Should you hide vegetables in your fussy eater’s food?
If you are a parent of a fussy eater, it is common to have anxiety about whether your child is getting enough nutrition. This can lead you down the path of blitzing vegetables into bolognaise sauce, hiding broccoli under piles of mashed potato or sneaking grated carrot into rissoles.
But should you be hiding vegetables?
One downside of sneaking vegetables into meals is that children might figure it out (and often do!). Fussy eaters can be skeptical and untrusting of their food at the best of times, so finding a non preferred vegetable in their dinner can make them even more wary. They might reject the meal completely or start to question if other dishes are not what they seem!
This can be an even bigger issue for children with sensory processing issues. These children are often highly sensitive to the textures, tastes, smells and the presentation of food – this means they can detect even the smallest of changes. If they are caught off guard by a hidden food the result can be more than just disgust or annoyance, a much bigger fight or flight response can be triggered. This stress response can cause meltdowns and increase levels of anxiety at mealtimes.
WILL IT EVEN HELP IN THE LONG RUN?
Hiding vegetables can also be an issue if this is the only way they are being presented. A zucchini grated into pasta sauce is unlikely to get your child any closer to eating roasted zucchini as they don’t get to learn about the colour, texture or flavour of this vegetable. This is why it is always a good idea to offer the vegetables in other forms. Even if they are not eaten, your child is being exposed to them and can start to become curious about them.
BUT DON’T THEY NEED THEIR VEGES?
There is also the question of whether the extra effort of hiding the vegetables is actually worth it. Negative health outcomes due to low vegetable intake is rare in children. Prepping the vegetables also takes you time, and the small amount of nutrition it offers may be negligible if you think about your child’s intake across the week.
However, if you already have some family meals where adding extra veggies gives you peace of mind AND your child is accepting them in this way, then continue on! Just don’t be tempted to add vegetables to favourite foods (no beetroot in the chocolate cake!) and ensure you always offer vegetables in plain sight .