Spinach Brownies or Spinach Omelet?

When Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious hit the shelves, I was jazzed. Cooking for Isabella is my thing. I started making her organic baby food when she was six months old. I froze purees as if preparing for the end of days. And I'm still at it today. I'm always trying new recipes and introducing new foods in an attempt to mold my little eater into the exact opposite of her vegetable-shunning mother. I even co-author a baby and toddler food blog (although I am embarrassed to admit I haven't posted a new recipe in awhile).

The basic premise of the book is that in order to get kids to eat vegetables, you puree them and "hide" them in the foods they like. They'll (presumably) never know there's cauliflower in their mozzarella sticks or spinach in their brownies.

Rather than run out and buy it, I decided to place a hold on it at my library so I could decide if it was worth the money. That was back in October. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea, but my ship finally came in last week.

The book is beautifully presented. It has full-page color photos of the recipes, which I always enjoy in a cookbook. And her program sounds both beneficial and easy to implement. Kids get the nutrients they otherwise wouldn't get from the vegetables they won't touch in their traditional state, and all the adults have to do is make some big batches of purees, freeze them, and then stick them in some of their kids' favorite foods. Mom's happy. Kids are healthier and happier. Everyone wins, right?

And then I read a review of the book in my local newspaper, and I started to question the merits of the program. Is hiding vegetables in kid-friendly food teaching children good eating habits? If they loathe vegetables at age 4, and you hide butternut squash in their macaroni and cheese and carrots in their hamburgers, are you to assume they'll suddenly start loving these vegetables at age 10? If you're burying vegetables in your kids' foods, presumably they aren't also making an appearance in non-pureed form on their plates, so how will children ever learn to give them a try?

I'm undecided as to whether or not to give the methods in this book a shot. On the surface, they seem to run counter to everything I've been doing with Isabella to this point. I serve her vegetables with both lunch and dinner. If she refuses to eat a certain veggie once, I try again the next day, and the next, and the one after that, as it can often take up to 10 tries for a child to accept a new food. And up until about a week ago, Isabella was a fantastic eater. I was the smug mommy whose child ate anything and everything I put in front of her, and I credited myself and my approach to feeding her for this success.

Since last week, though, all hell has broken loose in the highchair, and my daughter is now refusing to eat 98% of the vegetables she once loved. And now I'm torn. Baby cannot live on cheese and Cheerios alone, and these days, that's all she seems to want to eat. Do I stick some pureed sweet potato in her grilled cheese? Do I bake her a batch of angel food cupcakes with yellow squash lurking inside?

Would following this book's program turn back the clock on all my hard work to this point?

Please share your thoughts on my vegetable dilemma.

13 Responses to “Spinach Brownies or Spinach Omelet?”

  1. # Blogger Tracey

    Having a 1 or 2 year old who is suddenly picky over veggies isn't uncommon. BTDT. Awaiting the day that my last child suddenly decides that veggies aren't all they're cracked up to be. But having 2 older kids who struggle over EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL? Yeah. It gets old. Faster than you can imagine. I do hide veggies in their food. And then I still put some out, and try to force them to eat them. And yet? It's still a struggle!However, I have less guilt over their bad eating habits as I know they're getting a bit more nutrition than they realize.

    As they grow up, we continue to talk about WHY they need the green and orange foods. And they continue to fight it. But they at least have the information. Hopefully, they'll decide that trying new things and eating REAL food on occasion is something they can do. If not? They'll be adults with poor eating habits, and it'll be out of my hands by then.

    I think Jessica prefaced her book with the statement that the purees shouldn't be a substitute for the veggies on her children's plates, but a supplement. If they happen to also eat the entire serving of whole veggies that she places on their plates, well, then they've had 2 servings instead of 1! Excellent.  

  2. # Blogger Jesser

    As I recall, she still suggests you present the veggies along with every meal, and encourage eating them. So to me, I don't really see anything too wrong with giving them the vitamins, etc. they need in a slightly "sneaky" way ... especially if they're still being served along side the veggie-infused dishes.  

  3. # Blogger Andrew

    I'd keep pushing and hiding the veggies if need be. If they're hidden, maybe she'll continue to develop a taste for them, even if the taste is partly masked by other ingredients.

    As you know I'm living with somebody else's child right now, and this is the kid who wouldn't eat a burger because it once had lettuce on it (he could taste the lettuce after it was remove) and once was almost in tears because his cheeseburger had a tomato on it. Oh, and he once exclaimed, upon opening a McDonald's bag (are you sensing a trend here?), "I THINK I SMELL PICKLE!"

    His current diet: cheese pizza, french fries, burgers (mustard and ketchup only), tacos (beef, no onions or lettuce or tomatoes), and hot dogs.

    Oh, and for those not familiar with this story, he's 21 years old.  

  4. # Blogger Marie

    I know of the book but not the controversy. I think it's silly! Get them to eat veges any way you can, ferpetessake. Of course continue to offer them repeatedly, different ways. And why not add them to recipes? My son doesn't like cooked peas, but he'll eat them frozen. Yep. Frozen, right out of the bag. So of course I let him. The Horror!  

