Posts Tagged ‘ nutrition ’

Protein and Children: Why Less May Be More

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I always tout the perks of protein in the context of a nutritious diet. A satiating and satisfying nutrient, protein is found in a wide variety of animal and plant foods. Children need it because it provides their bodies with energy to support growth, development and maintenance of muscles, bones, organs and all body cells. But despite its many virtues, many children—and their parents—OD on protein.

The popularity of Atkins’ type diets coupled with concern over carbohydrate and added sugar intake have led many of us parents to consume more of our daily calories from protein. That has likely lead many kids to also eat more protein-rich foods. The emergence of more and more foods pumped up with protein—everything from granola bars to pasta, Cheerios with protein, high protein pretzels and even pancake mix made with extra protein as described in a recent segment on Good Morning America—is likely to make even more adults and children consume protein in amounts that can greatly exceed their daily needs.

For infants up to age 6 months, the adequate intake (AI) for protein is 9.1 grams daily. For older children, Recommended Dietary Allowances for protein range from 11 grams daily for 7- to 12-month-olds to 13 to 46 grams daily for 1- to 18-year-olds. To put these protein recommendations in perspective, the following foods and beverages each pack in about 8 grams of protein: 1 ounce roasted turkey, 1 ounce broiled sirloin, 1 cup milk, 1 ounce Swiss cheese, 4 ounces firm tofu; and ~1/2 cup chickpeas.

Although it’s a challenge to know just how much protein infants and older children consume, the most recent What We Eat in America report reveals that boys aged 2- to 5-years-old, 6- to 11-years-old, and 12- to 19-years-old consume an average of 56, 68 and 95 grams of protein, respectively, each day. The survey also shows that girls aged 2- to 5-years-old, 6- to 11-years-old, and 12- to 19-years-old consume an average of 56, 63, and 64 grams of protein, respectively, each day.  grams. Essentially, the report suggests that children can easily consume 3 to 4 times the amount of protein recommended for them daily.

Although it’s not yet clear how excess protein affects children’s health over the long term, a recent review in Food & Nutrition Research concludes that a high intake of protein (15 to 20% of total calorie intake) in infancy and young childhood increases the risk of obesity later in life. The researchers recommend an average of 15% of total calorie intake for protein as the upper limit at 12 months of age. (However, current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a range of 10- to 35% of total calories from protein for Americans aged 2 and older.) To reduce protein intake in an infants’ diet, the researchers recommend breastfeeding for the first year of life since breast milk has less protein than formula, and to avoid excessive intakes of protein-rich foods like cow’s milk.

Besides its link to weight gain, too much protein can strain kidneys and cause bones to excrete calcium. It can also lead to excess calorie and saturated fat intake—and increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain, cardiovascular disease, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. This is especially true if the protein foods children eat include big portions of fried, skinned chicken, fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.

While it’s much more important to focus on children’s overall diet and the foods they are offered and actually eat rather than specifically how much protein they consume, we parents can help them achieve more dietary balance. When it comes to protein, we need to provide—but not push—protein foods that are in their lowest fat forms and are prepared in healthful ways. Examples include low- and nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese; lean beef; skinless poultry; fish; eggs; beans and peas; and nuts and seeds. We need to offer these foods in amounts based on children’s unique needs (check out the Daily Food Planner based on MyPlate here).

Although few children are deficient in protein, those who for whatever reason consume fewer calories than they need for growth and those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets may fall short on protein. In such cases, it’s important to offer and encourage intake of protein-rich plant foods including soybeans and tofu (like animal proteins, these contain all the essential amino acids the body needs and cannot make itself) to meet calorie and energy needs. Adding such foods to other dishes your child already likes can help. And while foods touted as having extra protein can help some children meet their baseline protein needs, most can afford to bypass such foods and instead rely on foods that are naturally protein-rich.

Image of meat and dairy foods via shutterfly.

Do you pay attention to your child’s protein intake?

Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids

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What is “Real Food?” Dietitians Weigh In

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

For the past few years, you’ve likely heard how vital it is to feed our children and ourselves more so-called “real food.” Adding to—if not starting—the conversation, popular food writer Michael Pollan weighs in on all things food in his bestselling book, Food Rules. In it, he defines “real food” as “plants, animals and fungi people have been eating for generations.” Pollan also refers to most new products offered in supermarkets each year as “edible food-like substances” and describes such foods as “highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and that contain chemical additives with which the body has not been long acquainted.”

