Should you hide vegetables in your child’s food? Experts weigh in.

Should you hide vegetables in your child's food?  Experts weigh in.

Many parents include vegetables in their children’s meals. But dietitians say the practice could “break confidence” with a picky eater. (Image: Getty; artwork by Jay Sprogell)

In 2008, Jessica Seinfeld released Deceptively delicious, a cookbook teaching parents how to sneak, say, spinach into dishes loved by children who would rather toss a broccoli floret across the room than put it in their mouth. Homemade carrot ketchup? Chickpea chocolate chip cookies? Picky kids were (theoretically) no better behaved, and moms learned to make peace with a steady stream of grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets and the like, as long as they were sneakily filled with veggies.

But when food writer and mum Jean Choi posted on her WhatGreatGrandmaAte Instagram account about cooking vegetarian meals for her baby girl without her realizing it, she was accused of giving them “food issues.” trust”.

“My mom never hid the veggies, she just knew how to cook them and make them taste good,” one commenter wrote. “Thanks to her, I have an incredible relationship with food.” Choi defended herself against “the silly mama holier than you shame” by sharing that she also gives her daughter vegetables in “their full forms” and that she has found that cooking with her child helps the tot to reconsider dishes that she might normally reject. korean paleo The author also pointed out that some children have a sensory food aversion that causes them to avoid certain ingredients if they are cooked or presented in their traditional forms.

But what is the position of dietitians on the practice of slipping vegetables into a child’s meal?

Jennifer Anderson, registered dietitian and founder of Kids Eat in Color, told Yahoo Life that this could backfire on some children.

“If your child doesn’t like cauliflower, but does like quesadillas, you might think it would be good to include some cauliflower rice with the cheese in the quesadilla,” she says. “Picky eaters can often tell extremely small changes, however. When your picky eater finds cauliflower, they may stop eating quesadillas and even other round or white foods. Is that risk worth your child? eat a tablespoon of cauliflower?”

Leah Hackney, pediatric dietitian and chief operating officer of , is also wary of the practice.

“In most cases, I don’t recommend ‘stealing’ vegetables, especially if your child is extremely picky,” says Hackney. Like Anderson, she thinks encouraging a child to eat vegetables “can break trust with the child and cause them to reject food further, or in the future even reject some of their favorite foods they ate before. .”

But there are more candid ways parents can try to help their kids feel more comfortable with vegetables.

Use neutral language around food

Hackney recommends talking to children about vegetables in a neutral and educational way.

“It’s like using developmentally appropriate language to describe them in neutral terms based on their color and sensory properties like flavor, texture, sound, etc.,” she explains. . “The key to doing this successfully is to keep it educational, without the pressure to try it and without adding moral value to the food.”

Parents may also want to educate their children about the benefits of vegetables to help promote better understanding. “For young children, you can say something like: peas are green and green foods can help us fight disease,” suggests Veronica La Marca, dietitian for picky eaters.

Let children play with their food

New foods can be intimidating, especially for picky eaters. Parents can help their child discover new food by letting him help in the kitchen, without any pressure to eat the dish he is helping to prepare.

“If there’s a vegetable your child doesn’t like, you first need to build that trust with that vegetable out of curiosity,” says Alexandra Turnbull, registered dietitian and founder of The Family Nutritionist. “You can do that by having them play with it, stacking it, making a picture of it, feeding it to yourself, scooping it up on your plate.”

Once the child is more comfortable, they are more likely to take a bite to see if they like it or not.

Practice patience

It can be frustrating when a child doesn’t eat as much as a bite of carrot that a parent has tried to make a dozen different ways. Progress can happen, but it’s unlikely to happen overnight. Stick it out

“Children can learn to love vegetables over time,” says Turnbull. “It can take eight or more tries – or… (even) years of tries – before they can honestly tell whether they like a food or not. It’s not because they haven’t liked it once they won’t like it the next, especially if it’s prepared differently.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Parents who have not seen progress in their child’s eating habits or have concerns about their child’s diet may want to consult a registered dietitian and nutritionist for professional advice. Children with sensory needs or a condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, that impacts their aversion to certain foods, will usually need professional support.

“For children with sensory issues, it’s best to make sure they’re seen by a multidisciplinary feeding team,” says Hackney. “For example, meal times may need to be shorter and more frequent. Children with sensory issues such as ARFID (restrictive avoidant food intake disorder) or pediatric eating disorder can slowly build on the foods they currently eat, but it takes time and practice. patience. It is also important to consider each child’s individual sensory needs and make the experiences positive for future feeding progress.

Don’t judge how other parents feed their child

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing about something like secretly grating cauliflower into a kid’s beloved Velveeta macaroni and cheese without resorting to the “mom shaming” Choi rants against. is pronounced.

“We really don’t know what another parent has tried or hasn’t tried, or what they’re navigating when it comes to food and nutrition,” Hackney says. “I see so many judgments online where parents look at what another person has packed in their child’s lunch and think I can’t believe they packed this. But on the other hand, what if that was what made this child feel comfortable eating while at school? What if they only have these foods for lunch and it’s a special occasion? Or what if it is a culturally significant food or a food that families appreciate being able to purchase or provide as a sense of status? What if that food was the battle they decided not to pick that day before school? There’s so much more to our daily food and nutrition choices than just what happens – the unseen mental load that comes with it is endless! What works for one family may not work for another.

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