I opened the newspaper a day ago to find a rave review of a new cookbook that was just released. I first want to say, I love cookbooks. Some people collect dolls, coins, cars… I collect cookbooks. However, this cookbook upset me. The ideas behind it hurt me as a mom and as a nutritionist. I do not plan to name names but I will briefly describe the cookbook and why it hit a nerve.
This cookbook is about hiding fruits and vegetables into kids’ foods. It is proclaimed to be the answer to picky finicky eater (kids).
First as a mom, hiding what is in my kid’s food is dishonest and I just cannot go there. As a nutritionist, it outrages me. We should be teaching our children healthy eating habits not teaching them to be underhanded and deceptive. Sneaking things into foods, does not teach our children to be health adult eaters. It reinforces the notice than unhealthy food choices are fine because they are being served what appears to be an unhealthy food.
It also makes me nervous. I have friends and family with food allergies. What is a child to do when they cannot trust the food in front of them?
I do not believe the answer is hiding fruits and vegetables in foods. The answer is that we as parents are the role models, the providers, the first nutrition educators our children have. We need to raise children with a palate for fruits and vegetables. We need to educate them on the benefits of fruits, vegetables and moderation.
My eldest daughter at the age of five would proudly announce that her favorite food was carrots. Now at 13, she eats a variety of foods and recently made me so proud. She came home from a friend’s house all in a titter, not unusual for a 13 year old. “Did I know that she had never had Cool Whip and that she had to tell her friend that she never had it and why she would not eat it?” Yes, I knew that. We have explained to her that we choose whole foods, real foods, and healthy foods.
I am not saying this child has never had whipped cream. She has… homemade whipped cream. But she knew enough to say no thank you and explain why. It made her feel a little odd but she stood by what she knew to be true. Cool Whip is not a food. It is a petroleumproduct. It makes her proud to know this and to share it.
My kids do not eat square food (processed food from a box), they have been raised eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and being educated on them.
I like to think this approach, the honest educated approach, will yield an adult with healthy eating habits and one that can trust her food and me.