No Veggies Harmed

carrotsSitting at a nearby table, a young couple mashed a cooked carrot into a spaghetti dish. Admirable move, creative combination, I thought at first glance. But the suspicious toddler raised a wary eyebrow at them. “Did you put a carrot in here?” she asked.

“No way. Now eat your ‘sgetti.”

She continued to interrogate mom and dad, refusing to eat until she had an affidavit stating No Vegetables were Harmed in the Making of this Dish. And then she happily chowed down on her mini-meal, unaware of the secret ingredient.

Aside from scolding me for eavesdropping (although this vignette was hardly a quiet endeavor), does anything else seem unsettling? After all, mission accomplished on the hidden agenda of increasing kids’ veggie intake in a painless fashion. No public tantrum, no starvation, just a little parental trick to get the food down.

Glad you felt it too. (Writer gets to insert favorable assumptions here.) So here’s my list of concerns:

  1. It bothers me that we’re creating an enemy list out of the very foods that will allow our kids to grow strong and healthy. By setting plant food up as undesirable and yucky tasting, we confirm fast food marketing efforts that grease is the food group of choice.
  2. We’re assuming kids aren’t smart enough to understand we can fuel our bodies with good choices and bad choices.
  3. We’re missing a significant teaching moment. If we expect them to learn the consequences of darting out into the street, is it any less dangerous to feed them life-altering junk food without sharing the outcome.
  4. If we’re not setting examples with our consumption habits, no amount of tricking is going to change their approach to healthy choices.
  5. Lying isn’t good. Wellness starts with honesty. And whole foods in their natural state are about as honest as you can get.
  6. So much emphasis is put on “tricking kids into eating vegetables”, that we’re buying into the notion that it’s a necessary evil. If they successfully ate your secret ingredient, didn’t it probably taste ok? And wouldn’t they be happy to know they just got a super duper energy booster from someone who loves them?

Nothing is purer and more rewarding than feeding our precious little ones the foods, thoughts, and values that we embrace. Fruits and veggies are colorful, adaptable, kid-loving morsels of wisdom.