Should Parents Hide the Veggies?

In my Nutrition for Kids, Teens & Families practice over the last 9 years I have seen my fair share of limited eaters. We all know the least liked food group for kids are veggies. Color, texture and flavor come into play. I agree , some children are super tasters -Kids have more taste buds and pick up on flavors in general when compared to adults. These super taster children may not only be more sensitive to taste but also to smell or have a more sensitive mouth feel with regards to food. Anxiety or OCD can play a BIG role in not wanting certain foods. Just the sight of something “green” for some children is a turn off and a “yuck” food. I am often saying to kids and families “How do you know you don’t like it (the food) if you’ve never tried it?”

Farmer’ Veggies

I also agree children will try new foods when they’re ready. I have heard from parents that they themselves were picky eaters as children but grew out of it. In addition, if forced to eat a veggie as a child then these parents never had that food as an adult EVER again as that food was associated with a negative experience where they had had no choice or autonomy. Mechanical or physiological processes may also play a role in not being able to chew veggies especially with the little ones- but usually there is a clue- whipped squash/carrot is OK chunks are not. Or textural issues- chunks are OK and whipped is not…

So do you force a kid to eat their veggies- no- but what about a polite bite? “Hey ,you know you don’t always have to like a food to try it” I tell kids that alot. But I like to have kids give it a chance with simple encouragement from an adult then let it go. The child decides to eat it or not.  This is authoritarian parenting which ends up to be the best in feeding practice. (Neither permissive and not authoritative).

Hiding veggies- well that is not what I agree with. Not on purpose anyways- If I serve a yummy leek potato soup then you may consider that “Stealth veggies” I don’t- it’s just leek-potato soup. What’s for dinner? Leek-potato soup! The bigger deal we make out of food- the more kids pick up on it and the more food becomes and issue. Kids pick up on parental anxiety like no tomorrow- so a relaxed approach seems to work well. Positive and relaxed.

Don’t hide veggies- eat what you normally would serve (Ok maybe it’s veggie lasagna- stealthfully hidden between layers of pasta, but that is not hidden veggies in my mind- just good food. ) Suggest kids try a polite bite and if they don’t want the food -whatever- Keep only positive and have at least one food a child likes at each meal presented family style. Keep meals positive not based on what kids eat or not but on what’s going on in their lives, your dialogue etc.. Forget hiding the veggies and enjoy your meal together!