Image Map

Should You Sneak Vegetables into Your Kids' Food?

09 December 2013

Several years ago, Jessica Seinfield (Author or Deceptively Delicious) and The Sneaky Chef, gained quite a bit of notoriety for advising parents to puree vegetables and beans and then sneak them into the foods that they serve their kids.

Since that time, quite a few "experts," have come out either for or against these "sneaky," practices.

Quite a few parents have asked me where I stand on the issue, and my response, is somewhere in the middle, and depends, quite honestly, on where you and your children are in your food journey.

In general, my advice can be summed up, pretty much in one sentence: Don't hide it, if you don't need to.

If your kids aren't picky yet...

If you are just beginning your journey of feeding your kids. If your kids have not yet gone through a picky phase, there is no need to be sneaky. There is no need to assume that kids won't like vegetables. 

Go ahead and add extra vegetables to everything and anything you wish, but don't assume that you need to be sneaky. Let your children see what is going into their food, and, if they are old enough, allow them to help. 

Serve the vegetables in ways that taste good and that allow them to experience their real flavors rather than masking them. 

If your kids are going through a picky phase...

If your young child is going through a picky phase, you may want to play down the appearance and/ or texture of vegetables or other "offending," foods during this phase. 
  •  Puree vegetables and add them into sauces.
  •  Peel and shred zucchini rather than chopping zucchini "green," and all.
However, the mantra continues… "Don't hide it, if you don't need to." Use scaffolding to slowly increase the amount of vegetables that you include each time you make a dish. Once it is clear that your children like what you serve, discuss the ingredients and allow them to help you make it. 

I do not advise, however, that you make a big deal out of "revealing," the "secret," ingredient. This reinforces the idea that it's something that they shouldn't like. 

For example, if you make zucchini muffins, don't say, "Guess what was in those muffins… zucchini, and you liked it!" Instead, act as if it was no big deal. You could say something like, "Would like to help me make more of those zucchini muffins that you liked so much the other day?" As if they knew they were zucchini muffins all along ;)

If picky eating has become the norm...

If your kids are already deeply entrenched in their pickiness, or if they have severe food aversions, give yourself the grace to do whatever you need to do, to get the most possible nutrition you can into your kids. This may involve being sneaky.

However… again, don't hide it, if you don't have to. The end goal should always be for children to knowingly eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods (and this includes vegetables!)


Don't make a bunch of extra work for yourself (you won't likely stick with it!) Include vegetables in ways that are natural and that embrace and enhance the natural flavors of the foods. (Making and freezing a bunch of purees to me, seems like a bunch of added work and is most likely, not natural to the way that you cook or to the way that your family eats. Instead, think about ways to add compatible vegetables to things that your family already loves -like adding onions, black beans, and/ or zucchini to taco meat.

Make meals for your family that include vegetables, rather than special "kid foods," with vegetable purees. (Teach kids to eat real food, rather than "kid food.")

Steer clear of desserts with small amounts of vegetable purees as a way to sneak veggies into your kids. Desserts should be an occasional treat. If you are using desserts as a way to sneak healthy foods into your kids, you are simply teaching them to eat and desire more sugary treats. 

Always focus on the idea of "teaching," rather than, "sneaking." If you are serving your child a meal that has added vegetables which they may not be aware of, your intent should be to expose them to new flavors, rather than to fool them.

Are you sneaky with your kids' foods? Have you read Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef? Here's my favorite, "No need to be sneaky," recipe heavily adapted from Deceptively Delicious.

Recipe for "Sloppy Dogs" 
Adapted from the Deceptively Delicious Sloppy Joe recipe

  • 1 lb. ground beef, chicken or turkey (or 1/2 lb. ground meat and 1 cup chopped zucchini)*
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 t. chopped garlic
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce (I like Lea and Perrins because it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup)
  • 1 T ketchup (I prefer Simply Heinz)
  • 1/2 cup broth (chicken or beef)
  • 1 cup baked or boiled sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup boiled or roasted red pepper
  • hot dog buns (or  Romaine lettuce leaves for GF)
*We have a family of 6 big eaters… so I use a whole pound ground meat and around 1 cup zucchini. I then adjust the other ingredients by adding just a little bit more of each.


1. Brown ground meat.
2. Use grease from the meat to sauté the onions until they are translucent. (If using, add beans and zucchini)
3. Add garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Put cooked sweet potato and red pepper and broth in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 
5. Add broth and vegetable mixture to meat mixture.
6. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until sauce thickens.
7. Spoon onto buns and serve with zucchini fries or sweet potato fries.

As always… Amazon links are my referral links. If you click on them and then make any purchase, I will receive a small referral fee.

This post is linked up to Teach Me Tuesday

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please add your questions, comments, and suggestions so that we can all learn from each other!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...