Should You Trick Your Kids Into Eating Healthier?

A new study evaluates the effectiveness of sneaking vegetables into kids' food to promote healthy eating.

Zucchini Brownie

Even if you serve nutritious foods at home, outside influences often cause kids to pick junk food over broccoli and carrots.

To sneakily hide vegetables, cookbook authors have created recipes that incorporate vegetable purees. These can be hidden in anything from pasta sauces to brownies to increase nutritional value and reduce calories up to 25%, while going undetected by children. (See 3 Unconventional Tips for Healthy Eating.)

Researchers at Penn State gave 39 children, ages three to six, two versions of a familiar food, one traditional and one vegetable-enhanced. The kids ate the same amount of both versions, suggesting there was no taste difference.

Still, lead author Dr. Marueen Spill cautions parents against relying too much on sneaking nutritious foods into their kids' meals. She says, "Preparing vegetable-enhanced entrées is a technique that should be used with other strategies, such as providing vegetables as snacks and side dishes." (Read Good Eating Habits Are Key For Peak Academic and Sports Performance.)

The goal is not to hide the vegetables but to encourage kids to know that healthier food options exist. The sneaky technique should be used with caution. You don't want your children to form eating habits based on ignorance. (Learn How To Sustain Healthy Eating Habits.)

Sources

Blatt, A.D., Roe, L.S. and Rolls, B.J. (2011). "Hidden vegetables: An effective strategy to reduce energy intake and increase vegetable intake in adults." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93, 4, 756-763.

Spill, M.K. et al. (2011). "Hidden vegetables to reduce energy density: An effective strategy to increase children's vegetable intake and reduce energy intake." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94, 3, 735-741.


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Topics: NUTRITION | CALORIES | FOODS | MEALS | ENERGY | SPORTS | HEALTHY EATING | PASTA | JUNK FOOD | VEGETABLES | SERVE | SNACKS | RECIPES | CARROTS