Are you a sneaky mum? The type who cannot think of kneading atta without mashing dal or spinach into it? Or pasta sauce without pureeing carrots?
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If you do, chances are that like me you live with a fussy eater. Food in our house, at least for the brat, comes with hidden ingredients. Veggies and greens are boiled and mashed to get into the atta, parathas are stuffed with whatever can behave itself inside a paratha without peeking, pasta sauces (even store bought ones) are revved up with pureed veggies, the list goes on…
My child avoids veggies much in the same way as most people avoid creepy crawlies. “What’s that green thing in my dal?” he’ll point to the coriander and ask, nose turned up suspiciously. Strangely enough he has no qualms eating “that green thing” when it is mashed into a chutney. Or carrots. He’ll eat them raw but God forbid if you have them cooked or mix them into a salad. He’ll binge on Palak Paneer making me add spinach to the very meagre list of veggies he eats only to have him turn his nose up when spinach appears in a dal or gets mixed up with something else.
I am not the only one with a fusspot of course. A colleague mentions how her daughter started out by picking onions from the dal and is now on to the mustard. Well mine picks tomatoes.
The boy is six and half now and after years of cajoling, explaining, making broccoli trees and finally taking the ‘eat what’s on your plate or none at all’ route and failing, I’ve decided that being sneaky is the way to go. At least for now.
There are arguments that sneaking vegetables into your child’s food prevents them from getting to know and develop a taste for the real thing. It’s a very valid point but the question is how long can you let the food battle go on?
A friend of mine serves pink idlis to her daughter. “It’s my way of getting some beetroot into her.” She did try with the real thing, only to be met with a constant “yuck.” Yet another is the lucky one. Her three year old happily downs Beetroot Poriyal. Both tried the same route of introducing the real thing first. One got lucky. The other didn’t and decided sneaking it in was the best route.
It isn’t just us of course. There’s even a book called The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine. Like everything else, it’s got people on both sides of the fence. There are those who believe that veggies should not be disguised and should look as they do, boiled, steamed or sauteed to create healthy eating habits. There are others who believe that it’s nutrition that matters, not the way it gets into the child. Most of us take the middle path, hiding some and trying to get the child used to some vegetables in their natural avatar.
A recent Facebook discussion pointed to a book on how French families raise their kids to eat everything (French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion), including passing on a piece of Roquefort cheese to a nine month old, saying no to snacking and never sitting down to a meal without dressing the table in all its finery, candles et al.
I do find it hard to believe that every little kid in France chomps on his/her carrot without a tiny whine but it’s an interesting thought to munch on.
As a mom I’ve tried to find my compromise. When the boy says no to cauliflower, unlike earlier I don’t cajole or glower. I know it’ll get into his food some way or the other.
Hopefully there will be a time not long from now when he will understand the reason he has to eat veggies. Not all. Just a few would do as a healthy compromise. Until then, I have decided to be the sneaky mom who gives her son each day his daily veg, without him knowing it. And see where it leads us.