  5. # Blogger shokufeh

    I don't have an issue with hiding vegetables, as long as you continue to flaunt them, too. The measures one takes depends on the child, I guess. My mom has always said I am/was a pleasure to feed. (Can you tell I'm proud?) I love vegetables? Part of that was that my mom presented numerous kinds, in a variety of ways. Brother #1 was not a lover of the food, of any kind. To keep him from wasting away to nothing, my parents relied on the few foods he would tolerate, Ensure, and all kinds of nutrition (including vegetables) hidden in muffins. Brother #2 was a fan of a lot of foods, with the exception of vegetables. However, if he got the vegetables in the form of soup, he was happy to eat them. But, regardless, vegetables were present on the table in more obvious forms than muffins and soup. And now, both of my brothers cook for themselves, and I'd wager that vegetables are a regular part of their diet. Even salad - which they no longer bother to fold up into one small packet, so it can all be eaten in one mouthful.
    I guess basically, I don't have an issue with hiding vegetables if they're hidden in "real" food (not brownies), and if kids get exposed to veggies in their natural state as well. One of our jobs as parents is to educate them how to eat well. If MrMan grows up to think brownies make a meal, I don't want it to be because I taught him that.  

  6. # Blogger Beagle

    Both combined seems smart.

    Offer the ones they like in their "real" form and hide some of the others in foods until they make it to the "will eat in real form" stage.

    I hide vegetable in my husbands food. And he's 41!

    But that's kind of the point here . . . unless someone continues the hiding thing later in life then it does not really improve eating habits in the long run even if it does improve nutrition in the short run.

    So definately both combined would be my vote. The hidden foods will get you through the times like now when "no" is the answer to anything but cheese and cheerios and I think your overall approach will be what really helps her become a veggie loving adult.  

  7. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Okay, you already know the problems I have with my ULTRA picky eater, so I won't even get into the specifics. I agree with what everyone else has said, sneak in some veggies, but offer them on the side too.

    And only because I am SO proud of him, Jacob (in the last week) has eaten a quarter of a grape, one baked bean, a spoonful of white rice, and a spoonful of mashed potatoes. He gagged over a pea (twice) though. Oh well, you can't win them all.  

  8. # Blogger M

    I am getting the book for xmas and I'm all for it. Because at this point Madelyn is living on yogurt, cheerios, beans, bread, pancakes, and oatmeal. Every now and again a piece of chicken brushes her lips. She is PICKY and I feel GUILTY that she's not eating well. So, I'm going to play "hide the veggies" and still put veggies on her tray so that she is exposed to them.
    And think about it-
    I hate milk. But I'll drink hot chocolate. Is that going against my "eating healthy" principles? I don't think so. I'm still getting the milk, just altering it a little. And I love baked potatoes loaded with butter, sour cream, adn cheese, but is that bad because I'm hiding my potato under all those toppings? I don't think so.  

  9. # Blogger kenju

    I think Beagle is right - do a little of both. I would have no qualms about hiding good veggies in my kids' foods. I had a good friend who used to put zucchini and spinach in spaghetti sauce because it was the only way to get her family to eat them.  

  10. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    I was actually going to bring this up on Mush. P hasn't been eating vegetables for a few months now, at least not obvious ones. She'll often put them in her mouth, but take them out right away and make a face. Thankfully she loves her fruit, so though it doesn't compensate it at least makes that aspect of things a little better.

    Her food issues have been driving me crazy lately, and P also used to be a baby who would eat EVERYTHING. Now, not so much. I have been sneaking some vegetables in soem foods, but if she won't even it the main meal the vegetables are in, well...

    This sounds gross, but I have put some vegetables in fruit "smoothies" that I make for her. Since she likes fruit so much and likes a drink (despite only ever drinking water and milk), I blend a variety of fruits, chuck in a low proportion of vegetables, and give it to her to drink. I thin the fruit puree out with water, and ta da - a sort of fruit juice with no added sugar. It gets me through the days on which she will only eat raisins and yoghurt.  

  11. # Blogger Shannon

    I told Jeremy that I wasn't going to hide veggies and fruits from Lore... she already is a good eater... unless she doesn't feel good or her teeth were bugging her... but I am going to watch her sugars, carbs, and fat... if she doesn't want to eat her veggie or fruit that night she gets it the next day (like what you do with yours)... but when I looked at that cookbook, every thing had to much fat and sugar in it for a kid's diet... our peds office is telling parents not to get it because of that... not because it is hiding veggies...  

  12. # Blogger Laura McIntyre

    I don't think its a bad idea, i try to add some veg to everything i make . Not hiding it but just adding extra.
    No matter what i serve (even something like vegtable lasagne) i will always add a side dish of veg. Cannot get to much of it in a meal  

  13. # Blogger Christine

    I don't have any kids, so take what I say with a grain of salt...

    I was always a good eater and we always had vegetables and they were never hidden. I think that if she is really shunning every veggie that comes her way, maybe you can try the veggies (plain, open and obvious) with her regardless, while covertly adding them to whatever she will actually eat. That way she gets the best of both worlds.

    Good luck!  

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