Whether or not their child is eating enough veggies is one of the biggest concerns I hear from parents of picky eaters. First and foremost, there is no food that your child NEEDS to eat. It’s totally possible for them to meet their nutrition needs without eating a plateful of veggies. That being said, many parents wonder if hiding veggies in their kids food is a good way to give their kids a little nutrient boost.
Adding Veggies to Food
I am a huge fan of adding veggies into food. Many of the meals we make at home have added veggies. We often add spinach to smoothies or sweet potato to bars. You may have noticed lentils in my muffins or shredded carrots in marinara sauce.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding veggies to food.
You just want to make sure that your child knows the vegetables are there, especially if they are picky.
The problem arises when we hide veggies in food. Yes, most of the time our kids will never know. But, when they do find out, it breaks down their trust in us and the food.
What was once considered a safe food is no longer safe. Where else could veggies be hiding? You risk your child further limiting the number of foods they eat. They may be less willing to eat foods that you prepare.
Remember that it’s their job to choose what they eat and they can’t make that choice if they aren’t presented with the truth.
This is not even taking into account the fact that if the veggies do remain hidden, the child isn’t actually being exposed to them. They are no more likely to eat them the next time they are offered. So while your child may get a little nutrient boost at that meal, we’re not actually addressing any picky eating.
What to Do Instead
Tell your children what’s in the food. You can continue adding spinach to the smoothie, just let them know it’s in there. Better yet, have them add the spinach into the smoothie themselves. They can interact with the spinach and see how it looks and feels before it’s blended up.
Getting kids involved in the preparation of the food can help build back up that trust if it’s been broken. Not only is it a great way to introduce neutral exposures to foods, but because kids can see what goes into the food, they know there’s nothing hiding in it. Does this mean they’ll eat it? Of course not. But it’s a step.
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.