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Are We Deceiving Our Little Ones?

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Guest blogger Catherine McCord: As a mother--and cook--I am frustrated with the idea we should be tricking our kids into eating fruits and vegetables (Jessica Seinfeld and Missy Chase Lapine advocate this practice in their books Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef). Why is deception a good thing to practice on our children in any form? What kind of message does that send?


I fully understand that little ones can be fussy and particular about what they eat. I started my Web site as a resource for parents with little spare time who want to cook for their little ones and inspire them to eat well. 

I believe from experience that if you teach little ones to eat the freshest fruits and vegetables from day one, they'll naturally learn to love and appreciate their value. I'm not saying that every child is going to love every vegetable, but I do know that there are ways for you to get them to eat cauliflower without going through an elaborate process of hiding it in macaroni and cheese and promising them: "There's no vegetables in here." 

Why not make a delicious, colorful dipping sauce to show your kids how much fun it is to dip their veggies? Try getting your kids involved: Start a garden--even a window box--so kids learn the relationship between food and their environment, take them to the farmer's market not only to see the variety but also to meet the people who grow their food, let them help pick the produce that will later be on their plate, allow them to sit with you and participate while you cook.

When my son eats his vegetables, I always hold his arm up and say "muscles"! He loves it, has fun, and that's what eating should be.

Catherine is the creator of and is the mom of a 17-month-old named Kenya.

37 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous August 31, 2008, 12:07 PM

I never made my daughter eat the vegetables I didn’t like (spinach, asparagas). I remember my mom forcing me to eat them and vowed I would not do that to my kid. Luckily she likes most vegetables.

Hardr August 31, 2008, 2:43 PM

I suppose the author of this blog’s kids dont believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny or the toothfairy and she prefaces every fairytale she reads her 17 month old, with “This is a work of fiction, all events and characters in this story are not and never have been real.” Sneaking a veggie into a dish isn’t the worst sin a mother can commit. Some children are resistant to the texture of vegetables and some dont like trying new things. While I have never forced my kids to eat something they hated, adding a veggie to something they already like can sometimes open their horizons a little more regarding food. Whats more appetizing, a bowl of slimy okra or a little minced up in a casserole?? Blogger is on a high horse.

Anonymous August 31, 2008, 3:40 PM

Wow. You strike me as one of THOSE moms. Oh yeah, the “look at my kid. He eats gnocchi and turkey burgers. What ARE you doing wrong.” Luckily, my kid loves fruits and veggies. UNluckily she comes from a family background of heart disease. If she didn’t want the stuff, yeah, I’d sneak it in. Better a healthy lied-to kid then one who dies in her 50s. Get real, woman.

Nuttmegg August 31, 2008, 3:41 PM

So true. I think hatred of veg starts with the gross jarred food. Parents should eat a couple jars before feeding it to their kids. We never gave our baby jarred food (except prunes when she needed “Help”) and at 21 months, she eats lots of fresh veggies. Both my husband & I worked full time, but spent sunday puree-ing and freezing jars of fresh fruit and veg from the market. Still, as a toddler, some days she likes stuff and other days she does not. And she has never like zucchini.

eyedoleyes August 31, 2008, 3:47 PM

Sorry but your child is 17 months. When My children were that age it was a lot easier as well. You CAN entertain them and get them to try things and eat them. But as they get older, that trick wears thin and you have to resort to sneakier methods. My kids are all very different and what may work with one, very rarerly works with the other. Creativity is the key.
Before you blog about how you’ve found the key to success, lwt your child go thru a bit more developmental eating atges please!

eyedoleyes August 31, 2008, 3:52 PM

*developmental eating stages*

K.L August 31, 2008, 7:19 PM

Not all people like all vegetables. I detest plain peas, cooked carrots and lima beans. That has never changed. Kids are no different. They will have likes and dislikes. I respected that. When my kids were young, I always gave them the option of substituting the served vegetable with some fresh veggies from the refrigerator, like carrot sticks, celery etc. They did not have the right to say “I don’t like it” until they had at least tried a bite first.
I also made sure that a salad was made and on the table at least 1/2 hr or so before dinner. When they whined that they were hungry, I just told them to go ahead and start with their salad to hold them till dinner. It is amazing how much salad a hungry kid will actually eat.

Jodi August 31, 2008, 8:48 PM

I have 7-year-old twins and a large vegetable garden in my backyard. Guess what? One child will eat almost anything, including veggies, and the other has been living on white flour and dairy his entire life. Yes, I worry about him. But it’s pretty obvious to me that kids have individual preferences, as adults do, and that my job as a parent is to make good food available and to model healthy eating habits.

Kasi September 1, 2008, 11:55 AM

I have the pickiest 8 year old. All I can say is that food is not something worth fighting about. We hated it when our parents forced food on us so why continue the cycle? My daughter eats 3 veggies and 2 fruits. That’s it…so I just rotate them and she gets a daily vitamin.

David Gildbeck September 1, 2008, 2:06 PM

Ever wonder how “eat your vegetables” became a national joke? As a food educator I don’t find it funny anymore and as matter of fact downright depressing as too many kids are being hurt by the lack of these important foods in their diet.
As a food writer I decided to do something about it – what else - write a book. But not any book, but a book that would stamp out “the eat your vegetable” phenomenon for good. My idea was to get to kids before their parents and siblings did by making their first words – their ABC’s the names of fruits and vegetables. After all, how can your first words be about something dumb?

Out only a few months and already being bought in quantity for class use. Parents and teachers interested in getting kids to develop a friendly attitude towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at new book called “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond. For kids of all ages as it is two books in one – children first learn their alphabet through produce poems and then go on to hundreds of related activities. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck (me) and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney. You can find me at

Joan September 1, 2008, 3:49 PM

Wow. Sounds like a couple of moms here who are projecting some anger and missing the point of the post. Or maybe I read it wrong. I don’t read this as someone promising the keys to success, but rather suggesting that there are alternatives to try and get kids more into eating different things. I may be biased. My husband and I use this website religiously and have had great success with our child. We take her to the farmer’s market whenever we can and she has a lot of fun. Obviously if your kid has health related issues, you have to address them however you can. Isn’t the point if we start introducing fruits and veggies to kids at an early age the better chance we’ll have at expanding their horizons?

ashley September 2, 2008, 8:08 AM

I agree with Joan, why are some people so quick to attack other people. I had posted some comment about something that wasn’t that big of a deal a few weeks ago and some guy wrote back and jumped all over every word I wrote.
Anyhow, I sometimes sneak and sometimes don’t depends on the veggie. Lucas loves broccoli, peas, raw baby carrots, and lettuce (as long as it’s dipped in ranch). He says he doesn’t like most other things. My favorite dish to make is spaghetti because i can chop up carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and squash and noone knows, not even my husband. My 15 month old will eat whatever we are eating. Her and I eat applesauce with flax seed in it every night to keep regular. I also put flax seed, wheat germ, and cottage cheese in my pancakes.

Vanessa September 2, 2008, 3:47 PM

My take on these cookbooks (which I own and use) From a young age both of my girls are just expected to eat their fruits and veggies. My oldest actually has some stomach problems that prohbit me from feeding her lots of junk. SO my point, they eat actual veggies and fruit just raw.
BUT I also love lots of these recipes. I would have never thought to add pureed veggies into pancakes, or pureed veggies into a grilled cheese. I don’t think I am lying at all, they eat the same things raw and in their “true” form but I see nothing wrong with “sneaking” it in either.

I have learned from being a nanny for 7 years and now having 2 kids that kids will be a lot less “picky” if they help you cook, garden and have a great variety of healthy foods from as soon as they can eat.

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