Disguising Healthy Foods for Children—Good Idea or Deceptive Tactic?

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Children consumed almost twice as many vegetables and fewer calories in a day when pureed vegetables were added to their favorite foods, according to researchers at Penn State University who conducted a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and at the same time children are not eating the recommended amount of vegetables,” said Helen Guthrie, a spokeswoman from the University.

In the study, researchers tested three foods—zucchini bread for breakfast, pasta with tomato sauce for lunch, and chicken noodle casserole for dinner. A variety of pureed vegetables was added to the recipes, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes and squash. The children accepted the meals just as they did the non-vegetable laden originals, and they ate just as much, ounce per ounce, as the original meals.

This seems to be a popular way of getting kids to eat veggies, though some find it to be a deceptive method that reinforces the idea that vegetables are not acceptable. While the researchers don’t necessarily agree, they do promote using this technique in addition to introducing vegetables as (more obvious) sides.

Though the study was done on children ages 3 to 6, I suspect it would also work on older children or even adults. This week, if your family isn’t getting enough fruits and veggies (at least five servings a day), consider adding a vegetable puree to recipes like soups, baked goods, casseroles and more. Get creative and see if anyone notices. 😉

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