You’ve seen the cookbooks and heard the buzz. “It’s a great way to sneak vegetables into your kid’s daily diets and bypass their picky palates!” scream the reviews. I’m talking, of course, about the practice of adding veggie purees to foods that you wouldn’t ordinarily suspect – beets in brownies or spinach in chocolate chip cookies, for example.
No, I’m not kidding. Spinach is a fine food and a great addition to an entire roster of dishes – but not, in my mind, a yummy addition to my beloved chocolate chip cookies. Which are just fine on their own.
I think that vegetables are a tricky subject for many kids. Vegetables have strong flavors, and many children are averse to them, but in my mind sneaking them into other, less nefarious foods is the wrong tact to take. Don’t get me wrong – I frequently add shredded carrots to my bolognese sauce, for extra flavor, and have been known to add cauliflower chunks to my homemade macaroni and cheese – but my kids know that I’ve done so.
The carrots add a sweet taste and cauliflower with cheese sauce is just yummy, no matter how you prepare it. But adding pureed veggies to other foods doesn’t teach your child to appreciate the subtle nuances of a fresh carrot, the brilliant hues of steamed broccoli and the strong flavor of fresh brussel sprouts. Any mom can tell you that it takes exposing a child to a new vegetable more than a few times before a child can appreciate it, but once your child has learned to enjoy it, it’s a good feeling indeed. Sneaking nutrition into a sweet robs the child of that experience.
One way that we’ve solved the veggie issue is to to offer fresh veggies 30 minutes before a meal and allow the family to eat as much of the tray as they want. I also let the kids pick the vegetable for dinner, and they often prepare it; and we do use a generous sprinkling of grated cheese on broccoli and peas. Also, I’ve tried a few of the recipes involving veggie purees added to foods you wouldn’t ordinarily pick, and they were not very palatable to me or my kids.
I think it’s important for your child to try new foods and learn to like them, but I know it’s a highly volatile issue. What has been your experience?