The Confident Eater

How to hide foods for picky eaters, or not? #supportingapickyeater #supportingafussyeater #pickyeater # pickyeating #helppickyeater #helpfussyeater #helpingpickyeater #helpingfussyeater #helppickyeating #helpfussyeating #fussyeating #judithyeabsley #fussyeater #theconfidenteater #addingfoods #wellington #NZ

How to hide food for picky eaters

How to hide foods for picky eaters No.1 – don’t No.2 – don’t No.3 – still not a good idea! #supportingapickyeater #supportingafussyeater #pickyeater # pickyeating #helppickyeater #helpfussyeater #helpingpickyeater #helpingfussyeater #helppickyeating #helpfussyeating #fussyeating #judithyeabsley #fussyeater #theconfidenteater #addingfoods #wellington #NZ

How to hide foods for picky eaters

No.1 – don’t

No.2 – don’t

No.3 – still not a good idea!

Picky eaters and hiding food

There has been a story doing the rounds on social media about Donald Trump having his cauliflower hidden in mash as he’s unable to eat vegetables.

On a local radio station, they interviewed a nutritionist, who was explaining how to hide veggies in food and I totally get why this is really tempting. Especially when we have a picky eater and they are not eating a wide range of foods.

I appreciate that as a parent it’s really tough to watch our child plow through a kilo of carbs and ignore anything of colour that’s not straight out of a packet. And how tempting it is to mix in a bit of spinach with the morning smoothie or grated zucchini (no skin of course) into a burger.

Zucchini #supportingapickyeater #supportingafussyeater #pickyeater # pickyeating #helppickyeater #helpfussyeater #helpingpickyeater #helpingfussyeater #helppickyeating #helpfussyeating #fussyeating #judithyeabsley #fussyeater #theconfidenteater #addingfoods #wellington #NZ

But, I still say it’s not a great long term strategy and I can think of at least 10 reasons why I wouldn’t advocate it.

10 reasons not to hide

  1. We are the most important relationship for our child. If we break that trust, then who can they turn to?
  2. If our child is at all food anxious then finding something unexpected can be truly distressing.
  3. We will almost always get found out. This makes selling our child on that food, or other foods much more challenging.
  4. If we do get caught it can set us back. This is especially worrying if we have a child that is already existing on limited choices.
  5. If we lose trust our child may approach all future offerings hesitantly. It’s really frustrating to watch a child pick through everything at every meal to convince themselves that what’s on their plate is what they’re expecting.
  6. It does not teach a child to eat a food. If we only ever mix the cauliflower into the mash, how can they learn to appreciate cauliflower as well, cauliflower!Cauliflower #supportingapickyeater #supportingafussyeater #pickyeater # pickyeating #helppickyeater #helpfussyeater #helpingpickyeater #helpingfussyeater #helppickyeating #helpfussyeating #fussyeating #judithyeabsley #fussyeater #theconfidenteater #addingfoods #wellington #NZ
  7. Are we learning to love a food that is hidden? No!
  8. It can make cooking and prepping very difficult and secretive. Can you only do the smoothie when your child is out of the room?
  9. Your child doesn’t realise that they actually are able to eat a certain food and for it to be OK. Knowing they can eat something that they believed was out of the comfort zone can be really empowering.
  10. The short-term boost in nutrition is not worth the potential downsides.

Integrating foods

This does not mean that I don’t advocate mixing some extra veggies into the pizza sauce or adding some grated carrot to meatballs etc. In fact, I think this is an excellent idea.

If veggies are a bit of a challenge then adding them to other accepted foods is often an easier way for a child to eat them, especially initially.

But, there is a big difference between adding and consciously hiding.

Long-term we want to create a positive approach to food and feeding and a big part of that revolves around trust. Knowing that what we are expecting is what is going to arrive on the plate is a key part of enjoying food.

If I go to a restaurant and order a dish that is advertised as fish with a lemon and caper sauce, that’s what I’m expecting to eat. If it comes with lots of fennel (not my favourite flavour) I would be seriously disappointed.

A child who is anxious around food could be put off something for a long period if they suddenly find some unannounced addition.

Onion #supportingapickyeater #supportingafussyeater #pickyeater # pickyeating #helppickyeater #helpfussyeater #helpingpickyeater #helpingfussyeater #helppickyeating #helpfussyeating #fussyeating #judithyeabsley #fussyeater #theconfidenteater #addingfoods #wellington #NZ

I have a great story about a child who had almost a phobia about onions but frequently ate a pasta sauce from a jar. She was older and so prepared herself the dish one night for dinner. Part way through she was really distressed as she found a chunk of onion on her plate. Accusations flew but then she realised that she had put the meal together.

A quick dash into the kitchen and a read of the ingredients on the jar confirmed that the pasta sauce was the source. As her mum had been working on her food fears for a while, she was actually able to think the incident through rationally.

If this had been a younger or more anxious child and this had been a meal prepared by a parent, even though it’s unintentional, it could have damaging repercussions. But, if we do have trust with our child and they know that we would never intentionally try to trick them – and let’s call hiding by its real name – then we can often rescue a situation like this.

Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear from you.

Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.


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