listed here. Culturally, it is a disservice to children.

    • shwankie

      I’ve seen that, too. There’s a reason we don’t have TV–it just pisses me off 🙂 You’re right, it’s a huge disservice to children on so many levels. It doesn’t teach them healthy choices, it doesn’t teach them that well-prepared vegetables (and, while we’re at it, other healthy foods like legumes) are also flavorful. It just teaches them that if they throw enough of a fit, they don’t have to eat anything that’s not their favorite food.

  • Kelly

    I agree that parents should make sure that their kids are eating nutritional food, but you seem angry and judgmental of parents that “pander” to their children. I wonder if you have ever had the experience of dealing with a truly picky eater, as my husband was when he was a child. If a person has a true aversion to a food, there isn’t anything short of physical abuse that will make them eat it. Perhaps the experiences you have had with children refusing to eat were simply instances of willfulness, but I don’t think that is true of everyone. Science is exploring the possibility of “picky eating” being something written into our DNA.

    I’m not sure forcing a child to eat food is teaching them about proper nutrition, which is really about making health CHOICES. I was by no means a picky eater, but my parents would constantly make me eat canned spinach. It was possibly the one thing in the world that made me want to vomit, and my parents wouldn’t let me leave the table until I chocked down a few bites. I came to find out in my teens that I quite liked fresh spinach, that it was the texture of the canned spinach that was repellent to me. I also didn’t mind cooked spinach if it was *gasp* mixed up in something, like a casserole. There are also plenty other foods that could have provided the same nutrients as spinach that could have been offered in it’s place. If my parents included me in the meal planning or simply prepared a different vegetable, we wouldn’t have even had anything to argue about.

    Giving options to a child doesn’t mean giving in. In fact, you will be teaching them the ins and outs of making healthy eating decisions.

    • shwankie

      Kelly, I am definitely angry about all the catering that’s going on to children, in many areas.

      I am not saying force-feed your kids. I specifically say that appetizingly prepared foods are a key. If a child doesn’t find canned spinach appetizing (and, frankly, few people do, me included), then offer them fresh. Yes, they need to try some of everything, they need to know what it is. I also said, clearly, that everyone has things they don’t like. There’s been some good strategies right in these comments for dealing with that, such as having your children try different vegetables and preparations to see what they do like.

      I also never said vegetables had to be served in a mound on the side of a plate. Serving them in things, like casseroles, is fine. Blending them beyond recognition, then adding a bunch of cheese and pretending there’s no vegetables, isn’t teaching healthy choices, healthy eating, or expanding a child’s palate.

      And, I agree it’s about choices (as above). The choice is: “Timmy, would you like an apple or an orange for an after-school snack,” or “would you like to help me roast the broccoli for dinner?”

    • shwankie

      And, I agree with you about getting kids involved in planning meals (as my post above says). There’s little that makes children want to eat good things more than helping prepare them!

      Most people, as I say, have foods they don’t like. That is normal. In some cases, as with cilantro, it is even sometimes genetic. Children (or, for that matter, adults) who do not have an emotional, intellectual, or physical deficit, though, are incredibly unlikely to have a true aversion to more than a very few specific foods. True aversions is not the same as an overall dislike, or a preference for something else. And if there are two or three things a child just truly dislikes, or even has an aversion to, that is not the same as what we are discussing: children who refuse to eat anything but their favorite, unhealthy foods and are allowed to do so. If a person has serious food aversions to ore than a few foods, there is almost certainly something else at work that should be addressed, and that is (of course) far beyond the scope of this blog. It could be medical, emotional, or environmental, and should receive professional attention. An aversion to one or two foods can, obviously, be worked around while maintaining a healthy diet. Puree’ing the food the child has an aversion to, and putting it in their brownies is still, IMHO, lying and manipulation (and not helpful in the long run for many other reasons).

