spinach

sneaking healthy food into other food

Let’s start off this lesson with a true or false statement. Ready?

True or False: It’s helpful to trick your child into eating a food by sneaking it into other foods they already like. For example, blending spinach into smoothies.

Answer: False!

This is a piece of advice I see promoted all the time, but it has very limited value! This technique is only interested in the short-term goal: getting healthy food into my child right now! This does not help a child to learn to like new foods over the long haul.

There are several very popular books dedicated to this concept. An excerpt from one of them goes something like this:

Make sure your child doesn’t see you put the spinach into his smoothie. If he knows it’s in his food, he won’t eat it. If, when you’re making his smoothie, your son walks into the kitchen and asks what the green stuff is, try to quickly distract him and get him out of the kitchen.

When I read this part of the book, everything inside of shouted “NO NO NO!” The kitchen is exactly where your child should be! The more familiarity a child has with a food the sooner they will learn to like it! Helping to prepare meals and snacks is one strategy to increase familiarity and generate buy-in from kids.

Getting “caught” sneaking healthy food into your child’s food is a sure-fire way to lose their trust. Remember, trust is the foundation of a healthy feeding relationship that will set your child up for long-term success in eating.

No one likes to feel tricked, and that includes children. Breaking someone’s trust has consequences. Your child will become wary of the other foods you feed him, uncertain if you have snuck something unwanted into it. He could start rejecting more foods than before. This could even negatively affect your broader relationship with your child in other areas of life.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put spinach into your child’s smoothie. I’m all for bumping up the health factor in the food we eat. It’s the sneakiness that’s the problem. Also it’s important to expose your child to the food in a form they will recognize it as.

On another note, let me ask you a question. What’s going to happen to your child when they grow up and start preparing their own food? If they don’t know that there was spinach in the smoothie, how will they know to add it in themselves?

What can you do instead of sneaking?

First of all, remember to involve children in food preparation

Secondly, in addition to adding spinach to smoothies or butternut squash puree to macaroni and cheese expose your child to the food in a recognizable form. This will help them to learn what the food tastes like on it’s own.

Reflection:

Think about a time when you discovered that someone wasn’t being honest with you. How did it make you feel? Were you