Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Hidden vegetables for one and all!

But also don't hide them too!

What am I talking about?

A recent study out of Volumetrics' Barbara Rolls' lab that found incorporating pureed vegetables into 3-5 year olds' bread, pasta sauce, and chicken noodle casserole reduced energy intake in kids by 12%! And don't worry, Dr. Rolls has shown these same type of effects over and over again in adults.

That's not an insignificant, or unexpected reduction - decreasing the energy density of food by adding in piles of pureed vegetables means if you eat the same portion you always eat, you'll consume fewer calories.

You'll also consume more fibre, vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients.

While I do think it's crucial to continually encourage your children (and yourselves) to consume more whole, actual, real, visible, vegetables, there's nothing stopping you from mucking not just with their recipes, but yours too.

So puree to your hearts content, AND don't forget to start with a salad.

[According to Amazon.com, The Sneaky Chef is the highest rated hide the veggies cookbook around]

Spill, M., Birch, L., Roe, L., & Rolls, B. (2011). Hiding vegetables to reduce energy density: an effective strategy to increase children's vegetable intake and reduce energy intake American Journal of Clinical Nutrition DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.015206

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  1. I feed twin boys every day. The only hidden veggies I make are zucchini chocolate cake and zucchini cookies. I also make carrot bars.Not to hide them, but because they enhance the produce. But, every day, I eat fresh farmer's market veggies. They watch. They eat it too. They ask for broccoli and green beans. They are not ready for salad, but they spin the lettuce and break it up. They whisk the dressing. Their interest in peaked. They shell peas and love them. I involve them in all the process of cooking and baking. They have nearly no body fat, and the food is free to eat all day long. I think it a disservice to God, the universe, Mother Nature, whatever you want to use to regard beautiful veggies and fruits as something to hide away. It takes no time to steam green beans but it takes a lot of time to hide them in casseroles. The twins planted a vegetable garden with me and they water it and they get to pick and help cook. At the grocery, I make it exciting, because they pick and use the scale to weigh. There are so many better ways to introduce good food to children. I'm Italian and I just can't imagine my grandmother hiding the veggies in a casserole. The idea of a casserole is enough for her to roll over as I type. Having said all that, if one does it both ways, uses veggies to enhance meals, add in texture, flavor, etc. fine. But this whole idea is why when I'm at the grocery store, the girl checking me out doesn't know what half of the vegetables are and this is at Whole Foods.

  2. Anonymous11:13 am

    I don't as a dietitian recommend doing this to your kids at all. They will figure out what you are doing at some point in time and then you will have destroyed some of the vital trust they need to have in you. Plus kids need tolearn to eat vegetables they don't do this if you are pureeing them and sneaking them into dishes, they aren't learning eating competence.

  3. Um, Anonymous dietitian, did you read the post?

    I'm not suggesting adding pureed vegetables secretly, nor am I suggesting for a moment we shouldn't be pushing real, whole, visible vegetables.

    I'm suggesting that adding pureed vegetables to various recipes, in addition to continued focus on whole vegetables, may not only increase vegetable consumption, but also help to manage weight.

  4. Question: what causes kids (and then adults) to be picky eaters in the first place? Are there studies on why kids have an aversion to veggies? Does early exposure help, or is it futile with some kids. I was never a picky eater (still not), yet my brother was/is, and we grew up in the same household, eating the same food (typical home-made WASP food of the 60s/70s).
    As an aside, I struggled with my weight my entire adult life (puberty onward), whereas my brother has not.

  5. In terms of why kids are picky, the theory that sounds the most logical (but may still be dead wrong), is that from an evolutionary biology perspective, bland tasting food (simple starches etc) were safer than not.

    Regardless of why, studies are exceedingly clear. Introduce, reintroduce and reintroduce, smile and praise, and eventually you'll get somewhere with even the pickiest of eaters. Just takes lots of time and patience.

    Important not to get mad or forceful.

    My house?

    We have a one bite rule. If you don't like it after one bite, you don't need to have more, but you do need to have that one bite.