      Giving a child options isn’t giving in, necessarily. But, sometimes it is. It depends on who is doing the dictating. If the “option” is always that the child gets to eat whatever unhealthy foods they want because they throw a bit enough fit, then yes, it’s giving in. If it’s that the child really prefers to have broccoli over beans, and so you have beans more often then broccoli, that’s just common sense.

  • rufusswan

    You are not going to make lots of friends by being honest and pragmatic. Such Neanderthal thinking is out-moded today. Trust me.

  • joshsuds

    I totally agree with your post! Kids will eventually learn to enjoy vegetables if they eat them. I definitely did. Also, you’re spot on when you say we don’t need to cater to them.

    http://joshsuds.wordpress.com/

  • treva

    AMEN!!! We don’t hide veggies in my house. The other day I told DD (6 1/2 years old) what we were having for dinner and said, “Are you excited? I know you love it.” And she said, “Well, I don’t love it, but I do like it. And I know if I complain I’ll just get 3 more bites of it. So, I’ll just eat it.” It was both funny and eye-opening at the same time — b/c all that effort I’ve put in has paid off.

    Congrats on the “freshly pressed”!

  • Wendy

    Cooking tasty meals that a whole family can enjoy isn’t lying. I don’t have to explain every ingredient for every dish I make. I just like to present wonderful dinners that get eaten by all. You can see what I make at http://www.vegiesmugglers.com.au. The fresh food is evident, if not specified. No purees or overprocessing.

    Considering the problems with obesity in both the USA and Australia, I think any parent who’s prepared to put the effort in to get their family eating a wide variety of nutritious food should be congratulated, not hated on.

    And I am in charge of my household. But I’m not stubborn about it. I make concessions for the greater good. I think it’s part of gracious parenting.

  • luvscatsva

    Loved your blog post. You are so right- be the parent!! I am a working mom and have always told my kids ” I am not a short order cook” so what is on the table is what you have to eat. I don’t have any problem adding extra veggies to food ie grated carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, but deepfrying veggies or smothering them in cheese sauce? You have lost all health value by doing that!

  • SimpleDad

    Great post! Parent’s need to take the responsibility for teaching children to eat, and eating veggies is part of that. As others have said, eat what I fix or go hungry, it’s amazing when you leave the few options how much they’ll eat….

  • Gorona

    To be honest, I don’t understand the issue with eating vegetables in the first place.

    When I was a kid I rather had carrots from our own garden than chicken nuggets or whatever. I loved the potatoes, peas, carrots, onions and everything else that grew in our garden. It was first when I moved out of my parents that I had maccaroni and cheese and muffins and all that stuff cuz I was short on money (and let’s face it, these types of food are cheaper than vegetables). I thought it was so gross, I never ate it again (yes, never even had a second muffin).

    Long story short: I appreciate the time and effort my grand/parents spent into preparing food and teaching me what is good and what not, I will always be grateful for that.

  • Felice Forby

    Bam. Absolutely agree!
    Thanks for making this post.

  • Cheryl Collett, Itty Bitty Foodies - Yummy Adventures with Kids!

    Awesome post! i totally agree!! The greens have been out on the table from day one so it’s nothing foreign in our household. I do remember going to Nordstrom cafe (Bistro N) and on the kids menu it proudly announced “no broccoli!” i was appalled. I think they’ve since changed it. And havent’ you noticed that most kids menu do not contain any vegies. it’s all mac and cheese, cheese pizza. why are restaurants teaching our kids that this is food? anyway…i loathe Kids menus. I usually just get the restaurant to make a half portion and most will gladly do it.

    Anyway great post!

    • shwankie

      Cheryl, I agree kids menus in most places are just mini Happy Meals (read: full of crap). Your website is fantastic–it’s great to read about your little foodies trying all kind of different stuff (squid tentacles–now that is some adventurous eating!)!

