We get the joke. But kids can learn to enjoy foods like salad without being tricked. A nutritionist weighs in on mealtime strategies to try instead. Spoiler alert: Ranch can be fine.

By Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
June 11, 2019
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African Girl Eating Salad
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

June 11, 2019

Wish your kids ate more vegetables? Kraft has a new, limited edition product to entice kids to do that—but it involves some lying on your part.

As part of their new campaign "Lie Like A Parent", they created Kraft Salad "Frosting," which is just their regular ranch dressing disguised as frosting in a squeezable pouch. According to the company, it gives parents "a hand in upping their lie game."

"Let's be honest, parents lie to their kids. It is their secret weapon in parenting, especially when it comes to food," says their press release. "In fact, 63 percent of U.S. parents admit to telling instrumental lies to get their kids to clean up their plates."

Kraft is asking parents to share their "best parent lie" on Twitter with the hashtag #LieLikeAParent. They'll select 1,500 of the best lies and send the winners a free pouch of Salad "Frosting".

In their spot, "Nobody Lies Like a Parent," a mom smiles as she introduces Kraft Salad "Frosting." "Ingredients: Kraft Ranch Dressing and deception," she says with a smile. "Is it frosting? No. Is it wrong? It's not important. But it will get your kids to eat their salad and veggies." As her kids excitedly squeeze the dressing on their salads, the mom turns to the camera and winks.

I know the campaign is supposed to be funny. Most of us have told a few fibs to our kids along the way—and the intention (helping more kids learn to like salad and veggies) is one I can get behind.

But honestly, this campaign makes me cringe. Because not only is it actively encouraging parents to lie to their children about food, but it also perpetuates the notion that kids won't eat foods like salad unless they're tricked. (And how long will it take kids to figure out the salad frosting isn't actually frosting? About two seconds. Or less.)

What's worse, this campaign comes on the heels of their recent #forthewinwin campaign, which suggests parents give up on offering foods like salmon and vegetables and just serve Kraft mac-n-cheese to their kids. In ads, parents are seen at their wit's end over kids gagging at the sight of vegetables or running away from the table. Then soothing music plays as they switch to serving Kraft mac and cheese or cheese-topped tacos, and suddenly everyone is all smiles around the table. The underlying message: Don't even bother. Just give them kid food.

These campaigns undo all the advice that dietitians like myself give to parents every day, such as:

  • Serve one meal to the whole family.
  • Offer all kinds of food, and continue offering foods even if they're not favorites.
  • Establish trust with your kids by being honest about what's in their food (instead of hiding pureed veggies in it, for example).
  • Create a relaxed and pressure-free table instead of bribing, begging, and bargaining to get your kids to eat (and certainly don't chase them around the house with a forkful of food as a parent is seen doing in a Kraft spot).
  • Treat food as food, not as either "kid food" and "adult food."

Foods like boxed mac-n-cheese are totally fine sometimes—my kids like it too! Ditto for ranch dressing (here's why I feel no guilt giving it to my kids). And if calling salad dressing "salad frosting" makes eating salad more fun for your kids or lightens the mood at the table, that's great.

But let's drop the notion that it's okay to lie to kids about food—and that children aren't capable of liking anything beyond a narrow range of items like mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs. It sells kids short. It also cultivates the exact kind of picky eating that drives parents to lie in the first place.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.