What parent doesn’t constantly fight to get their kids to eat more vegetables? Fruit is an easy sell in my house, my kids will happily choose kiwi, raspberries, apples, bananas and other yummy fruit for their snacks. But when it comes to veggies, I have to go the hard-sell route and usually there is some pretty tough negotiating and bargaining .
Recently I was talking to Best Health’s Art Director, Stephanie Han, about her son Aidan’s aversion to veggies and I suggested she try sneaking them into his meals by checking out Jessica Seinfeld’s popular cookbook Deceptively Delicious. It seems to be a surefire way to get kids to get the recommened servings their growing bodies need. And research backs up the theory that being sneaky works.
A recent study from Pennsylvania State University had researchers feed 40 kids (ages 3 to 5) in daycare one meal a day for three weeks. The meals were prepared nornally (menu items included zucchini bread, pasta with tomato sauce for lunch and chicken noodle casserole for dinner) for one of the days and then for the other two they bumped up the veggie content by adding pureed cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini and tomatoes to triple or quadruple each recipes veggie content.
What researchers found was that on the days they ate the meals with hidden veggies they almost doubled their vegetable intake but they also ate about 140 fewer calories. What’s better? The kids liked the pumped-up versions just as well a the standard recipes.
The researchers are hoping that grocery stores will start selling frozen puréed veggies that parents can simply add to recipes, and some food companies are already adding hidden veg to their products. Kraft now adds blended cauliflower to some of its mac and cheese. Making your own puréed veggies at home requires only a blender. You can freeze it too so you always have some on hand for simple additions to favourite recipes. And kids aren’t the only picky eaters. "Almost nobody is eating enough vegetables," says one of the study’s authors, Barbara Rolls. So don’t stop at adding the purée to your kid’s meals, it’s a good idea to add them to yours too.