Alternate Post Title: oh no she didn't!
Since the dawn of motherhood, mothers everywhere have been waging war against one another for no apparent reason other than to argue with someone other than their 3-year olds. The issues? Just about everything from boobs to penises. Breastfeeding or formula? Epidural vs. Natural. Oh, natural? Bradley or Lamaze? Cloth or disposables? Bjorn or Moby Wrap? To vaccinate or to not? To circumcise or to not? And, of course, the Mother of all Mommy Wars: Working Moms vs. Stay-at-Home Moms.
Every Mom thinks that She has the answer--that she's Right. Because the alternative, that she's not, is unbearable to consider....you would never knowingly make the wrong decision for your kid, would you?
Well, ladies, a new battle has been brewing. A new war waged. Have you heard? It's all over the internet, you know. This one's all about deception.
To Hide the Veggies or to Practice Full Disclosure of What's in that Muffin? That, is the question.
So in the first camp, we have the moms who own and have memorized Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook Deceptively Delicious. The idea behind this cookbook is that you can sneak some nutrition into your child's favorite foods by adding pureed fruits and veggies to sauces, dips, and baked goods that your kid is likely to already love. And standing opposite, is the loyal following of Catherine McCord's website weelicious.com. The idea behind Weelicious, is that your kid WILL eat healthy food if it is presented in an attractive way and if your child has helped you to prepare it. And, when your child eats healthy food and realizes that fruits and vegetables and whole grains are delicious, he will make healthier food choices later on in life, too.
(Now watch me get all bipartisan on you...)
You guys, I love both of these Mamas. I'm standing firmly neutral in this debate (unlike in just about every other Mommy War, where my colors were proudly flown) and incorporate EQUAL amounts of both philosophies of deception and full-veggie-disclosure in my everyday meal preparation. At every meal, my boys see Whole fruits and/or vegetables on their plates. I want my kids to be able to see and to recognize the food groups in their meals. If I know that my older, pickier eater won't touch the vegetable that I'm serving with the meal (which, if it's green, he won't), then I'll add a "safe" fruit or veggie (like carrot sticks or apple slices) to his plate. That way when I remind him to eat healthy bites, he'll have some choices.
That being said, Evan's healthy "choices" aren't exactly ideal, and certainly aren't varied. And Max, believe it or not, is becoming pickier by the day. So do I "sneak" a few veggies in here and there when I can? You bet I do. When I make meatballs, I throw some chopped, (defrosted) spinach in there. I add some ground flaxseed, too, for some extra fiber and omega-3. Do I call them Spinach and Flax meatballs? No. Of course not. They don't know it's in there, but I do. And it makes me feel a whole lot better about the amount of ketchup my kid dips the meatballs in.
I add spinach and flax to the boys' smoothies, too. I toss some frozen berries, a banana, some hemp milk, flaxseed, and baby spinach leaves in the Magic Bullet for a super nutritious afternoon snack...and you won't believe me until you try it, but you REALLY can't tell the spinach is in there! Do I say, "Hey, Evan? Want a green vegetabley smoothie today?" No. But he's seen me make it before. There's no need for a grand announcement.
Another sneaky trick I've tried: You can steam cauliflower until it's really soft and mash it into mashed potatoes. It's the perfect consistency and color to blend right in. And again, it's not like I'm hiding in another room while I prepare these sneaky meals....I'm just not listing each ingredient in our meal when we sit down to eat.
I totally agree with the idea that kids will choose to eat foods that are presented attractively, so you should find creative and pretty ways to serve vegetables to kids. I do make an effort to arrange food artfully on their plates when possible. But who are we kidding? How attractive can you make broccoli look to a picky, scared-of-green, 3-year old? Chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese are what look attractive to a lot of kids. So if, in a moment of desperation, you find yourself adding some cauliflower puree to your chicken nuggets, or squashed butternut squash to your mac'n'cheese, don't beat yourself up. If you keep offering it, someday your kid, too, may eat something green. Until then, you can get a little sneaky.
Regardless of your stance on the deception issue, we all have the same goal, right? Get the Greens in the Kid. My Mommy Mantra has lately become Do What Works. So do what works, mama. And consider it a victory if you managed to get a few grapes in your 3-year old today, okay?