  • Helen-Claire

    Did you have a look at Wendy’s website Shwankie? Her food is not pureed and blended beyond recognition, you can grate, dice, rough chop to suit your family, and it all looks delicious! How is “hiding vegetables” any different to adding grated carrot and zucchini (for example) to pasta sauce or a vegetable slice, if you tell your kids what’s in there? Wendy does say in her blog that she tells her kids what they’re eating if they ask. My son is only 7 months old, but I won’t have any issue with making Wendy’s recipes for him when he’s older. As his palate matures I can adjust meals, until then I quite like the idea of healthy, tasty meals the whole family can enjoy. I do agree that including kids in preparing and cooking meals will make them more inclined to eat the finished product, unfortunately we don’t have a garden so my son will have to learn about fresh produce from the good old Queen Victoria markets 🙂

    P.S. Please excuse my lack of eloquence, we did not have a good sleep last night, I don’t like teething 😦

    • shwankie

      Helen-Clare, I think I’ve said here several times that *adding vegetables to food” is NOT the same as hiding them. Rough chopping, etc, as you mention, is totally reasonable (and, for kids, actually necessary if they’re to be able to eat it). I am not sure how anyone, Wendy or otherwise, took “blending to puree in cheese sauce” to be the same as “adding spinach to a casserole” or “chopping up some broccoli in baked potatoes.” I have, in fact, said that those things are *good* ways to get your kids to try veggies.

      I was specifically talking about–and the NPR post was, as well–hiding vegetables in such a way that they’re totally unrecognizable as vegetables, especially in otherwise unhealthy foods. Blending puree’d squash into cheese sauce isn’t going to teach kids to like squash, because the flavor and texture of it isn’t going to come through. And, of course, it’s blended into cheese sauce.

      And, farmer’s markets are great places to learn about produce. Farmers are usually more than willing to talk about their wares, especially with children!

      • Bella

        I don’t think any of us do agree with this ‘blending with cheese sauce’ and none of us are remotely suggesting that it is acceptable, however in response to Wendy’s post you stated “I can’t get behind lying. Whatever you call it, that’s what this is: dishonesty, deception.” Yet all we were discussing is that there needs to be a safe way (without choking hazards for our little ones) to introduce new flavours and textures that enable children to develop a love of the good stuff. Surely common sense dictates that this is not lying or deception?

      • shwankie

        Bella, I haven’t gone through all (or even most) of Wendy’s recipes. Since I had never heard of her before, and don’t have time to read the blogs of every single person who’s posted on this page (most of which are bloggers), I was going on the general tone that she agreed with the NPR story of blending vegetables to unrecognizable consistency, then not telling children they were eating them. In her first comments, she talks about hiding veggies and sneaking them in, in direct response to my post–a post about hiding vegetables by making them unrecognizable. IMHO, yes, that is lying to children, just as it would be lying to an adult. If that’s not what she does, she need not wear the shoes; but, since she was agreeing with the post, my (very reasonable) assumption was that was/is her paradigm.

        Up until I made this very point in my last response, no one here has said “yes, but for young children to safely eat vegetables, they should be chopped small,” so I am pretty sure no one else was talking about a “safe” way to introduce new textures to young palates. Especially since Wend’ys post talks about hiding vegetables because it’s “demoralizing” if kids refuse to eat, and says nothing about worrying about a choking hazard. That isn’t something I read as a safety issue; so, again, I don’t think the argument was safety. I don’t think anyone who has posted would suggest endangering a child by feeding them inappropriately prepared food for their age (the need for pureeing food for safety ends pretty much the minute kids stop eating baby food).

