I think I’m onto something. And that something is answering the call of parents near and far who struggle to work a nutritious amount of veggies into their young’n’s diets. I’m going undercover, finding creative and tasty ways to hide a serving of veggies where your little one would never expect it.
Poor vegetables. They get such a bad rap. Remember that V8 commercial that starts out saying something like, “Don’t you wish that vegetables didn’t taste so…vegetably?”
It’s no wonder that “eat your vegetables” is one of the classic parental commands (nor that it’s usually accompanied by disgusted faces pushing peas and carrots around on a plate, or feeding them to Fido under the table).
See, the idea that vegetables don’t taste good, or that it should be a battle to feed them to your kids, is simply that—an idea. But ideas are powerful, and once it’s planted, it can be mighty hard to uproot.
I must admit that I was naively sheltered from the pervasiveness of anti-veggie kids until recently. The way my sister and I were raised (and the way our three- and five-year-old siblings are being raised now) never gave us a chance to dislike veggies. My dad blended up whatever he and my mom were eating (often times without as much spice, but never perfectly bland) and served it to us as baby food. We ate what they ate, and we were never given special “kiddie food” options. Today, you can find my little bro and sis chowing down on seaweed salad, celery, fresh tomatoes, rutabagas—they eat it all.
Well, almost. It’s natural for growing kids to go through phases of not liking this or that. But I’m beginning to learn that there are a lot of children out there who eat little to no vegetables in their regular diet, sticking instead to familiar favorites like chicken nuggets, pizza and hot dogs.
Kids are natural neophobes (afraid of the new), so if you don’t start them on fresh veggies early, you’re more likely to have trouble later on. I think for a lot of them, texture has as much to do with it as anything else. I’ve found that blending veggies up into a sauce or filling tends to take away much of the “ick” factor.
Hiding your kids’ vegetables won’t necessarily make them any more receptive to them (if they don’t know they’re there, they also won’t know that they actually like them), but it will begin familiarizing them with the flavors, even if they don’t realize it. It’s also a great way to increase the nutritional value of foods that you already know you can count on.
This week as I was devising my Top Secret Pizza, I spent some time pondering on how I could squeeze veggies into the dish and under the kiddie radar. My mom was skeptical. “Why should you have to disguise the vegetables?” she asked. “Not all kids refuse to eat them, you know.” Yeah, mom, but not all parents considered oysters and avocado baby food, either.
So I disregarded her incredulousness and marched onward with my plan. Later that week, a good friend of hers stopped by with her adorable three-year-old Lexy right around dinner time. I pounced on the chance to test out my newest creation. When Lexy happily munched down her pizza (and the red bell pepper, zucchini, onion and basil hiding underneath the cheese) her mom literally wrapped her arms around me in an ecstatic embrace. See mom? See!
If you too have been hit by the anti-veggie kiddo craze, give this sneaky solution a try. My hope is that over time, your veggies can come out of hiding as your little one warms up to them on the down low.
Originally published by PK4 Media.