Friday, April 29, 2011

Kids and Food Foolery

When one of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie in Suburbia posted recently about her woes transitioning from baby food to a toddler diet, it got me thinking about some of the ways we got our once-picky Monkey to love "real food".

deceptively delicious Pictures, Images and Photos
Great book!

I remember a few years ago when I first heard about the lawsuit between Jessica Seinfeld and Missy Chase Lapine, the author of the Sneaky Chef, I was a fairly new mother to a solid-food eater. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a book called Deceptively Delicious, which was a cookbook full of healthy recipes that made recognizable "kid food" healthier by disguising the healthy ingredients - usually pureed vegetables - by mixing them right in. My son was just starting to eat more kid food, and I wanted his meals to be more balanced. I thought this idea was brilliant!

Puree in action

The Sneaky Chef was a cookbook based on the same premise; it was published prior to Seinfeld's book and the author was essentially saying Seinfeld stole her idea. Seinfeld ended up winning. I actually own both books and I think they are great. It's a shame so much money had to be spent on lawyers to basically determine that this "idea" to trick kids into eating vegetables by hiding them in dishes children love is something that mother's have been doing for decades. Some argue that this isn't really teaching children healthy eating habits because they aren't learning to knowingly eat and enjoy things like vegetables. I can understand that, but I don't think it's all bad.

There are some vegetables my kids knowingly like in their true whole form. Asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, carrots, corn and peas. Potatoes, as long as they are french fries. Artichokes and asparagus are expensive and we really don't even have those at dinner time all that often. Tomatoes, carrots, corn and peas are veggies they eat quite regularly, but I even get bored of those. My 4yo will eat lettuce if its in a sandwich. He won't knowingly touch sweet potatoes although he loved them when he was still on baby food.We have been mixing pureed sweet potatoes into their mac n' cheese for as long as we can remember!
Zucchini is a super versatile green veggie!

I try not to rely solely on the sneaky methods. I just use them to add some variety. Pureed, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash, and spinach are full of healthy vitamins and nutrients. And who can argue with the sheer genius of the black bean brownies? I am confident someday my kids will take servings of these vegetables and enjoy them, but for now they will just get them on the sly.  There are other "tricks" we have used to encourage our kids to eat. My husband Chip is a New York Yankees fan (I know, I know) and the way we started getting our 4yo to eat meat was to call it "Yankee Chicken." It was breaded and baked, which helped to make it totally enticing. Of course, since I'm a San Francisco Giant's fan (GO GIANTS!) we had another version we called "Giant's Chicken" which was the non-breaded, grilled version. And I can't forget the rice dish that has broccoli in it - aka "Hulk Rice." Think of the fun names for things we are already familiar with, such as "Ants on a Log." Once I started serving that as a snack it was sure a whole lot more exciting to eat than celery with peanut butter and raisins, right? And now, we don't even have to play these games with him, he just eats the food no matter what its called.  Our 2 yo has a pretty healthy appetite, so no worries there.

California rolls...its a start!

If you have a picky eater, don't despair. With some healthy food mixed with a dash of deception, and a whole lot of creativity and love, any child can get used to new flavors and colors in their food. All you can do is continually introduce foods to them and eventually they will eat them. Never did I imagine that my 4 yo who couldn't stand beans would be asking me for a burrito, or eating sushi with us at our favorite Japanese restaurant. :)

Do you have a picky eater at home? How do you achieve success at meal time? Or, do you not stress about it and hope they will grow out of it?

I was not compensated by the authors for this post in any way. I received both books as gifts from family.


  1. Ok, I totally have this book and I've been thinking that I need to break it out. To be honest, I got the book for me and my husband (how embarassing is that). We just had trouble getting our veggies in so this felt like the healthiest way to do it in a tasty way.

    So thank you for this (and the nice mention), I am TOTALLY going to break this out and get started. I also love the naming thing. I know some books and our doc also recommended trying to make them look special, too. It seems like a lot of work, but I guess if it will help them be healthy, right?

    Also for those people who think the purees are hard, I made Wee 'Burb's baby food and it's a piece of cake if you make a few things at a time and have space in your freezer.

  2. I am going to have to serve some "Hulk Rice" - I'm a sneaky mom, but I never even thought about giving them new names - my little guys will totally fall for that!!

  3. Our kidlets are not picky eaters in the traditional sense. They eat a large variety of foods, with strong flavors. And most veggies are never a problem. We have a few challenges with textures, but that's a Spectrum related issue. We use garlic & onions in everything and they are discovering which ways they prefer different foods. As in one kidlet loves red bell peppers raw and the other one prefers them cooked (BBQ'd preferably). I think getting extra veggies in, in whatever form is a great thing. :>

  4. So far, so good with our little guy. But he's about to turn 3 -- and, as I understand it, it's off to the races! :) Great post.

  5. We're just about at that point where I need to start hiding stuff. I actually don't have these cookbooks but need to get them.

  6. For years, I would hide the veggies but happily, as they grew older, my kids started not to mind veggies as much as they used to and would eat them in their raw form.


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