Along the lines of yesterday’s post regarding healthy tips, I wanted to address the practice of grinding up “stuff that’s good for you” (veggies) and hiding it in “stuff that’s not so good for you” (for example, baked sweets) in an effort to get some of the good stuff into recalcitrant children.

Cookbooks by Seinfeld, Lapine and others advocate hiding vegetables in the foods that kids already prefer. From an immediate, nutritional standpoint this method works, particularly when dealing with children who are absolutely stuck on a narrow list of foods.

But I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a mean 0ld behaviorist and prefer to look at the accidental messages that are sent when you adopt an approach that hinges on deception. Here’s my kill-joy take on this:

Yes, there is an issue with getting kids to eat veggies. (Heck, there’s an issue with getting adults to do it too!) If you apply the principles suggested in the cookbooks strictly and also nurture healthy eating behaviors then the method has merit. However, we’re talking stressed out, time-deficient parents here! The temptation to give your kids broccoli-enhanced brownies and think “well, at least they’re getting something good” can lead to developing not only a softer stance on getting them to eat undisguised vegetables, but even a tendency to offer more ameliorated sweets than you’d normally allow.

And since we’re talking about being “sneaky” and “deceptive” here (words that shouldn’t be necessary to describe your interactions with your kids), your children won’t have a clue about what’s in the brownies. All they know is that “mom/dad thinks it’s okay to eat extra brownies.” Hey, there’s a huge market out there for “7 veggies in a pill” — if people weren’t interested in taking the easy path, that stuff wouldn’t sell. So the possibility of sending the wrong message raises a huge cautionary flag for me.

Once out of your sight, kids will take with them what they’ve learned. Since the emphasis is on sneaking food into them as opposed to teaching them good eating habits…their food choices outside the home won’t be any healthier.

Bottom line: if you’re desperate to get something green into your kids, mixing it into cookie dough is technically better than nothing. But the effort should not stop there, tempting as that may be. You can keep adding veggies to desserts but at least transition into showing kids what you’re putting in there (so they recognize that they can eat it and not die of veggie poisoning), and work towards getting them to willingly eat on their own.