  • alive | Timely Intentions

    […] agree wholeheartedly with this I’d like to know your guys opinion […]

  • amna

    Congratulation for making it to FP. I am so glad I came across your blog and specially this post. I was always so apprehensive of hiding veggies in the food and I felt awkward admitting to it..well, now I know there are so many people out there who share my concern. I feed my two year old all kind of veggies, and he loves veggie soups the most.. I don’t even put any salt in the soup and still he loves it and actually ask me to make him some :’) but it took a lot of hardwork, dealing with tantrums and persistence on my part to finally make him friends with beautiful veggies. Now my son comments on their colors, texture, crunchiness etc. 🙂
    I am happy parent 🙂

    • shwankie

      Anna, thank you so much for sharing that! Children can learn to make healthy choices, and I appreciate you sharing your experiences and success in teaching your son a love of fresh veggies, even though it was difficult at times, I am sure.

  • Janis

    I cannot fathom people who hate vegetables. I snarfed brussel sprouts and cauliflower, even as a kid. I loved them. The only vegetables I dislike are cooked carrots and peas, and I love them raw.

    My mom though was raised in an Italian immigrant family, where her parents and grandparents wouldn’t even eat a frozen chicken. “I don’t even know when that was killed,” was their objection. Buying a chicken to them meant sticking your hand in the cage, feeling the thing up, and then picking it out and having it killed then and there.

    We were also of very, very modest means. Processed food was out of the question for us. Rice a Roni? Soda? Kool-aid? My mom put all of that food in a single category: “crap.” “We’re not buying that, that stuff’s crap.” It was also expensive crap. And she sure didn’t have the time to waste making separate meals for everyone and negotiating everyone’s tastes. She cooked, we ate what was there or we didn’t. some of it was great, some of it was horrific. I still cannot go near either oatmeal or split pea soup even at gunpoint. And we survived.

    We ate veggies because that was what my mom knew how to cook. We pulled the skin off the chicken and threw it out because that was how she learned to cook; to this day, I’m sickened by chicken skin on cooked chicken because some part of me identifies it as garbage. Treats are rare because we never had them, so I got used to not having them. I should add that at 44 years of age and 5’8″, I’ve been just under 130 pounds my entire adult life.

    I don’t know if my upbringing is why I adore veggies and despise processed food to this day; my older brother loves that junk, and my oldest brother doesn’t care much one way or another. But an awful lot of what I see in the supermarket is stuff I barely recognize as food and wouldn’t even know how to cook.

    Food without labels, people. If it’s the same color as any variety of play-do, it ain’t food and don’t shove it down your kids’ gobs! Sure your kids might be pissed at you, yell, and refuse to eat — if you thought parenting was a walk in the park, you shouldn’t have done it. But you did, and now you have the responsibility to raise those little squalling blobs of id into reasonable human beings, so STFU and DO IT.

    Sorry … anyhow, awesome rant up there. 🙂

  • perfectperfectionist

    I cannot emphasise enough how I completely agree with you. One of my pet hates is the ‘Kids Menu’ in restaurants, with sausage and chips, or chicken nuggets and chips. GROSS. I wouldn’t eat that, why would I force a poor kid too? It’s all about giving kids the opportunity to enjoy good, varied food.
    Congrats on getting pressed, you totally deserve it.

  • Claire

    I support a mix. I have put pureed black beans in brownies (to add fiber) with no taste change, and am pushing my picky eater to add fruits and vegetables to his list of foods (which is very short, but includes apples and oranges, and now bananas). Maybe the issue is HIDING veggies, because COOKING wth more veggies in foods seems like a good idea from the vitamin, fiber and calorie perspective. My kids have requested that we put carrots in the banana bread (like their uncle, the best cook in the family makes it). My teenage son eats well and I think it just takes time for kids to cross over. The older one wants carrots, celery, grapes. The younger one is underweight, not overweight (part of being a picky eater) which is another reason that – in addition to encouraging him to taste new foods and expand his choices – I don’t have an issue with trying to incorporate more vegetables and whole grains into my cooking. Interestingly my younger reportsed that a friend and her Mom “hide” vegetables in the food and tell her older brother and their Dad after they’ve eaten it.