  6. I like this one-bite rule. My niece is such a picky eater, especially since she's spoiled on her other parent's side and so when I get to feed her "real" food, she makes it quite a challenge for us to bond sometimes. I just wish she would stop wanting to eat fried chicken and burgers whenever when I serve her seafoods and vegetables. One thing's for sure though. I have a lot to learn and patience is my friend. :)

  7. Anthony T.6:19 am

    I have always been against hiding vegetables inside other foods in order to get people (especially children) to eat them. To me it promotes the belief that vegetables are bad and that the only way a child would eat them was if they did not know they were eating them. This promotes likes and dislikes for entire food groups based on perception rather than personal preference through the process of trying new foods. This leads to the consumption of more processed foods as the food industry is leading parents to believe the only way to get their children to eat vegetables is by feeding them their processed product which contains X number of servings of vegetables (which they will never know they are eating) and you can feel better about feeding it to your child.
    While I do have a BSc in Applied Human Nutrition, I am not a health care professional. I have always cringed when seeing these advertisements’ because it is teaching unhealthy attitudes towards foods and it is also associating eating healthy vegetables with lies and deceit on the part of parents who should be setting the lifelong basis and attitudes towards foods within their children. Eating habits and food preferences which are developed young are very hard to change later in life. So why are we as a society starting off our children with such poor food habits?
    While I still do not support this unhealthy practice of lying to get someone to eat more of any particular food, I do now see an actual use for "hiding" vegetables in a dish. As a tool in the battle against our society's propensity for overeating and over-sizing most of our foods this just might help.
    If by adding vegetables we can lower the number of calories and fat while increasing fiber, minerals and vitamins; we just might enable people to make inroads into their battle with weight and improve both their health and their quality of life.
    It is an opportunity to promote vegetables as a healthy filler rather than something which needs to be hidden away in order to get children to eat them. While not the answer to being overweight or obese it does give another tool to help with returning to a healthier body state.
    Thanks Yoni for giving me the insight that there may be a plus to hiding vegetables within other foods. We just need to be upfront and honest with people of all ages about the benefits of increased vegetable consumption rather than vegetables need to be hidden away or children will not eat them. Just my two cents worth.

  8. While I understand, from personal experience with my son, that forcing a kid to eat something they hate is neither effective nor fun I don't understand how the one bite rule works. What if they don't like it....are you supposed to have a healthy back-up plan? Both my husband & I work so it's hard enough to get one healthy meal made but if the alternative is quick "junk food" like PB&J or Mac & Cheese then they'll always say they don't like it.

  9. Hi Molly,

    Our one bite back up plan is simple in that we tend to introduce new vegetables (or old ones - I think sweet potatoes took my middle kid about 40 attempts before she started eating and liking them) along with meals we know they enjoy. No one wants to have to cook multiple dinners.

  10. I have two very different kids. My daughter (4 yrs) will eat any fruit or vegetable, but generally won't eat meat. My son (6 yrs) will eat any starch or meat, but won't eat fruits or vegetables unless they are pureed or their texture is masked.

    I don't "hide" fruits and vegetables, but I do mask their texture, otherwise he won't eat them. We've tried both raw and cooked varieties of most veggies (e.g. crunch or soft carrots) and tried the "one bite" rule, but he always ends up gagging and almost throwing up his other stomach contents.

    He will knowingly and willingly eat fruits and vegetables if they are in a texture that he can deal with. Spinach salad - no way. Spinach on pizza, in tomato sauce, in lasagna, is not a problem. Same goes for zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and more.

    As a result, he gets unsweetened fruit purees a couple of times per day as his "fruit", I build vegetables into other things that he is eating and sometimes give him vegetable puree too (baby food essentially).

    We keep trying, keep offering, but I'm committed to ensuring that he gets a balanced diet even if he won't eat whole fruits and vegetables. My brother and brother-in-law were picky as kids too and basically didn't eat any fruits or vegetables until well into their teens. I don't see that as a good alternative.