Should You Sneak Veggies in Your Kids’ Food?

As parents we want our kids to eat healthy – and that means eating veggies! But what if your kid refuses them? Should you sneak veggies into your kids’ food? 

Maybe they’re out there…but I haven’t met one yet. Have you ever talked to a parent who said, “my goodness, my child just LOVES her vegetables. Beets, collards, turnips, you name it and she just licks up every last bite. Asks for seconds, thirds even. If only I could get her to try a cupcake!”

I think the most common response I get when asking other moms about their kids eating their veggies is an eye roll, hands up in the air, a shrug, and possibly a snort.

So what should we do?

I can tell my son, “eat your green beans, please.” But that just doesn’t work. A lot of us resort to sneaking veggies in wherever we can. Spinach in smoothies, butternut squash in mac and cheese, zucchini grated into homemade muffins.

But is sneaking veggies into our kids’ food the right thing to do?

I’ve heard moms say that they feel deceptive, or like they’re “tricking” their kids. Others feel like there’s nothing wrong with wanting their kids to be healthy, and they’ll do whatever necessary to get there.

I’d like to ask you to view it from a different angle. What do you say?

Vegetables are just ingredients

We do better by our kids if we stop looking at veggies as something that needs to be hidden. Vegetables are foods, just like fruit, pasta, and chicken nuggets. They have unique flavors and textures. We can add them to our recipes and our meals not only because they are healthy, but because they are ingredients that contribute to the dish.

I love to add avocado and a spoon of frozen riced cauliflower to smoothies because they add creaminess. Do they add nutrients, too? Of course! But we don’t have to feel like we’re sneaking those foods in. They’re just part of the smoothie recipe, the same way that the milk and the berries are just other ingredients in the recipe.

A combined approach

It doesn’t have to be black and white. You don’t have to choose team “sneak veggies” or team “veggies, veggies, here they are.” (I know you really like my team names.)

It is important to present veggies on their own to allow your kids to become more comfortable with them over time. If they only experience veggies hidden in other dishes, they miss the opportunity to learn what that individual vegetable tastes like, what it feels like and smells like. You want them to learn the crunch of a snap pea, and discover that there are tiny peas hidden inside.

But it’s also important to show our kids all of the ways we incorporate vegetables into our diet, just like we do with other types of foods. 

I don’t recommend lying to your kids about what is in their foods if they are old enough to ask you about it. And they may decide they don’t want to eat that meatloaf because “ewww there’s celery in there!” That’s okay. They can decide they don’t want to eat it. (Even after you spent an hour on Pinterest looking for the perfect recipe, another hour at the grocery store over the weekend, and another hour cooking the dang meal!)

We’re not forcing them to try anything, and on the other hand, we’re also not making comments like, “ugh Brussels sprouts are disgusting, I don’t know how your dad eats them!” Sometimes we add veggies to our dishes, like diced onion and mushrooms in our ground beef, and sometimes we eat them on their own, simply steamed or prepared as a salad. When we “hide” them in a dish, it’s not sneaky, it’s just part of the recipe!

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Do you get frustrated trying to get your kids to eat veggies?

How do you feel about “sneaking” veggies into your kids’ food?

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