  • Maggie Maguire

    Someone may have already said this but a chef Stephanie Alexander has started a school garden movement in Australia that is going great guns.

    http://www.stephaniealexander.com.au/garden.htm

    Agree with you totally about the hiding veges besides wouldn’t they lose food value by being cooked so much that they were invisible?

    • shwankie

      I hadn’t heard of Stephanie Alexander, but it’s wonderful to read the movement is catching on in Australia, too! I’ll check that site out, and I appreciate you sharing it!

  • Claire

    Just one question, did you teach your kids to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny etc etc etc or do they all fall into the “dishonesty & deception” clause?

    An extreme point I know but all I’m trying to emphasize is we do things for our kids to make childhood special. If making mealtimes a treat for the whole family by sneaking a few veggies until they are old enough to understand the importance of said vegetables is a choice we as parents get to make……..

    • shwankie

      Claire, parents do get to make the choices for their children. I am just saying that I disagree with the choice to hide vegetables in unhealthy food to get kids to eat them, which is a choice I get to make. Do kinds not have to clean their rooms until they’re old enough to understand the importance of being tidy? Do they not have to brush their teeth until they understand the importance of good dental hygiene? Are all these things made more “palatable” somehow, too? What if a child really doesn’t like bathing? Or doing homework? Are those things “hidden” somehow?

      My family isn’t religious nor particularly into holidays. None of us ever believed in Santa, the tooth fairy, or the Easter Bunny. And yes, actually, I do still consider those deceptive. My childhood was special, l ate my vegetables because that’s what was on the table, and gifts I got were from people who loved me and not imaginary figures (that made childhood incredibly special, frankly).

  • Wendy

    Wow! Isn’t it great to see so many people being so passionate about this!

    I think we should all step back and take a moment to be proud about our interest in the topic and that fact that we bother to cook healthy meals at home and don’t feed our kids fast food crap.

    love and peace!

    Wendy

    • shwankie

      Wendy, you are absolutely right, and thank you for the comment! Everyone here, regardless of their view of my opinion, cares enough to read about it, comment, and in most cases cook their meals at home instead of relying on McDonald’s. That is something we all have in common, and it’s reassuring to see there are this many people doing it, regardless of *how* they’re doing it!

  • Jane

    I am so glad I have always loved vegetables. My parents never had to force me to eat them because I did willingly.

    It can be tough trying to get kids to eat something when they don’t want to, and that can be why parents just give up. I think it’s disgusting to try and hide vegetables in unhealthy foods. In the end, those vegetables are no longer healthy if they are hiding in a piece of chocolate cake, or cheese sauce.

    Many parents these days just don’t know how to discipline their children, and this includes their diet.

    Thanks for this great post. I know that someday when I get married and have kids, I will make them eat right and have the backbone to enforce it.

  • uforicfood

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with you! I don’t have kids – but I was just talking about this very issue of getting kids to eat vegies the other day.
    I have decided that my kids can have two vegies they never have to eat – and after that, they have to eat everything else.
    My mum made me sit at the table and eat all my vegies – and I love her for that because I am the most non-fussy eater on the planet and am completely in love with food (check out my blog if you don’t believe me LOL http://www.uforicfood.wordpress.com ). I do wish I had an out clause for eating peas though. I really didn’t like them and use to sneak away from my chair and push them down the plug when my mum went out of the kitchen.
    I also agree that kids are much more likely to enjoy vegies if they help grow them. I still remember growing sprouts in a little plastic container in grade 3. I loved it!
    And there is no way we should be making ‘special’ meals for our kids. I say expose them to new tastes and textures. Too often I see my friends whipping up bland old noodles for their kids because they can’t imagine them eating anything with some half decent flavour. No wonder the kids don’t get excited at meal times!
    Thanks for being so honest about your feelings. I love someone who isn’t afraid to be controversial. However, judging by the support you have here … I’d say it was what most people were thinking, but too afraid to say out allowed.
    Congrats on an awesome post, and on being freshly pressed!