Although many parents and experts alike may agree with Pollan’s point of view, there’s no formal, universally accepted definition for “real food.” Even if there were, it’s likely parents who want to feed themselves and their growing children better would go about doing so in different ways. Still, I thought it would be fun to take to Facebook and Twitter and ask my registered dietitian colleagues what they think “real food” really is.

According to Marty Yadrick, “real food” is anything edible. Sheryl Lozicki thinks of “real food” as food that is minimally processed and nourishing. Alexandra Lautenschläger concurs, adding that “real foods” have few ingredients.

Janet Bond Brill, PhD thinks of “real food” as food that is eaten the way Mother Nature intended it to be eaten—for example, an apple rather than apple pie. And Maggie Green says, “If “real food” means it’s tangible, then all food is real. If “real food” means it’s not processed, that excludes foods like olive oil and butter.” According to Lauren Slayton, “For many parents, “real food” is food they serve their children—it doesn’t come from a package or from a factory.”

Regan Jones concedes that that term “real food” means different things to different people (something that came across loud and clear when I posted the question on Facebook and on twitter in the first place). According to Jones, “In it’s truest sense, “real food” represents foods that we recognize in their most basic, natural form—how they grew from the ground, what animal produced the milk, or even the tree on which the fruit grew. But busy, modern day lives mean we don’t/can’t eat at that most basic root level—so for my purposes, “real foods” are foods that have been processed in a way to allow for convenience (like peeling or grinding) and safety (like pasteurization).” The co-creator of, an image-based recipe discovery platform—and the only site of its kind moderated by registered dietitians and solely focused on healthy food blogs—Jones says, “While we (at don’t shun all advances by food manufacturers, we do like to focus on ingredients that are easy to recognize and understand.”

Supermarket dietitian Leah McGrath thinks terms like “real food,” “whole food” and “clean eating” are elitist and simply give certain foods and eaters undeserved status. To McGrath, “real food” is anything we can safely consume. Rebecca Scritchfield also takes issue with the term “real food.” In her opinion, it’s a term that’s full of judgment. That said, Scritchfield thinks of “real food” as food you can make in your kitchen, even if you don’t. “I can make homemade corn tortillas in my kitchen for fish tacos or migas, but I can also buy them. I can also make chocolate chip cookies with real butter and sugar and don’t need to use applesauce or other “replacements” to call it real. Like Scritchfield, Danielle Omar thinks of “real food” as food that she can make or grow myself. She says, “I can make yogurt, but I can’t make Cool Whip or Velveeta cheese.”

Roseanne Rust believes that trendy and simple terms like “real food” that get pitched to and by the media as sound bites never explain the whole picture. She’s also tired of simple “X is bad” statements and “Avoid X challenges.” According to Rust, “Food and eating is personal. “Real” is not what matters. What matters are healthy eating behaviors and patterns.”

However you define “real food,” the bottom line is clear—at least to me. Most of us don’t own and run a farm, or grow most (if any) of our own foods. If we can produce some of our own food via a garden, or rely on a local farmer’s market for fresh, locally grown produce, fantastic! But if that’s not possible—or we haven’t yet made time for it (guilty as charged), following a few simple rules can help us feed and nourish our families without making ourselves crazy.

Eating foods—mostly plants, as suggested by Michael Pollan and so many of us registered dietitians—and choosing mostly foods that are made with minimal amounts of solid fats and added sugars (SoFAs) that provide empty calories can certainly help. Eating a dietary pattern consistent with MyPlate and keeping portion sizes of foods that don’t neatly fit into any recognizable food group can also help. (For example, foods like low fat chocolate milk or Hershey Kisses can be included as part of kids’ daily SoFA calories if that’s how they’d like to spend those extra calories).

For other tips on how we can help our kids eat better, check out How to Help Kids Eat Less and Better and Tips From Experts to Feed Kids Better from The Scoop on Food.

Kids' Favorite Snacks
Kids' Favorite Snacks
Kids' Favorite Snacks

How do you define “real food?”

Image of healthy lifestyle concept via shutterstock.


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Family-Style or Pre-Plated Meals: Which Are Better?

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Have you ever given much thought to which style of serving meals might be best for your kids when it comes to their nutrition and overall health? Growing up, I remember being served food pre-plated. I was always allowed to take more if I was still hungry—and I usually did! I have continued with this tradition with my own sons who are now ages 15 and 12.

