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Sneaking Veggies into Your Kids’ Meals

Green beans, peas, spinach, and broccoli.  Kids love to hate them.  Veggies, however, are an essential part of a healthy diet.  Should you sneak veggies into your kids’ meals to give them the nutrition they need without the whining that you most certainly do not need?  The answer depends on how you and your kids relate.  Read on for more information.

If you have an open relationship with your kids and your kids are good at honoring your requests and following your directions, then sneaking veggies into your kids’ meals is not the right way to go.  The better approach is to address this topic as you have addressed all other topics: openly and trusting your kids to honor your requests and follow your directions.  You may say, for example, “You guys want pizza for dinner, and I’ve decided that sounds pretty good.  To make sure that you still have a balanced, nutritious meal tonight, you will need to choose at least three toppings (one meat and two vegetables).  What would you like on the pizza tonight?”

If your relationship with your kids is more stereotypical (i.e., your kids want what they want, regardless of your requests and directions, such that you and your kids occasionally have a battle of wills), then sneaking veggies into your kids’ meals may be the right way to go.  As your kids mature, you may then disclose what they have been eating all along, but likely not until that maturation has occurred.  Minor trust issues may develop in this situation, but your kids will be healthy as they mildly distrust you.  If you don’t want to risk this down side, your alternative is to let them avoid the veggies that they hate and provide them dietary supplements (i.e., vitamin and mineral tablets) to offset the deficiencies in their diets.

The food choices that the kids make when they get older can be positively or negatively affected either way.  If you ensure that your kids eat nutritious meals, you may orient your kids to value nutrition as adults or you may cause your kids to grow weary of healthy foods and instead inadvertently stimulate a desire to be free to eat whatever tastes good (regardless of how healthy it may be).  Conversely, if you do not ensure that your kids eat nutritious meals, your kids will be less likely to value healthy foods when they are adults . . . but they may surprise you (typically once they becomes parents themselves) by focusing on healthy food consumption.  How kids grow to make food choices of their own seems to be based in part on how familiar they are with nutrition, how comfortable they are with eating healthy food and junk food, and how forced they did or did not feel to eat certain foods when they were growing up.

In sum, when choosing whether to sneak veggies into your kids’ meals, you need to consider the way that you and your kids relate to each other and the possible outcomes (both short- and long-term) of the choice that you make.  Then, you can make the choice that is right for you and your family.

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