I’m back with a new question for you all about fussy eaters! It’s the big one:
Is hiding veggies helping or hindering?
I have been pondering this for a while – although hiding things like vegetables in pasta sauce is considered an easy way of getting your toddler to eat a balanced diet, does it really address the problem?
Why do I have a fussy eater?
I suppose it would help us all if we knew why our children were fussy eaters in the first place?
Sometimes being picky and being a fussy eater is an act of independence in children. Like I have mentioned in some of my other Toddler In The Kitchen posts, toddlers and children love to have control of the situation – so why would they let you win by eating up their veggies?
Other times it’s the fear of trying something new. If you stop to think about it, it makes sense. Think about all the times you have prevented yourself from trying a new food (or trying something new in general), even in adulthood, because you have been scared to try it. Then put yourself in your child’s shoes – every day brings a new experience in their lives – whether that be something you’ve introduced, or a new skill they’ve learnt.
Whatever the reason, it sure does worry us parents. It’s upsetting to have a food fight at the dinner table, the screaming and the tears and the hurtful words. It’s also stressful to throw away entire plates of untouched food. Are they eating enough and am I just throwing my money away right now?
Because of this worry, parents have adopted the “hiding” technique.
Hiding vegetables in your children’s food is a moment in every parent’s life. Do a quick Google search and you’re inundated with recipes toddlers will love that contain hidden ingredients. Pinterest boards are plentiful, and there are round-up blog posts after blog posts containing the best recipes to fool your children.
But even then it requires ninja preparation skills in the kitchen.
Blitzing and mashing and shooing your inquisitive toddler from the area in case they spy something remotely healthy near their food. Then, come meal time, there’s the moment of anxiety when the fork is lifted – will they notice? Is there going to be another tantrum, more tears?
It’s stressful! Surely it shouldn’t be this hard?
It seems like a stressful solution for a stressful situation – so surely it can’t be the only option.
Other parents prefer exposure to foods in their natural form.
By hiding food, are you really allowing your child the chance to enjoy food in its most natural form? And is it really going to do anything about fixing the problem?
My personal method to try and fight the fuss has been prolonged exposure to foods in their natural state, rather than trying to hide them. It’s a long process and if you’re hoping for an instant result – it ain’t gunna happen! But there are some real success stories about how presenting your fussy eater with food and just letting them get on with it has been the best thing possible.
After years of hiding vegetables in sauces I bit the bullet and started just putting it on his plate. After a week of exposure to cucumber he touched and smelt it, then with some gentle encouragement he tried a tiny bite. Now he eats a little at every meal. It’s a huge step forward. – Fussy Little Eater, @fussy_toddler
I have found that popping some new foods, or foods that your fussy eater would usually flat out refuse on the plate/table and not drawing attention to it is the best way to go with this approach. Give them a meal of something they would usually enjoy and just pop on the little extra. In my experience, fussy eaters will have a little feel and a taste when they think you’re not watching! This, over a prolonged period of time, could be the solution to fussy eating.
But what about that middle ground: “healthy” junk food?
Where does the old “healthy junk food” fall into all this? You know, the home made Nando’s or the chicken nuggets that you invest a lot of time into to ensure they look just like KFC’s?
Kids think they’re getting a little treat, but in fact, they’re getting a healthy, wholesome meal.
That, to me, seems like the best of both worlds. You can’t really fault it, can you? Your little ones are eating food that they enjoy and that is good for them. You haven’t spent an hour of your life boiling some carrots to death so you can chuck it in the blender and mix it in with some pasta sauce, you haven’t had to throw an entire plate of food in the bin and if you’re lucky, you may not have had to suffer any tantrums.
This whole fussy eating thing sure is a huge mine field and I am REALLY interested in what you have to say!
Leave a comment below with your opinion on the matter and if you give permission, I may end up using your quote (and blog/twitter handle) in my future Toddler In The Kitchen posts! I want to know if you have found hiding food to be an absolute life save, or if you are strictly an exposure to food kinda person, or if you think you have the perfect balance between the two! Please do let me know!
Note: I am in no way saying a certain method is the RIGHT method to use. All kids are different, all parenting is different and I am in no place to tell anyone how to live their lives or feed their children!