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  • Enough With This Sneaky Vegetable Nonsense!

    goldfish_crackerAs many of you know, I vehemently oppose the hiding of vegetables in children’s desserts or savory snacks.

    This notion that children will only eat vegetables if they are masked by copious amounts of sugar and fat is misguided in several ways:

    • The inherent message is that “vegetables are not tasty in and of themselves”
    • Desserts and savory snacks with hidden vegetables offer paltry amounts of nutrition (ie: a mere half-cup of spinach — one serving — spread out amongst a DOZEN brownies)
    • It doesn’t allow children to determine, on their own accord, what vegetables they like — and do not like

    There are better alternate solutions to the ever-popular “my child won’t eat ANY vegetables!” dilemma.

    1. Try out different textures.  A child may hate steamed carrots, but love them raw (or vice versa).  If your child enjoys crunchy vegetables, work with that.
    2. Try dressing up vegetables in healthy ways.  For example, offer raw vegetables alongside bean-based dips, drizzle steamed vegetables with toasted sesame oil, or roast various vegetables in olive oil and spices
    3. Research has clearly shown that it takes roughly eight to twelve tries for a child to accept a vegetable (if it will be accepted at all).  When trying out a new vegetable, serve a tiny amount and simply ask your child if he/she would like to try this vegetable that you enjoy.  Regardless of their reaction after swallowing, thank them for trying.  You can try again — remember: TINY amounts — a few weeks later.
    4. Salsa (especially the fresh kind, like Trader Joe’s) is one way to add vegetables to a child’s day
    5. I see a lot of parents fret about daily vegetable consumption.  Step back and look at the bigger picture.  What are the child’s weekly eating patterns?
    6. It is entirely common for young children to go through phases (i.e.: the only vegetables they eat are tomatoes and celery).  They’ll eventually grow out of it.  I don’t see any reason to nag, particularly if the phase involves eating vegetables!

    In any case, this is all build-up to notify you of Pepperidge Farm’s latest: Goldfish “Garden Cheddar” crackers made with dried vegetable powder.

    “The senior vice president and general manager of [the company's] snacks division says the addition of veggies should be seen by parents as ‘an unexpected bonus,” but I don’t see the big deal.

    Not only are dried vegetable powders nowhere near as nutritious as actual vegetables, but each serving of these new Goldfish crackers contains a third of a serving of vegetables.  In other words, the equivalent to mere eighth of a cup of cooked vegetables.

    My biggest concern is that consumers may view this product as “healthier”, when in reality it is no different from standard Goldfish crackers.

    Thank you to Corey Clark for forwarding me this news item.



    1. dennise said on August 28th, 2009


      I love how you structured this post by responding to the goldfish cracker issue and looking at the bigger picture regarding how to introduce foods to kids.

      I can tell you that since you came here to my home and gave that advice in person, I have had a week of all my children not only trying new vegetables, but eating more of them because there is no pressure to as well as the fact that they are looking at a small small amount of them on their plate. The added bonus for me is how excited they are by their own success: Mom! Look how many different kinds of vegetables I am eating now!

      I hope you also share the “five finger” gauge to being hungry; my five year old will now say she’s hungry but only about two fingers, so we adjust to that, and I love that it isn’t about “Why aren’t you eating? After all, you said you were hungry!”

    2. Andy Bellatti said on August 28th, 2009


      I’m so happy to hear that your children are excited to try different vegetables — and that the whole process is a lot less contentious. That’s what it’s all about! The usual approach (serving a child half a plate of a new vegetable and then saying things like ‘if you don’t finish that plate, I am taking the Playstation away’) is inefficient and detrimental to both children AND parents.

      Funny you mention the “five finger” hunger gauge…. I had a feeling I was forgetting something in that last post. I’ll address it in an upcoming one, for sure.

    3. Cindy said on August 28th, 2009

      Wow, seriously spot-on advice. I hate the idea of hiding healthy food – really. And I totally love the “Five finger” hunger gauge – really clever idea! Helps kids understand their own hunger, too! What a great life-skill.

    4. Leah said on August 28th, 2009

      I taught preschool for three years and worked with a lot of kids whose families did not eat vegetables. To get kids to try more things we had a lunch-time routine. To start the kids served themselves some of everything. To get seconds on anything they had to try at least one bite of each dish. We counted it even if they immediately spit it out. We also did cooking projects that included vegetables so the kids were excited to try what they’d made. Over the course of the year the students ate more and more vegetables. By the end of the year they often asked for seconds on those as well and would eagerly try new vegetables we introduced. It takes some time and consistence but I think it’s worth it.

    5. Ross said on January 22nd, 2010

      Hiding foods isn’t always a bad thing. I don’t like carrots or celery and hide them in foods so that I don’t have to taste them. I appreciate their nutritional value but dislike them greatly.

      I totally agree with you that hiding them can be a disservice as well. I tell people to try goods multiple times before ruling them out. Keep up the good work Andy.

    6. Andy Bellatti said on January 22nd, 2010


      I understand what you are saying. I think it is slightly different in the case of adults, most of whom aready know what vegetables they like and don’t like.

      When it comes to children, I greatly dislike the notion that they will only eat vegetables if they are hidden in brownies or mac and cheese.

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