Who Put that Broccoli in My Cupcake? Weighing the Pros and Cons of “Deceptive Nutrition”

Many parents have trouble getting their kids to eat their vegetables during mealtime, leading them to worry that they’re missing out on important nutrients.

Some experts have suggested that parents blend vegetables or legumes (such as black beans or chickpeas) into kid-friendly treats like cookies, brownies or cakes to help picky eaters get the nutrients they need.

Before you fire up the blender, keep in mind that while this trick can help your kids add nutrients to their diet, it doesn’t actually teach them to try new foods or help them get used to the taste of unfamiliar vegetables, which may have negative consequences as kids get older and start making their own food choices.

A new study tested whether or not kids notice the difference between sweets that had been blended with zucchini, broccoli, or chickpeas and those that had not. They found that most kids couldn’t tell the difference and more importantly, most kids rated the foods with vegetables just as tasty as those without, even when they knew the difference!

The take-away here is that you don’t have to hide vegetables from your kids, but incorporating them into some of their favorite dishes might be a good way to boost nutrition for picky eaters. Try these tips to add vegetables in a healthy, and not deceptive, way:

  • Encourage kids to help you in the kitchen so that they get used to seeing vegetables in their whole form before they are blended or baked in a dish. Ask them to help you taste test along the way.
  • Even if you’re blending greens into a fruit smoothie or baking them into cake batter, make sure to also serve a side of salad with dinner and talk to your child about the different texture the leaves have in their whole form compared to once they’ve been pureed.
  • It’s okay to blend veggies into sauces for pasta or lean meats, but leave some of the vegetables roughly chopped so that kids still see them on their plates and can pick out their unique and tasty flavors.

Check out Healthy Family Fun’s recipes to get more ideas about how to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. By encouraging your children to help you in the kitchen, they will be more likely to want to try their own healthy creations!

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