There are several popular books, like The Sneaky Chef, which tell you how to hide healthy foods in your child's favorite dishes. Desperate parents resort to doing this because they can't get their children to eat healthy foods like vegetables. If their child won't eat anything but chocolate chip cookies and bologna, then at least if they hide spinach in the chocolate chip cookies, their child is getting SOME vegetables.
It's the strategy of a desperate parent, but it ultimately fails. Here are some of the problems with hiding healthy foods in unhealthy junk-food dishes.
Kids don't learn to like the taste of the food. If the healthy food is hidden so well that it can't be tasted, then your child will never learn to like the taste of the food. Young children often have to taste a food 12 - 15 times in order to like it. If spinach is hidden in chocolate cake, your child could eat the cake a hundred times and still not learn to like spinach.
The caloric content skyrockets. Most healthy foods are low in calories. If you hide 50 calories of spinach (a child-size serving) in 300 calories of chocolate cake, the nutrition of the spinach has to be spread out over 350 calories. What was a vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient dense food is now diluted by the empty calories. It becomes, at best, a moderately healthy food.
Your child is learning to like the taste of junk food. If your child eats chocolate cake often, she will learn to love chocolate cake. As far as your child's taste preference education goes, you are teaching her to love chocolate cake, not spinach. She may be getting a tiny bit of extra nutrition now, but when she's an adult, she'll reach for a slice of chocolate cake because it is "comfort food" from her childhood.
How to Hide Food and Make It Work
You can still use the Sneaky Chef strategy, if you use it wisely. If you add a food to a dish that your child loves, it will make her accept it more.
Here's how to SUCCESSFULLY hide unfamiliar or disliked foods in your child's food.
Use Your Child's Favorite Healthy Dishes. Do make sure that the dishes are ones that your child loves. Whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce may be a favorite of your child. Sneak some finely chopped spinach or broccoli in the tomato sauce.
Let the Flavor Stand Out. Make sure your child can taste the flavor of the healthy food. It doesn't have to stand out, but your child should have at least an unconscious awareness of the taste. Your goal is to make the taste of the healthy food familiar to your child, because children like familiar foods better.
After a Few Hides, Let Your Child Taste the Food on Her Own. Don't always hide the healthy food in dishes. Once you have "snuck" the food into your child's favorite dish a few times, present the food on its own, or as the main ingredient of a dish. Your child may now like the food because it has a familiar taste.
Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on amazon.com.
25 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables
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