Why I don't hide veggies
I don't hide vegetables from my kid. Ever.
I know there are all kinds of books and websites that teach parents ways to cleverly disguise vegetables by pureeing them into brownies and muffins and macaroni and cheese. I understand the temptation to do this -- I really do. Some kids just plain won't eat vegetables if they can detect them and as parents we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that our kids get their recommended daily allowance of veggies. But is hiding them the best way to achieve that? I say no.
To me, hiding vegetables teaches children that veggies are something bad that needs to be hidden, something that is only palatable when combined with sugar, chocolate or pasta and cheese. That, to me, is no way to teach children to love vegetables.
So, what's a parent to do?
Teach your children that vegetables are delicious, something to be savoured and enjoyed. Not something to be disguised or choked down. Yes, that is going to take some work for some kids. No, it's not going to be easy. And yes, it will be worth it.
I'm not suggesting that blending pureed squash into your macaroni and cheese is a bad idea. In fact, it's delicious. But don't tell your kids that there is nothing different in the macaroni and cheese. Say something like, "I made a new macaroni and cheese recipe today! I added squash, and I think it will be delicious!" Dish them up a small portion, and institute the one-bite rule (see more about that here). Sure, there's a good chance that they will turn up their nose at the idea of eating vegetables, but who knows? They just might decide that it tastes pretty good. And then you can build on that. Next time, make squash soup. Or squash "fries". Once they get used to a new taste, you can branch out in new ways to capitalize on their newly acquired taste. If you are upfront about the fact that a recipe contains vegetables, and then they eventually come to like that flavour, you can more easily get them to try other recipes featuring that ingredient.
Another strategy is to pair vegetables with tastes you know they like. For example, you can cook carrots in orange juice or add some honey to them once they are cooked, adding a familiar taste to something new. Or, consider playing with the texture of a vegetable. Often, it's the texture, not the taste, that turns a kid off. Try roasting, pan frying, grilling, pureeing or mashing vegetables to see if a change in texture might result in a change of viewpoint. Or serve them raw! Lots of kids love the crunch of raw veggies that cooked ones just don't offer.
So, although you might find some spinach muffins in my breadbox (in fact, my 8yo loves these from Weelicious) I will not do any covert cooking. My daughter knows what is in her food, and she now loves vegetables. I am not blowing my own horn here -- we got very lucky with a kid who is willing to try lots of things -- but it wasn't always that way. Hang in there, moms and dads. Keep preparing lots of fresh veggies and serving them enthusiastically. Model a love of good food to your children, and they will eventually come around. And remember: It's OK for them not to love everything. You likely don't either :)