Mothers’ groups swear by it and there are recipes flooding the internet on how to perfect it, but is veggie smuggling (the art of hiding vegetables in your child’s’ meal) the way to go or is it just providing a BAND-AID solution?
Being a mum of two, I can totally understand how veggie smuggling has its place in meal preparation. It’s definitely the easiest route to take on busy days, for a while anyway …
Why we start veggie smuggling…
Masking one vegetable flavour for another begins with a baby’s first food. A combination of three or four different pureed veggies can form a mishmash meal. Apple sweetens otherwise disliked pumpkin and broccoli can easily be disguised in a tomato-based pasta sauce. It’s tempting to get the ‘good stuff’ into our kids any way we can.
However, we need to remember that children develop their taste preferences from a very early age. This is why I strongly believe that we need to let veggies speak for themselves and give our children the chance to experience each unique taste.
With my first child, I fought fire with fire and came out on top simply because I wasn’t going to back down from teaching good nutrition habits. Stubborn, yes, but I do think having a workable balance between smuggling and serving veggies separately is the key.
Why veggie smuggling backfires
Realistically, constantly hiding veggies is not the best solution. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. When we hide vegetables, we limit our ability to work towards creating good eating habits that take our children into adulthood. There is a time and place to maintain peace. It makes sense to grate up some veggies and add them to a dish when there is a tired and grumpy household (let’s face it, it’s best for everyone), but for the most part, it’s best to serve salads, stir-fries and vegetables as a standalone part of the meal.
Feeling sneaky, perhaps even denying there are veggies in a meal when asked, robs our children the understanding of how important a nutritious diet is. And really, why should we have to? Vegetables are certainly not bad or criminal, but this is the reputation we give this wonderful health-giving food when we sneak and hide them.
Pros and cons of veggie smuggling in a nutshell
Incorporates more veggies into the diet of a ‘fussy’ child.
Less fuss at dinnertime.
Smuggling veggies means meals take more time to prepare.
Unfortunately, It doesn’t teach proper principles for long term benefits.
Building our child’s trust around food is undeniably important. Developing a repertoire of different foods encourages their adventurous side to try and experience new tastes.
If you choose to add in veggies (notice I didn’t say sneak) every now and then for less fuss at dinnertime, there are clever ways of doing this. Here are some delicious veggie smuggler recipes that your kids might enjoy.
Try these veggie smuggler recipes
Mini savoury muffins with hidden vegetables
Hidden vegetable meatloaf, healthy sausage rolls.
Healthy cupcakes and muffins (zucchini, sweet potato, black beans, carrots)
Slow cooker spaghetti bolognese with hidden vegetables
Instead of hiding, glorify the humble veggie. Put it on a pedestal and make it a part of life and something that we should enjoy eating. It just may be wise to choose your battles.