Hiding Veggies in Kids' Food: Should You or Shouldn't You?

Lauren Sharifi, RD LDN

Q: My child turns his nose up at veggies. Is it okay to hide them in this food?

A: We have all been there. Our child refuses to touch the vegetables on their plate. We are left feeling frustrated and feeling like we must come up with a solution. We found a link on Pinterest named “Sneaky Hidden Vegetable Recipes” and we are sold! These recipes will surely get them to eat their vegetables. And guess what? It often works! They drink the fruit smoothie loaded with kale, eat the Sloppy Joe’s with veggies or gobble zucchini muffins not even realizing that they just ate a vegetable they refused the other night. Win! Right?

Unfortunately, this is only a short-term solution. Yes, your child eats their vegetables and gets in some nutrients, but in the long run it doesn’t help your children build healthy eating habits. Truth is, most young children don’t love vegetables and that’s okay! Other plant-based foods like fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, cereal, lentils and beans also have the same nutrients found in vegetables. If they are eating a variety of these foods, they are most likely getting the nutrients their body needs to grow and develop. Moral of this story is: don’t worry too much if they don’t always eat their vegetables!

Getting kids to eat vegetables isn’t always easy, but over time with consistent exposure to veggies prepared in a variety of ways and seeing us adults eat them they will eventually eat some vegetables. The goal in exposing young children to vegetables is to get them to eat a variety of them on their own so when they are older, they make healthy choices on their own.

So, does hiding vegetables in your child’s food really work? The answer is yes, it often gets children to eat the vegetables in the short-term, but it does not help build your child’s healthy eating habits in the long-term. There is nothing wrong with adding vegetables into smoothies, baked goods or meat dishes but let your child know what is in the food they are eating and maybe have them help you prepare it. One way I do this is by having my son help add the spinach into his smoothie or add and mix the carrots or zucchini into the muffin batter. Also, let adding vegetables into dishes be just one of the many ways you are offering and exposing your child to vegetables.

Lauren Sharifi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and food blogger at biteofhealthnutrition.com. Lauren works in private practice in Brighton at ASF-Peak Health and is passionate about helping individuals and families become competent eaters that find joy out of eating. Have a question for Lauren? Email BSPeditor@gatehousemedia.com.