Should we sneak food into our children's diet that they don't enjoy eating?

This subject was brought up on the WFD thread by @honkman and I thought it would be good to perhaps open this topic up to a wider audience.

For example:

Should we hide food like cauliflower amongst potatoes if our children absolutely detest cauliflower?

Or avocado in brownies for the same reason?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Depends. If is it essential for their health, then yes. Where to draw the line as “what is essential” is another question.

1 Like

I strongly disagree with this practice. I don’t think it’s a good idea to lie to children. When I find out that someone has lied to me it leads me to speculate on what else they’ve lied to me about.

Also, the practice of hiding food in other food reinforces childrens’ beliefs that they dislike nutritious foods.

I believe that a far better practice is to discuss with children how their tastes change over time and how the same food prepared differently tastes different. Examples:

Every person I’ve met who dislikes Brussels sprouts has only had them boiled or steamed. When they try them roasted, they love them.

I think that kale is delicious when it’s cooked. I dislike kale salad.

7 Likes

Oh boy… that’s a rough topic. Growing up with my parents’ rule of “finishing everything on your plate” in order to get dessert, had me being overweight for most of my life.

So I am a big fan of not telling your kids what (or how much) to eat.

With that said, I think it is important to cook for your kids. We had steak a lot, and I didn’t like steak (especially how they cooked it). So when steak was on the menu, for me it was replaced with junk food (hot dogs, fish sticks, etc.).

Ideally, work with your kids on healthy dishes they like. Maybe even get them involved in the process of cooking. If you’re here, you like food and cooking (and are most likely pretty good at it)… so try and pass that on to your kids as they will come to cherish those skills as they get older.

5 Likes

Shooting from the hip - age is a factor here. However, there’d be so such rule as having to eat something someone detested just because I said so. So detested food would be part of the menu planning. I’m a dick but a mostly a flexible one.

Now having said that what’s available to eat is what’s on the table. And once the kitchen is closed after clean up it’s closed. While a between meal snack isn’t strictly prohibited it is discouraged and where there’s an exception made it would be rather healthy choices such as fruit or bourbon. Not many snacks in the cupboards.

2 Likes

That’s another horrible parenting practice. I’m sorry you were subjected to it. My parents also made me finish my plate; to this day I have a hard time not doing so.

Food shouldn’t be a punishment or a reward. Rewarding children with dessert leads to adults who reward themselves with dessert. The best practice is to keep lots of healthy and delicious food in the house and very little, if any, junk food.

4 Likes

Don’t do it. There will always be something that they will eat to take the place of what they won’t. It’s a matter of trust. My guys were extremely picky and, though it was difficult, I adapted. Turns out there were sensory issues at play that were disregarded in the past, but are now more researched. I remember sitting at the dinner table gagging, all the while being screamed at and forced to eat. There was no way I was going to do that to my kids.

4 Likes

My older kid just won’t eat leafy veggies. But she will eat broccoli and cauliflower, green peas, fava. So we cook more of those.

We try to put a reasonable amount of food on their plate. If they get full as long as it’s not half the plate remaining we are ok. But if they want to eat some snack immediately afterwards I make them finish their proper meal first.

1 Like

this is a real giggle for me - as it is a “past and present” thing - i.e. 3 kids, now all grown and cooking in their own households.

we never insisted they had to eat things - we only insisted they had to “taste” it.
we made things they liked - fortunately they didn’t develop a complete rejection syndrome… so they ate properly. including stuff like liver and onions - before they hit school age, brussel sprouts, all the veggies - beets, turnips, parsnips, soft boiled eggs (gooey eggs), etc. etc. they spent a weekend with their grandmother - and came back asking for liverwust and onion sandwiches . . .
I did reverse pancake ‘painting’ for their favorite things - cats, rabbits, 4 wheelers - not that too many kids reject pancakes.

so fast forward 30 years - now I get calls “Heh, how did you make x/y/z?”
seems they’re throwing back to childhood and seem to remember stuff they had, didn’t like, decided they actually do like it now…
highly amusing . . . .
I have all my recipes on the computer - so last Xmas I copied all of it to thumb drives, which apparently has been quite a hit in their kitchens.

6 Likes

My kids are grown. When they were little we did not feel that complete transparency about ingredients was necessary, so if there was occasionally cauliflower in the mashed potatoes or zucchini in the spaghetti sauce they never knew about it. If one of the three had a specific dislike we honored it, I guess we were lucky in that nobody was especially fussy. They still seem to like me so no damage done I guess.

4 Likes

I couldn’t agree more - I think hiding food from kids just because they don’t like it is completely wrong and very counterproductive. It is much better to often expose them to many different foods, even the ones they don’t like, in a very open manner and many different ways.

1 Like

But do you cook just other food if they don’t like one or allow snacking after a meal ? For us we cook one dinner for all of us and that’s what’s for dinner (and we are in general aren’t big on any kind of snacking for us or daughter)

1 Like

I had no idea soft boiled eggs and liverwurst were on the kid verboten list.
My love affair with those delicacies started as a kid.

3 Likes

Me too !

1 Like

I agree 1000000%. I had a really bad experience when a grad school classmate came to a potluck with veggie chili with “just vegetables and beans” and did not mention the TVP. Guess who doesn’t do well with soy and found out about the TVP the hard way? And guess who never ate anything this classmate prepared every again?

4 Likes

When I was 12 years old I quit eating meat. As my mother cooked meat for dinner every night and my father didn’t cook, I began cooking for myself.

When I took care of my cousins I would only make one meal, but they were welcome to make something different for themselves. I usually made customizable meals such as tacos.

I don’t understand your problem with snacking. Some people prefer to eat fewer large meals (I typically eat twice a day.); others prefer to eat many small amounts throughout the day. As far as I’m concerned, either way is fine.

Many people (including kids) tend to snack and eat regular meals, so that the overall calories intake is too high. In addition, many snack tend to be calorie -rich and nutrient poor. Snacking can be OK if it really substitutes regular meals it in my observation it often doesn’t happen.

Obviously, marketing is a big part of the problem

I believe that it comes down to different definitions of the word snack.

To me, a snack is a good eaten at a time that’s not breakfast, lunch or dinner. A typical snack for me would be peanuts and an orange.

I don’t keep chips, commercial baked goods, etc. in the house. I keep plenty of fresh produce. This is a better method of ensuring healthy eating than limiting what times people may eat.

Forcing children to eat food they dislike and forcing them to eat at specific times can cause eating disorders.

People should appreciate what they are eating. And part of that appreciation comes from knowing, and understanding, what you are eating.

So, no, “we” should not be sneaking food into children’s diets.

And this applies to children and adults, and everyone in between.

We are sentient beings after all, not goldfish.

2 Likes

I think the distinction between “snacks” and “meals” is more nomenclature than anything else, and discussions between the two eventually degrade into logomachy.

Let’s say a person eats 5x a day, but only very little quantities. Is that person eating 5 “meals” or just constantly snacking?

Who’s to say? And who really cares.

What really matters is the total calories being consumed in any one period of time (usually 24 hours). If those total sum of calories are consumed in 10 different points in time, so be it. If those same calories are consumed at one time, then so be it as well.

Why get hung up on labels.

Eat, just not too much.

1 Like