At breakfast and dinner, I pre-plate my kids’ food with an amount I think each of them will eat based on their age and stage. Sometimes they eat everything on their plates, and sometimes they leave food over. Either way, if they finish their meal and want more of something—whether that’s more milk at breakfast or some dessert after dinner—they’re allowed to help themselves.

Although I’ll serve food family-style during holidays and when we entertain friends or family, I find a pre-plated style of feeding typically works best for my family, especially on nights when we can’t eat dinner together because of conflicting after-school schedules. Sometimes simply heating up a fresh meal that’s been pre-plated and refrigerated can streamline the process of getting my kids fed. Fortunately, both of my sons eat pretty well, seldom overeat and are at healthy body weights.

Although pre-plating works for my family, many experts suggest a family-style approach to eating may be a better and more empowering way to feed growing children and prevent obesity—especially the 12 million U.S. preschool children in child care programs. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Illinois researchers surveyed 118 child-care providers who work at Head Start, Adult Care Food Program [CACFP] and other programs about their feeding practices for 2- to 5-year old children. Researchers found that while most who worked at Head Start met the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ recommendation to serve foods and beverages family-style—where children select their own portions and serve themselves—most CACFP (66%) and non-CACFP (93%) providers did not.

In the study, the researchers note that serving meals family-style gives children control over the type and amount of food on their plates and helps them self-regulate their energy intakes they learn to put the right amount of food on their plate based on their internal hunger and satiety signals. They also suggest that a family-style approach to feeding increases the ability of teachers to model healthy eating compared with pre-plated service. And because there’s evidence that eating behaviors are already established by school age, the researchers underscore how important it is for adults to help children establish healthy habits during their preschool years.

According to Linda C. Whitehead, Ph.D., Vice President of Education and Development at Bright Horizons Family Solutions, “Family-style dining allows teachers and children to enjoy a meal together in a calm, respectful atmosphere. The table is typically set with child-size plates, cups, and serving bowls. Children are encouraged to not only help set the table, but to serve themselves, pass dishes to their friends and clean up afterwards.” When asked about the benefits of family-style dining, Whitehead says, “The relaxed atmosphere encourages rich conversation and social interactions. Children learn appropriate behaviors, such as turn taking and using words, such as “please” and “thank you.” It also boosts self-confidence and independence, teaches children mathematical concepts, such as less, more, half, and full and builds fine motor skills.”

In their book, Fearless Feeding, Maryann Jacobsen and Jill Castle—both registered dietitians—say that family-style feeding is an authoritative and effective way to help children eat better. As stated in their book, “Family-style meals not only shift the control to your child, but also capitalize on skill development and success.”

To help serve kids family-style, the authors recommend preparing foods in appropriate serving sizes and placing them on platters or in bowls; cutting foods like chicken breasts into 3-ounce portions; offering small potatoes; using 8-ounce glasses for milk; and using half-cup serving spoons to dish out grains, vegetables and fruits. The authors also discourage parents from using the meal table to discuss topics related to nutrition, eating, and food. They say, “Frankly, it can feel like too much pressure, especially if your child is picky or overweight.” They recommend keeping conversation topics light, fun, and entertaining so that the meal table can be a place your children enjoy. Sounds great to me!

If there’s any real downside to making family meals family-style, it might be the inevitable mess kids make when serving themselves. We all know how that goes! Whitehead suggests keeping the atmosphere positive and to see spills and messes as learning opportunities rather than frustrations. “Keeping paper towels close at hand and allowing children to help clean up never hurts,” she says.

Do you feed your kids family-style? If not, will you give it a try?

Make dinnertime easier with these one-pot supper ideas!

Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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Tips from Experts to Feed Kids Better

Friday, May 9th, 2014

We moms know that at least some of our own eating and other habits get passed on—intentionally or not—to our children. For example, our older son inherited his parents’ sweet tooth (though I think in our family, his reigns supreme). And our younger son is very portion conscious, especially when it comes to vanilla ice cream, his treat of choice. Of course as a registered dietitian nutritionist and mom I do my best to set a “good” example about eating a nutrient-rich diet and living an active lifestyle. While I’m far from perfect and make mistakes along the way, I try to pass on the idea that eating well and nurturing our bodies helps us look and feel our best. It also can help us enjoy other perks—for our family, that includes better performance in the classroom or at work, on the basketball or squash court or while walking a half marathon.

Even if your kids are at healthy body weights, they (like us) can always make improvements to eat less and better—to not only have more energy to perform optimally, but to keep their hearts and other vital organs healthy.

