Don't Hide the Peas

Hiding vegetables in your kid's food may be unecessary

Posted by The Baby News

Lots of parents exhausted by negotiating meals with their children try to make sure their little ones get their daily dose of veggies by sneaking 'em into other foods. What a kid doesn't know can still help them, right? And recently, snack food makers have jumped on the bandwagon by offereing parents kiddie products that masquerade as regular junk food but in fact have a secret veggie ingredient. But if you've been hiding peas in your kid's burgers or buying sneakily healthy snack foods in the supermarket, listen up: A new study says hiding vegetables may be a useless and unnecessary practice.

Critics of the vegetable hiding method say it doesn't exactly encourage healthy eating habits. If you hide the good stuff, how are kids supposed to learn to choose them for themselves as they grow up?

Now researchers say that hiding veggies might not even be a factor in whether or not the kid eats them.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers tested children's preferences for vegetable-laced sweets versus regular sweets. What the kids in the experiment didn't know was that the sweets they were tasting were both the same - both the chocolate chip cookie and the chickpea chocolate chip cookie actually contained chickpeas, but only one batch was in a labelled package that said clearly "chickpea." Then they did the same with "broccoli ginger spice cake."

What the researchers found was that the more familiar the child was with the vegetable (for example, broccoli), the more likely she would like the labeled broccoli ginger spice cake pretty much the same as the one that pretended it was just ginger spice cake. But if the child was unfamiliar with the hidden vegetable (for example, chickpeas), she would prefer the unlabelled "chocolate chip cookie" over the labelled "chickpea chocolate chip cookie." What does that tell us? It says that children are neophobes - they afraid of new foods. If the food is familiar and tastes pretty much like a sweet, there's no fear factor and no benefit in hiding it.

Bottom line: Your kid's going to get over neophobia if you introduce him to a variety of veggies. Once that's done, you can go ahead and buy the broccoli-cauliflower chocomarshmallow ice cream sunday and he'll eat it. Maybe.


Have you ever tried hiding vegetables in you child's food?


3 back to preschool



Comments (2)


Mrs. P  -  04/26/2012 16:11 PM

The health foods wouldn't have to be hidden if they were the first things introduced to children until the age of 2. I fed my daughter all kinds of different jars of veggies when she started eating them. From single veg's to multiple mixed veg's, she got it all and I didn't just give her a bite, watch her make a face/spit it out and decide "Oh she doesn't like this, let's go back to the *insert veggie most likely to eat" Veggie." and then not give it to her again. Yeah they aren't going to like it at first, but that is natural, it is new. And keeping them eating those same veggies until they are 2/3 will keep them from going through the "new" phase again. My daughter's newest thing is to say she doesn't like it just so she doesn't have to eat it, even though I know she loves the food. I still make her eat it because I refuse to have a picky eater who only wants to eat the junk.


Mrs. Aa  -  03/09/2012 22:07 PM

Oh I sometimes hide the veggies, and I have no problem doing that. My kids eat very healthy, both my toddler and my 9yo eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but sometimes they don't want it. The toddler, because she is in that fase of being picky "just because": one day she'll devour something and next day she won't take a single bite of the same thing. And my 10yo, well, is a 10yo. He eats broccoli, and carrots, spinach, asparagus, heck, he will eat anything I tell him he has to eat "because it's good for you", but he is still just a kid, who sometimes just doesn't want it. And sometimes I'm really not in the mood for struggling about it. I don't negotiate food with him, he "has to" eat it, period, but we can relax about it sometimes, too. So I'll let him slide once in a while... And other times I'll just sneak the "green stuff" in his bolognese sauce, or anywhere it'll pass unnoticed. And everyone is happy. I mean, why not? He is big enough to know what is healthy... He understands that. And he makes good choices often, and only eats sweet treats on weekends. I totally disagree that it's "unnecessary and useless" - tell that to a mom who has a really hard time making her kids eat and I doubt she will say its useless. Eating healthy should be a habit, yes, but it's definitely NOT a choice. Not in my house anyways. It's a "must"!