Recently I wrote about the controversial topic of “hiding vegetables” in kids’ food, and shared some of my hesitancies with ‘sneaking’ veggies into preferred foods. You can read more about these here.
Since then, many of you have generously shared your experiences with ‘sneaking’ veggies into foods, to contribute to this blog series. Today we’ll talk about whether veggie ‘hiding’ is worth doing, and next up we’ll talk strategies for successfully including veggies into foods and overall diets.
So, WHY do parents hide veggies in food? The main reasons you told me about were related to nutrition, taste and portability.
Parents are worried about their kids getting enough nutrition. This is a common concern! Having said that- almost all Australian kids are meeting ‘Estimated Average Requirements’ for key nutrients associated with vegetables. Only 4% of children aged 2-8 years aren’t meeting Vitamin A requirements, less than 0.5% aren’t meeting B6 requirements, only 0.2% are not meeting B1 requirements and the stats show that almost NO kids are deficient in B2 or folate intake. So, maybe that worry about nutrition is a teeny bit unfounded. (stats from the latest Australian Health Survey)
Kids don’t like the taste of veggies on their own. This is also very common. Young children are more sensitive to the slightly bitter taste of some vegetables and learn to avoid them. Including veggies with other ingredients can help to reduce this bitter taste and increase acceptance.
Mixing veggies into other foods helps to make them more portable. Meeting recommendations for veggie intake can be tough if you rely on eating whole vegetables on their own. Even just the chewing with veggies can be tiring for some kids. So, it makes sense to include them in other foods.
So, let’s start by clearing this one big issue up. There is no one right way.
If you currently hide veggies in foods, and this works for your family- then all power to you. Keep it up! Equally, if you’ve tried hiding veggies in foods, and your kiddies have absolutely flipped out- then perhaps stop doing it.
Many of you told me about your kids with super sensitive taste buds and eye sight (just like most of my really fussy clients) who can pick a hidden veggie a mile off. I hear you, and I know that this approach isn’t going to work for you at this stage in their lives (we can do other things to help them learn to like veggies- don’t panic). Tricking these kiddies just makes them more worried about food, which is not what we want!! I’ll also talk a bit more about deception with food in the next blog post.
Most people also acknowledged that relying ONLY on hiding veggies is likely to backfire on you in the end. Ideally we want kids to learn to like veggies, rather than having to sneak it into them until they move out of home. This means serving vegetables with meals as well as in meals, and offering opportunities to learn about vegetables in a fun way like growing and cooking.
So, ‘hiding’ veggies in foods can work for some kids, but how to do this positively and effectively will be different for different families. Stay tuned for the next blog post where I talk about how to successfully include vegetables into foods and into your child’s repertoire. No ‘hiding’ required!
About the author of this blog post:
Dr Kyla Smith is a paediatric dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. She has a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla on her website and her Facebook page or on her Instagram page.