In honor of Mother’s Day, below you’ll find some great tips several registered dietitian moms have used with own families to encourage nutritious and healthful food-related habits.

Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD coauthor of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, has always structured meals and snacks at the table (and not watching TV or snacking all day) to help her kids manage their hunger and get the right amount of food for their bodies.

Jacobsen also says, “Because kids can’t eat what they aren’t exposed to, I’ve always make it a point to expose my kids to a variety of nutritious foods throughout the day. Even if they only look at the food, they are getting familiar with it and eventually will try or eat it.” When serving new foods, Jacobsen always has an expectant attitude even if she doesn’t think her kids will eat them. “Kids will rise and fall to your expectations in the eating department,” she adds.

Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE, creator of Super Kids Nutrition, teaches her daughter about proper portions, balancing foods and about each food’s unique health benefits that work for your mind and body. She says, “When my daughter was 4 years old, she came running up to me at a birthday party and asked for a second piece of cake. I replied, “One piece is just right.” A parent next to me said, “She’s a kid, let her have a second piece of cake now while calories don’t count.” She replied by saying that with all the party food the kids already enjoyed, her daughter was learning habits now that will work for her for life.”

Now in 3rd grade, Halas-Liang’s daughter loves organic lean beef jerky. According to Halas-Liang, “My daughter has learned to balance out the higher sodium content by choosing a high potassium fruit or vegetable. Sometimes she’ll say, “We need to make a smoothie—I’m packing beef jerky today”—and that makes me so proud.” Halas-Liang says they use the same principle of balance for burning up energy when her family bikes to the ice-cream store. She says, “In pre-k and kindergarten, we focused on choosing foods that helped her think her best, jump her highest and fight off colds.” Halas-Liang says her daughter now frames food choices by saying things like, “I’m going to go pick some blue-berries so I can out smart you!”

Jill Castle, MS, RDN, coauthor of Fearless Feeding,  always serves fruit and/or veggies with every meal and snack. She says, “While this is easy to do when kids are in highchairs, parents often forget to keep going as they get older.” Castle adds, “When kids consistently see fruits and veggies throughout theday, every day, they become a normal part of the meal and lose their drama.”

For meals, Castle uses family-style feeding (parent decides the menu for the meal, sets all items in/on table or island/counter, and kids serve themselves): She has found the strategy works in her home and with countless families with whom she has worked. “It works because kids have a choice. Kids almost always eater better (healthy choices and the right amounts for their appetite) when they can have a say in what they eat (from the parents menu plan, of course) and how much,” says Castle. She notes, however, there’s a glitch in the approach. She says, “If children have been too controlled with eating (for example, portions or types of foods are restricted), they may go hog-wild at first when given free reign in this manner. This is usually a temporary phase while they learn to trust that they can meet their appetite and food needs at the table without restriction.”

Castles also closes the kitchen between meal and snack times. She says, “This “rule” keeps little (and big) kids from grazing, and sets a tone that says when we eat a meal or snack we sit and enjoy; and when we’re not eating, we are doing other things (especially, not eating).”

Suzanne Farrell MS, RDN has always been a fan of establishing regular eating times. According to Farrell, “Serving a regularly scheduled balanced breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner within certain times prevents crazy, grazy behavior and helps them to show up to mealtime with a healthy appetite!” She also makes meal-time a nag and whine-free time that’s peaceful and positive. Farrell also practices the division of responsibility approach created by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter where parents determine the what, when and where and kids are in charge of how much they eat and whether or not they eat it.

When it comes to portions, Farrell says less is more. “Because the portion sizes that we see have more than doubled in the past two decades, parents may have a tendency to serve more than little stomachs can handle. I always start small and allow my kids to ask for more.” She also loves getting her kids involved in family meals. According to Farrell, “Home is the University of Eating where kids first learn about food, so involving them when you can, such as creating the grocery list together, food shopping and age appropriate food prep and cooking is invaluable.”

Because her kids always seemed to be starving at the end of the day, especially when they were little, Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, coauthor of The Baby & Toddler Cookbook got into the habit of starting her kids on their dinner time veggies or a salad before they actually sat down to dinner. She says, “That would guarantee that they ate their veggies without a fuss since they were starving and it also gave us some additional quality time in the kitchen.”

