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Tuesday 07 October, 2014

Are We Helping Our Kids By Hiding Vegetables?

I have to be honest. There are times that feeding children is a right royal drag. No matter how delicious the meal is, how much time you spent thinking or creating, or how much love went into it, sometimes your kids just don’t seem to want it. I’m not saying ‘like’ it as often; they do like it, they just don’t want it. And it can be crushing to us as parents, cooks and providers.

Most days, I adore meal times with my kids. Call me crazy, but I do love the cooking and I especially love sitting and chatting with them while we share a meal. After all, the family that eats together stays together. But there are times that the mess is a chore, everyone forgets to say thanks, or worse still, a little face just peers at the bowl of food in front of them, but won’t touch it.

It can’t be the flavour cos it’s delicious and the rest of us have eaten it. It’s not the choice of protein cos it’s chicken/fish/mince … doesn’t matter, they love it all, and it’s definitely not too spicy cos I didn’t add any chillies.

Wait a minute. There’s a speck of green in there … perhaps that’s it?

Sometimes I get fed up thinking of ways to hide vegetables in kids’ food and just throw in big handfuls of spinach to see what will happen. After all, they see my husband and I devouring leafy greens by the kilo. We often eat tofu, adore big bold salads full of superfoods, nuts and roasted deliciousness, so why can’t they just get with the program?

The answer is … they should! As parents, we need to start being bolder with our vegies and less concerned if our kids skip a meal due to a few visible veg. Let vegies shine in your meals and let them pick around them if need be. Hiding them doesn’t expose your child to the wonderful colours, flavours and textures that the oh-so important veggies offer. It makes them more confronting when they are faced with vegies on their plate.

Some of you will be nodding along smugly thinking you have never hidden your veg and your kids nibble on kale leaves. Others will be thinking, “No way! My kid kicks up such a stink if he/she sees vegies. I can’t possibly be serving them.” Some of you might be wondering how on earth you could let your child skip a meal.

Well like most things, I believe balance is the key. It’s our job to provide a good range of fresh and delicious foods and encourage our children to try new flavours, colours and textures, but if your child chooses not to eat these things, you can’t force them. Despite everything I have said, I have definitely been known to hide vegies in all sorts of things from muffins to red sauce for pizza to casserole bases, and of course, pasta sauce.

But what I do do, is also include great big delicious visible chunks of them. If they are pushed aside and left behind, I grin and bear it knowing that my sneaky hidden veg is in there, delivering the goodness they need. But what it does do is remove the fear. So when a mushroom pizza is served, they happily eat it. Or when I make Samosa’s and whole peas fall out, they love them. Or fried rice, stir fries and other curries grace our table, we are OK. By hiding them, they develop a taste for them, but by also including visible pieces, they remain visually connected as, after all, a large part of our response to food is from the visual stimulation we receive.

So help your little one develop a love of good food by balancing big with small. By doing this, you are teaching your child to love vegetables, not avoid them.

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