“All I can get him to eat is bread and pasta.”  “She won’t eat anything green.” “Is it possible for a kid to live on just milk?”  Sound familiar?  I hear comments like this every day in the office.  And while the government recently put out a more visual  “food plate” to replace the somewhat confusing food pyramid, (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ ), a lot of adults are overwhelmed at the prospect of putting that many fruits and veggies on their own plates, never mind their kids’ plates.

The good news is, it’s okay to hide the veggies.  A study published this summer in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared 2 groups of kids, one who ate standard “kid fare” and the other who ate the same foods but with hidden vegetable purees.  The kids who got the hidden veggies ate twice as many vegetables in a day and fewer calories.  There was no difference in how much each group ate, meaning the kids really couldn’t tell much of a difference.

This is a trick I use with my own family.  Finely grated zucchini and carrots hide well in chili, spaghetti sauce and even muffins.  Pureed cauliflower slides right into a bowl of mashed potatoes.  You can hide almost anything in meatloaf. If you are looking for some ideas, check out Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food or Missy Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals. They are both available at the Loveland Library.  I admit that my kids weren’t big fans of the sweet potato chicken nuggets, but be willing to experiment a little.  If buying and steaming a bunch of veggies to puree is not your cup of tea, buy jars of baby food and just dump that in the pot.

Of course, we just wish they’d eat the veggies!  Try cutting them in fun shapes or encourage your kids to make edible artwork. Think ants on a log!  Cut them into slices and serve them with dipping sauces such as low-fat ranch dressing, hummus, peanut butter or (for fruits) flavored yogurt.  Let your child pick out a new food in the produce department on your next trip to the grocery store.  If you can, grow some vegetables of your own, even if it’s just a cherry tomato growing in a container on your porch next summer.  Kids are more willing to eat food they helped to grow.  Choose a country or type of cuisine and make a thematic dinner, including a new fruit or vegetable or an old stand by served a different way.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Foods that are served over and over again eventually before familiar and even comfort food.  Nutritionists tell us that kids usually need to be served a new food 8 – 10 times before they will accept it.

So institute one bite rule for the obvious healthy stuff, hide more in the comfort foods and then move on to the next battle.