When Ansel’s kids started grade school they became reluctant milk drinkers. Rather than argue with them about drinking their milk, she put a squirt of chocolate syrup into it. She says, “That simple strategy seemed to renew their interest in milk and it was a much lower sugar alternative than ready made chocolate milk.” (Interestingly, Ansel says that by the time her kids were in middle school, they stopped drinking chocolate milk in favor of plain milk.)

When short on time at lunchtime, Ansel puts together a fruit, cheese and nut plate. She says, “This meal has always been a huge hit and I love it because it’s plant-based, works in a serving of fruit and dairy and takes only minutes to throw together.

Mitzi Dulan, RD, Author of The Pinterest Diet, introduced her kids to a wide variety of foods at a very young age. “I don’t classify foods as “kid” or “adult” food. My kids were eating sushi by age 2 and I never acted like they weren’t supposed to eat foods like vegetables,” Dulan says. She has also encouraged her kids to help her cook and to take a taste of new or less familiar foods from the time they were little. She adds, “Now that they are 10 and 12, they always try new dishes I make as well as new foods when we eat out at restaurants.”

How do you help your kids eat less and better?

Image of young mother and her toddler washing vegetables via shutterstock.

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Hiding Vegetables in Food: A Good or Bad Idea?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

In a New York Times article, Stealth Vegetables, Michael Moss points out two seemingly opposite strategies by the food industry to get everyone to follow moms’ advice to eat more vegetables: making them more attractive and easier to integrate into meals, and hiding them in other foods via precooked purees.

When I shop at the grocery store, I often buy lots of whole produce. But I also love to take shortcuts by buying some of the vegetables my family loves already prepped in some way—it definitely helps me save time when feeding my family. Some of our favorites in the produce aisle include shredded cabbage, carrots and lettuce and shaved Brussels sprouts, and frozen or canned low- or no-sodium vegetables. Although many of the fresh, ready-to-use options are more expensive than vegetables sold in their whole forms, they can be a viable option—even once-in-a-while—to get dinner on the table and vegetables into your kids’ mouths.

Purees are another option. In his article, Moss mentions Green Giant’s 100% Veggie Blend-Ins. To promote the new product, the company has partnered with with Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious. The book features traditional recipes kids enjoy that are “stealthily packed with veggies hidden in them so kids don’t even know!” according to the book’s description.

Another bestselling book by Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals, includes recipes that disguise so-called superfoods (including vegetables) inside kids’ favorite meals to get them to eat more healthfully. Chase Lapine also created Sneaky Chef Purees that are available in Whole Foods Market and other retail outlets.

David Grotto, a registered dietitian nutritionist, author and spokesperson for Hooray Puree—another vegetable puree option—says, “The reason I’m affiliated with Hooray Puree is that for as many years as I’ve been an RD(N), I don’t think we’ve made any real headway in getting kids—especially those of lower economic status—to eat more vegetables. That’s one reason why I like to incorporate vegetable purees to fill short gaps between recommendations and consumption while helping children to eat more vegetables—and build a healthy relationship with them.”

Purees can certainly provide a wonderful, nutritious boost to everything from smoothies to baked goods to lasagna to chili and other foods. There’s also evidence that using them to enhance meals can increase vegetable intake in young children. A small 2011 study by Penn State researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD found that adding puréed vegetables to favorite foods led 3- to 6-year-olds to consume almost twice as many vegetables (and 11 percent fewer calories) over the course of a day. The preschoolers also accepted the dishes enhanced with vegetables as much as the dishes served in their regular form. Also, feeding the children entrees enhanced with vegetables didn’t reduce their intake of vegetable side dishes. The researchers concluded that “Although covertly incorporating vegetables into foods can have a beneficial effect on children’s vegetable intake, it should not be the only way that vegetables are served to children.”

While I think adding purees to foods children already like or to new recipes kids can grow to love is wise, I’m not a fan of tricking kids to eat certain things. I think it’s really important for children to know what vegetables and other ingredients are in their food; that helps them learn about the many forms in which vegetables can be eaten and how vegetables served in different forms can taste different. For example, they may find that they like sweet potatoes when they’re baked into French fries instead of when mashed, or prefer cooked onions, broccoli and carrots over raw versions. The bottom line, as always, is to help our kids meet their daily quota for vegetables—1 to 2.5 cups daily for most, depending on their daily calorie needs—in any way we can, and to choose our battles in the process.

