Picky eater, sneaky foods

For Christmas, my in-laws gave me The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine.  This is one of the two cookbooks that came out last fall with recipes for how to hide vegetable purees in a variety of foods to get a little more nutrition into kids.  (The other one was Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld, and there was some discussion over whether she stole the other person’s idea, and got a lot more attention because of who she’s married to.)

I’m not morally opposed to sneaking vegetables into my kids’ food — I’ve been known to put pureed black beans into brownies when I was desperate to get some fiber into D’s diet — but I haven’t actually used the cookbook very much.  The main problem is that both cookbooks (I took the Seinfeld one out of the library at some point to compare) assume that all kids will eat things like macaroni and cheese and tomato sauce, and D won’t.  When you’re talking about a kid who eats his peanut butter without jelly and doesn’t like ketchup, there’s not a whole lot of opportunities to disguise food.  A few weeks ago, I did make sweet potato puree when I was making sweet potatoes for myself, but then I never got around to using it before it got all yucky and moldy in the fridge.

So, this morning, since the boys had off from school and I decided to work from home rather than hazard the ice, D asked if I’d make pancakes.  So I decided to try the chocolate chip pancake recipe, which involves a mixture of white and whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and ground almonds.  I made some with chocolate chips, some plain, and some with blueberries.

Both boys loved the chocolate chip ones. Neither would eat the blueberry ones — and N usually adores blueberry pancakes.  They said the plain ones were ok, but not as good as my usual ones.  So, is it worth it to add the chips as a bribe to get them to eat some extra whole grains and protein?  Maybe occasionally, and especially if the alternative is bisquick, which is pretty low in nutritional content.  But Julia’s Oatmeal Buttermilk pancakes have just as much whole grains, and taste a heck of a lot better.

Oh, and having a book called "The Sneaky Chef" isn’t so sneaky once you have a kid who is old enough to read the title and ask what’s the ingredient he’s not supposed to notice.

10 Responses to “Picky eater, sneaky foods”

  1. dave.s. Says:

    This one is for me, clearly, after going to the emergency room with #2, fearing appendicitis, and getting a constipation diagnosis. Ouch! Both of us til one in the morning, the next several days were all out of kilter, and we split a $500 bill with the medical insurance. Fiber, yes. Our strategies, at the moment: the only bread that comes into the house is Arnold Double Fiber. We have pitted dried prunes available at all times (they’re sort of expensive, but the kids love ’em). Raisin bran. Nobody gets dessert if he hasn’t eaten his vegetables. Discarded strategies: metamucil in the orange juice (ick, Daddy), milk of magnesia (ick, Daddy). So far, it seems to be working.

  2. Jody Says:

    There may be an argument for the added-fiber parts of these books, but I’ve heard at least two different nutritionists on NPR say that the actual vitamin/mineral content of the pre-cooked veggies added to a dish that is then further cooked is so minimal as to be laughable.
    Adding raw spinach to a smoothy is different, of course. The multiple rounds of cooking, plus the relatively small percentages of “good” foods you end up with once they’re “hidden,” are the real problems.
    The problem we have with adding chips to morning baked goods? The kids become increasingly reluctant to eat the non-chocolate versions.

  3. lyssa Says:

    As a nutritionist & mother, I’m not one for sneaky eating. Ultimately as a parent, I want to give my kids the ability to regulate their choices and choose what’s best for them. Sneaking food, I think, makes food into “good” and “bad.” For picky eaters, repeated exposure with no pressure I think is the best way for variety. I love Ellen Satter (http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,4985,00.html).
    My own kids range on the picky scale depending on their mood. They understand that food has nutrients and they’ve been good at selecting what works for them. Sometimes, no (e.g. constipation, colds from excessive sugar, etc.) and then we talk about what helps. My son sounds a lot like D in that he has very plain and preferred tastes. As the years go on, he is selecting more & more different foods at his own pace.

  4. Jackie Says:

    My Luc also eats her PB sandwich with no jelly anymore– too many chunks of fruit in it for her, even when I got the smoothest jelly I could find. She will eat mac & cheese, but when I tried sneaking in pureed carrot, she rejected it.

