Sunday, August 29, 2010

True Confessions: Do you Sneak Healthy Stuff into your Family's Food?

Do you have any trouble getting your kids to eat what is good for them?   We do at our house some of the time.  I am amazed at how much time and angst I go through as a mom trying to make sure my kids are not wasting away of scurvy or some other disease caused by lack of fruits and/or vegetables.
To be fair, our kids do eat a fair amount of interesting things, like pesto and black olives and broccoli, and some are more adventurous than others.  But our youngest, in particular, has a true aversion at the moment to nearly any visible fruit or vegetable.  So I find myself getting creative in finding ways to get said child (and children) to eat fruits or vegetables.
A year or two ago, I picked up from the library "new book" shelf a copy of Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, a cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld (interestingly, the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld).  I thought this might be my way to ensure that kids were getting good doses of hidden fruits and vegetables in their meals and snacks.  But I didn't like the idea of being "deceptive," so I left the book in plain view and told the kids that we would try some of the recipes.  Unfortunately, most of them were not hits at our house, though I do still add in extra tomatoes to our taco meat.
Another cookbook, also with an unfortunate name, is more successful at our house:  Sneaky Chef:  Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine.   She has a number of "purees" of nutritionally powerful fruits and/or vegetables that she recommends mixing into various foods.  I have successfully mixed in the "white puree" (zucchini and cauliflower) into mac & cheese and mashed potatoes.
Even before reading these books, I have been fond of putting extra "nuts and twigs," as my husband calls them, into my home-baked goods.   My Texas sheet cake recipe, which gets raves whenever I make it, is full of unusual flours (teff, anyone?) and my current favorite uber-healthy ingredient, flax.   Texas sheet cake is not exactly health food, but because it is dark, a lot of good things can go unnoticed and therefore eaten.  
Lately I've been making a family favorite crumble muffin.  The original called for raspberry (this was my very "nuts and twigs" adapation of an old cookbook recipe I had), but the visible-fruit-averse child in our house was driving me crazy by not eating these super yummy & fairly healthy muffins.
So I confess that I did resort to subterfuge.  Currently, I make a double batch of these muffins, one with fruit (usually raspberries or blueberries)--the "fruit muffins," and one batch with shredded or pureed zucchini, and these are called "plain muffins."  Everyone gets to eat their favorite  muffins, and everyone gets a little bit of fruit and/or vegetable.  The muffins freeze beautifully, making for super quick breakfasts.
And so far, no scurvy at our house.
Here's the recipe.  Care to share you experiences of getting kids to eat more fruits & vegetables? Or any "secret" recipes that are popular at your house?
Raspberry Crumble Muffins

Mix together dry ingredients:
1.3 cup flour
1/2 cup flax
1/3 cup oat flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
Mix dry into wet; add in 1.5 cup raspberries or other fruit (or 2 cups shredded or blended zucchini).
Scoop into 12 muffin tins that have been greased.
Crumble for topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
pinch cinnamon
1/3 cup flour
3 T melted butter
mix together and crumble atop muffins
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.


  1. I don't sneak healthy ingredients into recipes- I checked out both of those books from the library and they had a way of making me feel exhausted!! My greatest desire is for my kids to make good choices on their own. I am fascinated that there are many kids and adults out there who "sneak" the unhealthy way when mom or spouse is not around, and I don't want to take on that burden of hiding ingredients in our cramped kitchen full of "helpers"!
    I like to post interesting (and usually visually appealing) little tidbits I find online or in magazines highlighting a certain healthy food on the fridge, I like to talk up interesting facts about a new ingredient or recipe as we are making it or eating it for the first time. I've heard that one has to taste a food 21 times to develop a true like or dislike, so I tend to go that route - we've been eating quinoa as a side at least 1x per week for many weeks, and I just keep putting it out there- all the kids but one took to it right away, and now on week 14! or so the other child is starting to come around.
    I'm not a dessert maker/baker, and do have a habit of allowing nibbling all day long for myself and the kids...this can be a negative in that we don't always have sit down, consistent lunch times for example,(in fact we have decided that our family meal for this school year will be breakfast - usually hot!) but a plus is that we never use the language "eat your "X" and then you can have dessert"...
    the raspberry muffins look delish, btw! I have a thing for crumb toppings! I have to be sneaky about hiding fruit around here from the kids- ds #3 will polish off bags of frozen mango or raspberries that we keep on hand for smoothies...

  2. I agree that some of the "sneaky" recipes are super time consuming, and since they didn't work for us. But the ones that did (at least the principles) have upped the fruit and veggie count at our house, so I'm sticking with it.

    I feel confident that eventually our kids will eat relatively healthy because we are fairly healthy, adventurous eaters ourselves. But I really feel they need some of these things now just to grow and develop properly. Am I wrong? So I resort to my rather open "subterfuge" from time to time.

    Also I completely agree that "eat x or else" or "eat this, then you can have ..." because it makes the ... much more appealing.