I asked a few moms who are also registered dietitians to share their thoughts on hiding vegetables. Here are their colorful answers:

“I’m not a fan of sneaking veggies into kids’ food because it doesn’t teach them how to eat and enjoy the actual food. It also can confuse children; for example, if they get a cookie made with squash at home and are told it’s healthy, they may think all cookies are healthy. I’m all for adding vegetables to dishes, like spinach to mac-n-cheese or mushrooms to a bolognese sauce (both of which I do), but in this case children see the vegetables and are given the opportunity to actually taste them and also sense their texture.”

~Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN of Nutritioulicious and mother of 2-year-old twin girls

“Sneaking veggies into foods has a short-term benefit—your kids will get more nutrition into their bodies at that meal. But long term, it’s not very helpful and doesn’t teach them any valuable habits (you can bet your child won’t be pureeing his own cauliflower into mac-n-cheese when he’s away at college!). What’s more, once your child catches on to what you’re doing, he may feel angry and mistrustful about it. Kids need to learn about the taste and texture of vegetables. I’d rather serve the real deal and have my kids only take one or two bites than hide purees in food. That being said, if you want to go the sneaky route, go ahead—but just be sure you serve actual whole veggies on the side. Or if you want to make black bean brownies or zucchini muffins, let your child in on the secret too!”

~Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, and mother of two boys, ages 9 and 5.

“I say “nay” on hiding veggies in kids’ food. Hiding is deceptive and does little to foster a child’s love for vegetables. That said, I’m all for “weaving” a variety of vegetables into recipes just as you would any other nutrient-rich ingredient. I love adding pureed pumpkin to muffins and pancakes, mashed black beans to brownies, and shredded carrot or finely diced red bell pepper to taco filling. Adding veggies boosts the nutritional GPA of your family’s diet, and serving veggies—in all their glory—with meals boosts it even further. “

~Liz Weiss, MS, RD, co-creator of MEAL MAKEOVERS, a mobile recipe app for busy families and mother of two boys, ages 19 and 15.

“I have never hidden veggies in food, but I am not opposed to it. I have always offered my kids veggies in a variety of ways: pureed, as part of soups; in smoothies; as part of dips; roasted with olive oil and salt; and just plain raw. In my opinion, good nutrition matters most and takes precedence over form.”

~ Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and mother of three kids, ages 19, 18 and 15.

“It actually can work to hide veggies in kids’ food. I believe that fitting those veggies into every meal as much as possible is an important goal. If you hide veggies like pureed, grated, or finely diced carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and greens in smoothies, muffins, casseroles, soups, and more, you can amplify the nutritional power of these dishes. However, it’s important that kids learn to like the taste of veggies on their own, too. Even if you’re kids are picky, introduce fruits and vegetables at each meal. Just place a small portion on their plate at each meal to make them more familiar.”

~Sharon Palmer, RD, author of Plant-Powered for Life and mother of two boys, aged 17 and 15.

“I am a fan of boosting the nutritional potential of all meals; blending and pureeing vegetables in sauces, dips and smoothies is a great way to do that.  However, I caution parents from doing only that in order to get plant-based foods in their child’s diet.  We want to raise our children to consciously make better decisions on their own when we are not around, so it is critical that they experience those individual foods in obvious ways starting when they’re very young. Show the color on the plate!  We know that if you do that, they are more likely to balance their plates in a similar way when they are away from home given the choice. Hiding the foods does not teach them to choose power foods.  This works very well for my daughter and my son. They have very different flavor palates. Although one is more initially accepting than the other, repeated exposure presented in a variety of ways continues to expand their food preferences.”

~Angela Lemond, Pediatric and Family Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and mother of two kids, ages 10 and 7.

“I do not like to “hide” vegetables in the food I cook for my children. However, I do use vegetables to naturally boost the flavor of many dishes my kids enjoy like soups, chili and Mexican fare (hello salsa!). If my child asks if vegetables were used, I answer honestly. But I also explain why and how they are used. I try to get my kids involved in the cooking process and allow them to choose healthy recipes from cookbooks so they gain a full understanding of how a dish is created.”

~ Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen and mother of 3 kids, ages 11, 9 and 7.

“Yes, I think hiding veggies in baked goods is great…zucchini bread anyone? My kids are all grown now, but I never had any qualms about hiding healthy food so it gets into their bodies!”

~Janet Brill, PhD, RD, author of Blood Pressure Down and mother of three kids, ages 26, 24 and 18.

What do you think? Should you sneak in veggies or is it a bad idea?

Image of chocolate cake and carrots via shutterstock.






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