  5. jen Says:

    My eldest has transformed into an extremely picky eater in the last year. (She’s almost 7.) Time was she was completely happy with a plate of pasta or a hot dog. These days she is a vegetarian, refuses almost all green or red veggies except asparagus and carrots, refuses almost all fruit except for apples. This girl is turning down blueberries, raspberries, bananas, peaches. Mangoes. Clearly she has lost her mind. She appears to be living on jarlsberg cheese and kidney beans.
    But! There seems to be something going in with sauce. Pot stickers with dippy soy sauce are OK. Goma-ae (Japanese cooked spinach with special sauce) is in. Minestrone soup is a go, particularly if you can dip your focaccia-without-tomatoes. I have been known to send her to school with a lunch of apples and peanut butter to dip. She will also accept graham cracker sticks and applesauce for dipping.
    Sauces are a pain to make and frankly most of the time I’m not up for it. But when I do find time, this trend is forcing our family to cook more and interesting things, which is all good. Also, we’ve been trying more vegetarian-friendly restaurants, which is turning out to be a fun adventure. The kids are old enough (5 and 7) to behave tolerably well at a restaurant, and so we are returning to our post-kid eating-out selves. It’s an interesting change for us, that’s for sure.

  6. Aurora Says:

    Don’t sneak. But also don’t worry. Offer a selection of tasty healthy foods at every meal. The kids eat their choices from the selection or they are hungry. Be calm, be firm and don’t worry too much.
    Their food choices are not a referendum on your parenting skills. They will grow up and eat more than macaroni and peanut butter.This has worked very well for my 2 kids.
    It is much important to focus on the meal as a family togtherness time than a battle for food “points” ( e.g. 3 grams of fibre and 5 grams of protien- I win the Mom olympics!).If they see you eating calmly, at the table, enjoying your food and conversation, they will too eventually.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    I have to say, we’ve been doing the modeling of good choices and offering a variety of healthy foods, and it’s had ZERO impact on D’s willingness to try new foods.
    On the other hand, this evening I pointed out to N (who was only eating pizza crust from our homemade pizza) that he had eaten pizza at a friend’s birthday party over the weekend. He said “but I don’t like that” pointing at the sauce. D pointed out to him that the pizza at the party had sauce too, and N said “oh!” and took a big bite of the pizza and proclaimed it delicioso. So that was pretty funny.

  8. Jackie Says:

    We have also done the modelling and offering. I think that can work, but I also think that some kids are just extraordinarily choosy, and need to get past it in their own times, no matter how much we worry:).

  9. Cynical Mom Says:

    I own deceptively delicious, and have made several of the recipes in it… and my kids pretty much hate them. Some of them are just ridiculous… like the broccoli chicken fingers one (broccoli! and chicken! it CAN’T be bad!) has you mix pureed broccoli with egg, and you dip the chicken in that mixture and then into breading. So basically you’re adding the equivalent of about half of a teaspoon of broccoli to each piece of chicken. Wha-huh?
    And we’re in a similar boat on the types of foods into which things are snuck (is that proper grammar?)… my kids don’t like soup, pudding, etc… not a lot of options.
    I basically gave up on trying, as I was spending more time feeding MYSELF calories as I would taste-test the items. So I just continue with offering healthy options and not pressuring them to eat anything if they don’t want to. My daughter’s done well with this, she willingly eats green beans, peas, broccoli… my son wavers in and out of liking broccoli. He’s currently out.

  10. Patricia Says:

    My DD is 2 and a half and exisits on YoBaby yogurt, wheat toast, cheese pizza (at lunch if she feels like it), white rice, milk, the occasional unsalted pretzel or whole grain goldfish, and watered down juice. With a list like this, it is really difficult to sneak anything in. She won’t even let us butter her toast or use jelly or jam. We provide veggies, fruit, and meat to her but she doesn’t eat them. She used to eat broccoli, but won’t now – we don’t know why. We try not to get frustrated with the $ we spend on attempting to feed her, but it feels like we could’ve bought a car with the $ we have spent on food she hasn’t eaten. Of course, the pedi says that as long as she is growing and meeting developmental milestones there really isn’t a need to be concerned.Of course she says that is easier said than done.

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