  • Marc Lougee

    Great article! Happy to have found this- I totally agree with the non-pandering parenthood aspects. I ate well as a kid, and we were below poverty level income in New Hampshire. It’s completely feasible to get your kids to eat vegetables and healthy foods; most times, it’s merely a matter of proper parenting, ie controlling the food presented to them.
    Cheers, looking forward to more insightful stuff! – M

  • batikmania

    I strongly agree with you. I use to “force” my students in my class to eat veggies during lunch time. It’s our responsibility to do so, so they have enough nutrition to support their daily activities and body development/growth. It’s a pity that sometimes the catering doesn’t provide healthy food for the kids. But… once there are veggies, I’ll “force” my students to eat it. In some occasions, once they tried it, they actually like it and ask for more. 😉

  • robertscher

    Awesome someone who thinks like me. Nothing wrong with having a healthy diet at the table for children. My daughter eats what is put in front of her, veggies and all. Because I started her with regular meals at home while she was very young up till now. She is almost 9 and loves most veggies, and salads along with the typical meal. Honestly I don’t know how some people can afford to take their children to fast food restarants and to feed junk at home all the time. Because of her well balanced meals at home I don’t mind taking her out every once in a while. I never had to hide the veggies to get her to eat, it was on her plate she would eat it.

  • Lizeth

    I am so happy to have read this… I am one of the said parents that is manipulated by her toddler and I admit to giving in and want nothing more than to change that. So, I guess all I have to say is THANK YOU!

  • writingto140

    I don’t have kids myself so it will probably seem very bias of me to be saying this and those with kids will say what would you know? just wait till you have kids.. and similar comments… but I completely agree.

    I can’t stand it to watch parents who try to be their children’s best friends. I’m sorry but no, you can’t be a good parent and a best friend to a child. First you have to be a good parent and as the child grows up and is able to comprehend things and understand why your parenting the way you do, that’s when the friendship bonds begin to form. If you want your kids to be healthy, make them be healthy. Stop being too scared or too politically correct and just be a parent. Kids won’t hate their parents for life like most fear that the will (99% of the time at least…my guess that is)

    I did an internship at a day care/preschool once and when it came to lunch time it completely amazed me in a good way in that the children were given a small portion of something like spaghetti, fruits and veggies and every single kid would eat their fruits and veggies first and some would even ask for seconds. Now they didn’t ignore their main course, but they also didn’t put up any fights over having to eat the fruits and veggies. It just goes to show that you don’t have to hide it in their foods to make them eat it

  • mariethea

    Great article, and something I’ve been thinking about since the commercials advertising kid’s processed foods with “a full serving of vegetables!” came out, and they drive me nuts.

    I complained to a friend once (we’re both college-aged, with no kids), and her argument was that complaining kids are upsetting to parents and hey if they get veggies what’s the problem?

    Well, when I was a kid, it was eat or go hungry. We didn’t have to finish the whole plate, but at least take a few bites of the vegetable, and if we wouldn’t eat that, then the plate would go in the fridge until we wanted to eat. At which point, we ate the vegetables.

    Just why is the idea of letting a kid go hungry (not the same as starving) for a few hours ‘demoralizing’? I can understand wanting your children to be happy, but no one is happy every single minute. And learning to live with the idea that no one can be happy every minute of every day is far better in the long run.

  • yaoyaostella

    This is my first time to come here.
    I like the blog

    http://yaoyaostella.wordpress.com

  • Sixthirtythree

    Great points!

    I wondered if you had children, though. I do not, however, listening to my sister and mother talk about how difficult it is to get my niece to eat green foods, as well as watching my niece have a tantrum and later have a difficult #2, I am not in full agreement with you.

  • maryawrites

    I am totally with you on this one. Nothing is more disgusting as making veggie purees and hiding them in other things. Yuck.

    Actually can somebody teach me how to feed veggies to my biggest kid – my husband?

