Do Kids Really Need Veggies Hidden in Chocolate Shakes?
I’m all for feeding kids vegetables, but sneaking them into sweets isn’t teaching them to love the real thing
A cheerful PR rep recently sent out a glowing press release about a new product for kids: “chocolate milkshakes that offer a full serving of deliciously disguised veggies in every eco-friendly container.” I know my kids would love a chocolate milkshake, and I’d love for them to get a serving of vegetables, so what’s the problem? Well, that depends.
Is it hard to get your kids to eat vegetables? If they’re like mine, the answer is likely somewhere between sometimes and pull-my-hair-out-yes! I have three small kids with another on the way, and I cook so much for the whole brood that I even write a blog about it. So you can bet my kids have seen their share of veggies. We do roasted broccoli, sautéed carrots, pasta with ginger pork and sugar snap peas and white bean hummus designed to get more crunchy raw vegetables into the mix. Some are hits, many are misses but still, those veggies keep appearing on little plates again and again.
That’s because at our house, the vegetables are never a secret.
It’s not an ethical issue on my part. I’m not really bothered by the duplicity of hiding a bit of spinach here and there. The problem with mixing vegetables into a frosty chocolate shake is that it prevents kids from learning to love the real flavors of foods that are actually delicious and undeniably good for them. This shake is a short-term cheat without long-term benefits.
I can see why it has come to this though, as the press release goes on: “Kids will never know they’re enjoying the sneaky combination of nutrient-rich sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli, which is important because (according to the CDC, 2010 Report on Vegetable Consumption) 75 percent of children don’t eat their daily veggies.”
It can be hard to get kids to eat healthy foods. That’s because the solution is hard: It’s all about habits, yours and theirs, and as a certifiable chocoholic, I hear you if you’re groaning right now. But it can be done.
There’s an incredibly helpful new book out now called, It’s Not About the Broccoli in which nutritionist Dina Rose, Ph.D., makes the argument that if your child wasn’t sleeping well, hit other kids or refused to wear clothes, you wouldn’t chalk it up to a phase. You’d correct the behavior. Eating healthy food is the same. Her strategies are so useful that I recently did a Q&A with her, grilling her for go-to tips for feeding picky babies, toddlers and preschoolers. One of my favorites? When introducing a new food, only give the kids one bite then ask them to be critics, giving the dish a thumbs up, middle or down. Give them more if you get a thumb in the middle or up, and try again another time if it’s pointing down. This method empowers them and it adds a surprisingly fun element to dinner. I’m already using this advice and it’s working.
That’s my stance. Don’t hide veggies, teach kids to love them. Make real vegetables—roasted carrots with maple glaze, easy peas and asparagus, even cauliflower can be a hit—but also add them to everything you can. You might be amazed at the number of dishes we add spinach to, from brownies to eggs, but the kids know it’s an ingredient, not a sneak attack. This is number two on our list of house rules for kids who eat healthy at home, and since the idea of something being “good for my body” is actually a selling point around here, I’d say it’s working even better than a sneaky shake ever could.
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