‘Hide the veggies’ not the full solution

November 03, 2009

Imagine, meal after meal with nary a veggie in sight. Yeah, right.

We think most kids would shout “Yay!” if grown-ups announced a “Hide the veggies” game. To that they’d gleefully add, “and banish them forever.”

Imagine, meal after meal with nary a veggie in sight. Yeah, right.

True, we’ve had U.S. presidents declare their dislike of broccoli, misspell the names of vegetables, and demonstrate poor leadership when it comes to healthful eating and the right kinds of encouragement kids need. But moms are warier in their own white houses – they want their kids to have the nutritional sustenance they need to learn, to run, to play and grow strong.

Now, with the help of many of the nation’s leading food manufacturers, moms are getting some veggies into their kids without the whining and tantrums. The trend began about three years ago when two books were published (Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine, and then Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld).

We won’t name particular brands here, but we do think that concealing fruits and vegetables with kids’ foods so they’ll more readily eat them is only part of the solution. Moms might feel better if they feed kids these foods, but the premise seems a bit dishonest to us, for a couple of reasons: 

First, what else is in these food products (salt, etc.) that mask the great, natural taste of fruits and vegetables, or possibly change the foods’ overall nutritional profile? Second, the kids don’t learn about proper eating this way; they’re not part of the fundamental dietary decisions that could affect the way they eat for their entire lives. If they’re not openly exposed to fruits, vegetables, grains and other nutritional foods, how can they learn to appreciate them?

Which explains our view that moms shouldn’t look for an easy way out of this responsibility, nor should brands look to capitalize on moms’ desire to avoid vegetable skirmishes at the household dinner table. Like mathematics and language skills taught in school, it’s up to moms, dads and older siblings to instill the right food teachings in their children. They’ll serve as tools for a better life.

Otherwise, the real stress could come years down the road, when moms look at their kids’ dysfunctional eating habits and think, ‘what have I done.’