Is sneaking vegetables into your kid’s food a good idea?

Published in For the Health of It Author: Jennifer Harris, RDN LD CEDRD

Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian
St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic

Parents have been working hard to find ways to get their kids to eat vegetables — even resorting to tactics such as “hiding” them in the foods they serve, only to fret that their child may discover the deception and return to food refusal. This approach to feeding leads not only to frustration for the parent and the child but it may interfere with food acceptance skills and contribute to picky eating. Thus, perpetuating the very cycle that needs to be broken.

Parents do have a role in feeding children in a way that offers them lots of opportunities to learn and grow with their eating. Children can learn to eat the foods their parents eat. (You eat vegetables, right?)

The Ellyn Satter feeding models are considered the gold standard of feeding and are often referred to as the “trust-based model.” One that supports parents and children as they learn and grow with feeding and eating. One that doesn’t rely on deception or mistrust.

Developing food acceptance skills is important. This skill supports an ever-increasing variety of foods that in turn, will support your child’s nutritional health. Children do rely on their parents to provide opportunities for learning by offering different foods, or even the same foods prepared in different ways — all foods, not just vegetables.

Instead of hiding, forcing or bribing your child to eat certain foods try this instead:

  • Pair familiar with unfamiliar foods. This way your child won’t feel too worried about the new food since there are other familiar foods present.
  • Serve some meals “deconstructed” if you’d like. This helps you avoid the temptation to short order cook and allows family members to work on their food acceptance skill building.
  • Let your child decide if they are going to taste or not taste the new food. By preparing it and offering it, you’ve done your job. Time to let your child do theirs.
  • Teach your child how to politely remove food from their mouth if they find they simply cannot swallow the food. Having your permission to try a food and not like it or not have to eat it, reassures them that it is OK to be curious about new foods even if it turns out they didn’t like it.
  • Repeat. It can take 30-50 neutral (meaning: no pressure, positive or negative) exposures to new food before a child begins exploring.

Join us for our Feeding with Love and Good Sense Class at Lifestyle Health for more in-depth information support and parent companionship.