Last night we had Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. But it was probably a bit different to what a Shepherd would eat.
The leftover Bolognese sauce on the bottom was about one-third meat and the rest was grated zucchini and carrots, diced mushrooms, fresh and canned tomatoes, red capsicum, lentils, red kidney beans and dried herbs. The mash on top was a combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, broccoli and cauliflower.
Sounds like I’m hiding lots of veggies, huh?!?
I have to admit, the grater is one of my favourite kitchen tools. I grate zucchini into just about anything! But, do I hide veggies so my kids will eat them? I do not.
Let me answer the question: Is hiding veggies a valuable strategy? The answer is both yes and no.
Here are my 5 top tips for hiding veggies in food.
1. A tool in your belt, but not the only tool!
Hiding veggies is a useful strategy for increasing intake WHILE you are teaching your kids how to eat. Do not use it as your only strategy. If your kids don’t eat a wide variety of foods, sure get those nutrients in. But, ultimately, you need to teach your kids to enjoy a wide variety of foods.
Eventually kids will grow up and make their own meals. If they don’t realise that they eat veggies …. well, they won’t eat veggies!
Kids need to eat and enjoy vegetables WITHOUT being tricked (plus hiding is hard work, kids can spy the tiniest trace of spinach from the other side of the kitchen).
So, on the side of my Shepherd’s Pie, I include a salad so kids get a chance to choose their colours.
2. Get them involved
Cook with your kids. Garden with your kids. Shop with your kids (ahhh…sounds scary, maybe just the greengrocer).That way, there’s nowhere to hide!
Washing veggies, mixing, crumbing fish, shaping meatballs, cutting veggies with kids cooking knives, there is lots that kids of all ages can do in the kitchen.
At the greengrocers I often let my kids choose the salad veggies. I’ll ask them to pick me out some zucchinis or nice looking tomatoes. Let them touch, smell and learn about vegetables. Increase their exposure to foods beyond the dinner table.
3. Serve some on the side
Exposure, exposure, exposure!
Kids need lots of interaction with healthy food before they accept it. They need to try a food anywhere from 10-17 (to infinity) times to accept it. Show them, teach them what’s really in their favourite dishes. If the veggie’s flavour is always hidden they can’t learn about that food. Expose your kids to tasting veggies at the same time as hiding the veg. Try getting kids to lick, kiss or taste veggies in different ways: raw, steamed, roasted, with dips, sauces, stir fried. Serve something familiar and accepted with something new.
4. Unhide it
I tell them it’s in there!!! It’s not hidden, well not from the children anyway, best not to tell my fussy husband. But after 10 years, I think he’s starting to get suspicious… last night he did say to me “you can’t call this mashed potato”.
Once your kids are familiar with veggies, start to break the news. Tell them what’s in there. And you can explain to them that the recipe hasn’t changed. They liked it before they knew. Don’t be scared. Start to believe that your kids will learn to like veggies. We are trying to create healthy eaters for life!
5. See the opportunities
Find opportunities to add veggies to meals, but that’s different to hiding it. Soon you will be free, no longer stressing whether you cut the mushrooms small enough or if tiny fingers will pick them out.
Grated veggies are great in bolognaise sauce, omelettes, pancakes, muffins. Add veggies to stews, fried rice, stir fries. Try blended soups. Try adding a cube of frozen spinach to dishes.
So by all means, grate, dice, mash and chop veggies into everything. But at the same time slowly teach your kids so that they can learn to be healthier adults. How else will they know where to hide the veggies when they grow up?
What dishes do you ‘hide’ or ‘unhide’ veggies in? Tell us in the comments below.