  • Roda

    Wow Wendy…..way to go. I loved your non-nonsense, tell it like it is attitude. Its the absolute correct approach. The rules in my house were pretty draconian when it came to eating what was cooked and served. My kids never had the choice of ..if you don’t like it you can go to bed hungry, they simply ate what was served on their plates. And its not that they did not throw tantrums …they did but very seldom got away by doing that. It was – ok so throw you tantrum and then buckle down to eating what’s on your plate. They turned out ok as adults now they look on certain veges as gourmet food.

  • firenzemom

    Let me start first by stating, I have two children and they are very different in their ways. I have feed them in ways that you have mentioned and many points are valid and I agree but there is some fault to it too.

    When children hit the age of 2 1/2 and they realize the differences, develop likes and dislikes. This is a learning stage. It should be promoted, but you don’t need to cater to it My first child did this and I didn’t realize what was happen at first. As I mention below, I feed one meal and that is it. But my child started to only eat just plain carbos and meat and nothing else. He would not eat dessert and he would refuse to eat anything else. I went crazy, because he was losing weight and went from 95% (he would eat anything I put in front of him until 2 1/2) to under the % of children weight. He didn’t realize what hungry is? He still doesn’t, but I managed to get him to eat healthy by the tips I mention below. Now he is back into the normal % for children his age.

    “Be a parent. We need to stop pandering to children.”
    I wholeheartedly agree. I see this often and it is bad for the child in so many ways. They learn to manipulate. They also learn that their parent is not a parent. You as a parent need to set rules and follow them through. You can not feel appreciated when your child starts to whine and you realize you give in just to stop the whining. Children will whine and it is up to you to reinforce the rule and say, This is the way it is.” Then ignore the whine, it will stop eventually, I promise.

    ” Parents get to control your child’s diet, the child does not.” Yes and no. Yes the parent is in control, but if you give the child a selection between veggies to choose for the dinner, they actually will be more likely to eat it.

    “They CAN go to bed without dinner and not wake up emaciated and ready to die, no matter how big a fit they throw to the contrary.”
    This is true by health standards, but mentally It would be better if you didn’t have to do this. I think if you state that “What is on the table is dinner” ” I am not making anything else” “You can eat it or not, but I am not going to hear any complaints” Then sit to eat. If the child doesn’t eat don’t force it. (this is where the eating disorders both directions comes in.)

    I am breaking here to mention this because I believe so much in this. You serve them dinner and hopefully you have the knowledge to know how much etc. But do not force. When hungry children will eat. (unless doctor has told you that your child is underweight) Parents (including myself at times) say eat all that is on your plate. Sometimes I wonder if children really know what hungry is? We do feed ourselves and children way too much food and by asking them to finish everything on the plate, then you are asking them to go beyond their sense of what they feel is full. Now you bring up dessert, well, if you have the rule of no dessert till you finish you food then follow through. If you child says they are done, mention OK you are done. Do not give them dessert. When they say but I am hungry for dessert, then you say then you need to finish your dinner first. My child used to tell me he had different shapes and that he was full for dinner but there was space for dessert. Funny but it didn’t work. Our rule finish your dinner first before dessert.

    “Kids learn to like what they’re fed.”
    Very true. Now when you introduce spices and herbs or very ethnic foods that are new, yes they might not like at first. You should introduce small amounts at a time. It will be a hit or not. But remember to reintroduce it again later.
    I have done this many times, since they were even babies. I love a variety of other ethnic dishes. I would make the dinner for example curry. I would make the curry (not very spicy but a little) and plain rice. For the kids I would put them on the plate separately. I have always told them to taste it (a nice trick too is to make it a game, asking them if they can tell what is in their food, carrots, chick peas, etc.) They would taste it. Then they would eat it if they liked or just eat the rice. Either way was OK with me and I didn’t make anything new. Now both my children eat Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Greek and I can go on.

