- While you might be achieving your goal of getting that extra nutrition into your child’s diet, you aren’t teaching them to actually eat the vegetables. Eventually you won’t be able to sneak foods in and they still won’t have learned to eat their veggies.
- You risk losing your child’s trust. What will happen when your child finds the little shred of carrot in their brownie, or the spinach piece that didn’t quite blend into their berry smoothie? Your child might not be willing to try it at all next time for fear of hidden foods.
- You’re establishing nutritious food as something that needs to be hidden and that isn’t good on its own. This can actually make foods more aversive.
Instead of sneaking foods into your child’s food, here are some things you can do:
- Create repeated exposure to goal foods in different ways. Present those healthy foods prepared in various ways. For example, if your child is refusing carrots, present them in different ways: baby carrots, shredded, steamed, in soup, with dips, in muffins. You can still show your child that there are ways to make foods more enjoyable, such as baking with them, without being sneaky.
- Encourage small interactions. Maybe your child only touches or licks the carrot for the first week of exposures. If you praise and encourage these interactions, your child will learn that a carrot is not something to be nervous about and that they can take the next steps towards taking a bite.
- Model trying vegetables in different ways. Talk about your own likes and dislikes and talk about why it’s important to eat the different vegetables. For example “I don’t really like this zucchini plain, so I tried baking it into these chocolate muffins. This makes it taste so good to me!”
- Have your child participate in food preparation with you. For example, make a berry smoothie and then add a couple pieces of spinach. Have your child try the smoothie with you along the way. Comment on the taste “Wow, I can hardly tell that spinach is in there! It’s so healthy for us to put this in.”
Try these tips to make trying healthy foods fun and enjoyable for both you and your child!