Even before I started reading the scientific literature on picky eating , I have always instinctively felt uncomfortable with the phenomenon of vegetable subterfuge. It's a common ruse - many parents smuggle fruit or vegetables into food that they know their child will like. The motivation behind this comes from a good place - parents want their children to have a healthy diet. They want to avoid the conflict that they expect would arise if they went about things in a more direct way. Recently, I stumbled across this blog called 'sneaky fruit and veg'. Actually, the recipes on it look quite nice - like the most recent one for sausage and apple rolls. BUT - I just don't feel good about the notion of smuggling healthy foods in by the back door. The more I googled, the more I found, such as this American book The Sneaky Chef.
I began thinking about what it was that was bothering me. Hiding fruit and vegetables is not something that I've written about in War & Peas, but I started to analyse how it sits in relation to my philosophy.
- With EAF, multiple exposure to different foods is key. By hiding food, you are not helping your child to become more familiar with it.
- Demonstrating positive eating behaviours is an important aspect of EAF. If vegetables are hidden, will children see you eating them?
- I advocate serving everybody the same thing - as an adult, do you really want to be eating your mushrooms blended to within an inch of their lives and your carrots only in cake form ( okay, well possibly ''yes' to the carrot cake...)
As so often happens, I experienced a bit of synchronicity and by chance, came across two things which have answered my question about why secret veggies don't feel right to me.
The first was the excellent Canadian Healthy Families blog in British Columbia, where registered dietitian Dean Simmons writes in his post Picky Eating: A not so sneaky tip that works
" The main concern is that your child may perceive your well intentioned sneaking as trickery, which can damage the hard earned trust in your feeding relationship. Your child may begin to view all the foods you prepare with suspicion, wondering what disliked ingredient has been snuck in"
That makes so much sense - it's about trust.
Then I read this in It's Not About the Broccoli, Dina Rose's new book about picky eaters that I am going to be reviewing on this site at the end of January. Dina talks about how parents 'healthify' foods by adding the ingredients they think will be good for their child from a nutritional point of view. She writes
"These lessons don't teach your child healthy eating habits. They don't teach her how to manage the experience of new foods..."
Dina talks about 'The Nutrition Mindset' - the idea that parents are prioritising their child's nutritional intake in the short term over their long term relationship with food. This is what I'm talking about in War & Peas when I advise parents to focus on how they feed their child, not what.
So there you have it. Vegetables should be out and proud. For more information about how to cope with the ensuing fall-out, my book can help. Good luck!