Monday, April 27, 2009

baby food and tricking kids into eating "healthy"

I met with a very dedicated local and organic baby-food producer yesterday who started Sweet Cheeks. If you live in the Twin Cities, you can find her products at farmers markets, coops and restaurants. Check out her website for more info.
I like the local angle, and also that her toddler food is flavored with garlic and onions, and things I like to eat. Her foods are frozen, made fresh and frequently, and don't have preservatives or additives. (I fantasized about making my own organic baby food, but never got my act together. This would have been a nice option. )

Lori has been a nanny for years and tested her recipes on lots of kids. (I managed to sneak in a potty-training question while we were there!)
To answer consumer demand, she has started a line called "Sweet Sneaks" with small portions of local, organic vegetables to stir into recipes ala Deceptively Delicious or Sneaky Chef. They look wonderful and will be a help to those interested.

I get this question all the time when I talk to parents. They wonder about how to improve nutrition for their "picky eaters" who only eat mac-n-cheese and a few other dishes.
A few words of caution if you're trying to trick your kid into eating better.

1) If a kid finds out he's been tricked, watch out! It can be a major setback in his willingness to try new things. One friend was tricked as a child into eating an organ meat by her Gramma and never ate anything other than bread, crackers and things she could identify there again.
2) Relying solely on stirred-in veggies and fruits does not aid in the acceptance of those fruits and veggies. There is no exposure to texture, color, smell. Its hidden. Your picky eater will stay a picky eater.
3)How long are you willing to keep this up? You might get it by a 2 year old, but will you want to do this when she's 7?

How to use Sweet Sneaks that fits into the trust model of feeding. (My humble opinion.)

1) Stir them into foods, but don't lie about it. Maybe even have your child help.
2) Use them as a transition while you continue to expose your child to the actual thing, over and over again. (Serve fruits and veggies in different ways, raw with dip, steamed with a little butter and broth, cut up in pasta dishes... I find that if M helps me prepare food, she might ask to try raw sliced red pepper while I chop it for a salad, even though she may not eat it once its in the salad every time...)
3) If you only plan to eat mac-n-cheese or a limited array of foods as a family anyway, then this will improve nutrition, but little else. (See #2 above.)
4) Try to learn new recipes, stews, soups where you can stir them in for their own flavor or texture enhancement.
5) If you've found a recipe you love in one of these cookbooks, cook it, but don't eat solely for nutrition something that doesn't taste good.


  1. Great article! We have lots in common, but I gripe a bit more! I'm going to keep watching this blog - great writing and great info.

  2. I prefer to incorporate healthy foods into my recipes without "sneaking" or "deception". Making pumpkin pancakes, banana walnut muffins, tacos with black beans added, and sauteeing finely minced red bell pepper or shredded carrots along with ground beef are all ways I pump up my family's nutrition.

  3. Thanks for the comments ladies! I agree with Janice, but also know lots of parents are doing the "sneaky" chef thing. I just hope they will see it as a temporary crutch during the transition to a wider variety of foods. With a trust model of feeding, I don't do the sneaking thing (OK, I do call Spanikopita "crunchy triangles" but I don't pretend there isn't spinach in them!) We just had fried rice last night with peppers, mushrooms, eggs, scallions and onions and she loved it. If the expectation is your kids will grow up to eat and like what you do, they will. My Mom always made meat sauce with carrots, celery and mushroom, and I do too. It tastes good and helps with nutrition. Thanks again!

  4. I agree with Janice. I teach healthy cooking classes to children and we try to embrace all of the ingredients that we use. If ingredients are sneaked into foods, how will kids ever learn if they like them or not?