Do you sometimes hide some vegetables in a meal? You can simply cut the veggies in tiny pieces and add them to a pasta sauce for example. Or you may even take the blender out of the cupboard so all the bits totally disappear, problem solved, no discussion to be expected.
I have definitely done that in the past, just because I didn’t feel like listening to the complaints and not having to watch the fishing and fiddling with the food. It is just, I really try to think in the long term now when it comes to teaching my kids to eat healthily. I want to teach them to enjoy healthy eating and to eat in a knowledgable way, not because someone tells them too, but because they care and because they want that for themselves. I would really like them to eat healthily also when they will be making their own choices, even just for the school lunches now and in the canteen when they go to secondary school. With that view in mind, I don’t think it is a good idea to hide and blend. Surely, if they don’t see and don’t know what they are eating, how can they learn to appreciate and value the food?
Another reason I think twice now when I consider using the blender is neophobia. I read a very interesting book about how children develop their taste for food and I learned about Neophobia from there. (It is a book in Dutch though: Smaakontwikkeling, published by Eetexpert). There is a very elaborate explanation on Wikipedia if you want to know more about it. In brief, children with neophobia refuse food because they don’t trust it. They are afraid of the new and unknown as it comes to food. They want to be absolutely sure about what exactly they are eating. Neophobia is very common for 3 to 6 year olds, but it can persist after that in some children. The more complicated a dish, the harder it is for a child with neophobia. Even a blended sauce can be a problem because the child can’t see what exactly is in there and they won’t trust it. So I don’t blend any sauces anymore and I tend to sum up all the ingredients when there is a sauce or a dish where not everything is completely recognisable, no secrets here!
What about soups and smoothies?
Soups and smoothies are the big exception. I do more often than not blend soups, smoothies wouldn’t be smoothies if they were not blended. That doesn’t mean though that it should be a trick or a technique to eat what we otherwise wouldn’t, not if you want to teach your kids to enjoy healthy eating. Smoothies are often made by the kids anyway, so they know what goes in there. When we eat soup I always tell them exactly which vegetables have gone in there. They need to be able to totally trust me, that must be key to help them with neophobia and to learn to appreciate the soup.
One way to help you to discuss what is in the soup might be to add a little plate on the table with pieces of all the ingredients. They can be there for everybody to taste or just to see and to discuss.
Another benefit of cooking with your children
Taking the kids along when you do the groceries shopping and letting them help you with the cooking are very important in learning to eat well and to enjoy healthy eating. That way they can see, feel and smell what exactly is going into a dish and how it come together. In the process they can taste from the pure ingredients which is again great for children with neophobia as well. You can find some ideas for the kids to cook themselves my page with Recipe for Kids. I have written those recipes for kids, with lots of pictures, not too much text and recipes that don’t need too much knife handling.
To hide or not to hide? As long as it isn’t a secret!
So what is the answer to my first question: To hide or not to hide?
In my opinion, the answer is simple: Yes, you can use a blender and make vegetables disappear, but if you are looking at the longterm and you really want your kids to enjoy healthy eating, also when they’ll make their own choices, don’t use it to hide something, talk about it. Tell them and show them what has gone into the soup, the smoothie or a dish. Let them help to cook and let them taste everything separately as well. Even if they don’t like something at first, simply by exposing it to them often enough, they will get used it and usually grow to like it in the end.