    “Kids eat what their parents eat.” I agree to this, but I have noticed a problem. Parents now a days don’t even seem to eat with their children. Children are feed by themselves lots of times with even the TV on. I feel and do here that the children need at least one parent to be eating with them. One for them to see that you do eat the same as them. Also, because it is a good time to get to know what is on your child’s mind and how school went. Talking about other things other telling them continuously to eat gives a relaxed environment and they will eat when they are relaxed. The other parent can eat with you at the table when they get home. They don’ t have to have you eating necessarily with them, but your kids do.

    “Hiding healthy food in “unhealthy” food teaches children bad eating habits” If you want to do this fine it will not hurt the child, but you still need to have meals that show the vegetables and other foods in their natural state. This can be done by yes, having your child help you cook. Believe me this will help them eat their dinner. They are proud of themselves that they accomplished something and forget what is in it.

    You will not have to hide veggies if you get the children in a a relaxed eating environment, have them help you cook, and make a small guessing game as to what is on the dish. And most importantly, watching portion size both directions too small or too large. When a child says they are full. Let them finish. But don’t give in to whining for dessert if there is food on the dinner plate.

    Your post has many good points, but I feel the information was presented a little in a cold manner. Feeding children is tough at times in this world today. It does fall down to the parent making the right choices and following through, but it is not really that easy at times. There are many influences you have to go against. There are parents working late, Grandparents with different ideas, fast food places, Schoolmates, etc.

    As far as schools hiding veggies, I think fine as long as the food is healthy. I think that most schools are not serving healthy foods for lunch and that really is the big problem then them hiding veggies.

  • Maria

    Loving it! I was always taught to eat different food and my made me used to eat different vegetables from the time I first started eating “proper” food. Something I will continue doing when I get children 🙂

  • Summer

    I totally agree with you! kids should eat veggies and should be taught from a very young age!!!

  • A Little Force Will Do ;) | Batikmania on Cyber World

    […] for me;) Yeay …! Really, Sometimes what they need is just a little force;) By the way, check this blog out. This is a story about our obligations, as parents, to make our children eat […]

  • notesfromrumbleycottage

    You hit this one way out of the park. Great post! congrats on getting freshly pressed.

  • Chris Sauter

    I love this debate! Getting kids to eat more veggies on any level is a good thing but cooking with your kids is the best way to get them excited about real food and flavors. Check out our gourmet kids food blog where every meal is an adventure! picklesandcake.com 🙂

  • firenzemom

    I wanted everyone to see this blog especially if you have picky eaters. This is a great blog about cooking with her child. She has many dishes and pictures too.

    http://www.cookingwithmykid.com/

  • sayitinasong

    Hear, hear! I completely agree. Start your kids on vegetables- the you dont have to go back and try and get them to eat them… as they already do!!

  • Trevor Rogers

    Well said. There is something desperately wrong today. As a kid, we were given healthy options to eat. There was never another option. So we accepted this and grew up just fine. Having two toddlers of my own now, I’m hoping to keep them on the right path. We’ll see…

  • Sister Earth Organics

    Oh man…do I love this one!!!
    This blog post should be required reading for all parents!
    Living in the south and being surrounded by foods like fried lard didn’t help me.

    I was almost kicked out of the local diner when the waitress asked my 5 year old “Honey, do you want bacon with that?”
    and my daughter said, “Mommy, what’s bacon?”

  • TheCoolDown

    This is very true, children need to be TAUGHT healthy living, not fooled into it.

    http://www.cooldownfitness.com

  • 4myskin

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!! So true, and this post says it so well.

  • ....the little thread of thoughts

    Family is where the first habits are learnt. If parents eat a balanced diet, kids will soon eat the same. Later, as healthy living is taught to them, they’ll soon understand the importance of proper diet. Thanks for the eye-opener !!

  • chluke

    I have to agree with you 100%! But like many life lessons, you may not see the results for years.

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