By: Patricia Walters-Fischer RN
Have you ever tried meatballs with yams in them?
What about pizza with zucchini?
If you’ve worked from The Sneaky Chef—Simple Strategies for Hiding Health Foods in Kids Favorite Meals, you’ve discovered these recipes are not only wonderful, but wonderfully good for you.
“I was desperate to get my kids to eat healthier foods,” explains Missy Chase Lapine AKA The Sneaky Chef. “I started to experiment with things and it developed and snowballed into this.”
With culinary training and as a former publisher for Eating Well magazine, Missy is no stranger with food and that’s despite her upbringing. “I was raised by a bachelor father who couldn’t toast bread,” but her grandmother always had great food ready that Missy described as “simple family comfort foods.”
While growing up, she played competitive tennis and “was aware of the impact of food on my body. There were foods that would take me all the way through the match and there were foods that wouldn’t.” Becoming aware of good nutrition has aided her on the journey of becoming the Sneaky Chef, but how did she get started?
After realizing her children needed to eat more nutritious foods and fighting them to eat their veggies and fruits, she had an epiphany, “my big a-ha moment was when I realized that I could double the fiber and nutrients by putting purred vegetables into macaroni and cheese,” she explains. “Why not use mac n’ cheese as a taxi to good nutrition?”
After that she tried multiple recipes and mixed and matched foods to increase the nutritional value and introduce new tastes to kid’s foods.
For those of you thinking it’s a simple parent versus child issue to get a kid to eat broccoli, take note: Children are far more sensitive to the different tastes of food. What is slightly sour to an adult can be horribly sour to a child, so when a parent is begging a child to eat something that might be a tad bitter to us (like lettuce or broccoli), it may get a very unfavorable reaction and the child’s refusal to eat anymore. The taste may be too overwhelming and unfavorable, but if a taste is gradually introduced, the child can get used to it and even grow to like it.
Children are also adverse to anything that changes their routine. This can go from different diapers all the way to different textures of foods, so introducing cauliflower to mac ‘n cheese or meatballs, can very much help the child develop a more educated palate.
Now you’ve got the information so how do you get Timmy to increase his fiber?
This is where the Sneaky Chef recipes are so great. “One of the best things I’ve found is when you puree raw baby spinach with the blueberries that you can mix into any dark color recipe,” says Missy. “This can be hamburger meat to chocolate brownies and it doesn’t taste any differently.”
With her many recipes, she’s had many success stories and always quite a few surprises. “I would be surprised they (her children) love whole artichokes,” Missy laughs. “If you drink water afterwards, it makes the water taste like sugar. It’s something in the property of the artichoke.”
In many of the parenting books, it states not to force kids to eat, because fighting with them is only going to cause frustration on both sides and Missy offers some comfort for parents who are worried about their kids unwillingness to try new foods.
“It’s an ever evolving challenge to get your kids to eat healthy. One day they love something and the next day they hate it. It’s like trying to hit a moving target.” She also adds, “I’m always amazed what vegetables and fruits they will and won’t eat. It’s like trying to hit a moving target, but I sneak and teach under less pressure (with the recipes).”
But she wants you to know, she can break her own rules in pushing the foods. Some of her embarrassing moments include simply trying to coax her children to eat healthy. “Just the other day, I paid my daughter a dollar to try asparagus! It’s hard as a mother, especially when I forget my own rules and I start begging and bribing them in public.”
She’s even resorted to a time out from time to time, “I made something and wanted them to try it and I got so mad that no one would eat it, so I gave them time outs and then I felt bad about it and wondered ‘what am I doing?’” She laughs, “I break my own rules, but I’m totally human. Why you should never fight your kids over food?”
Even a supermom like Missy knows where to draw the line when it comes to sneaking veggies into food. “Every time I’ve tried to puree beets, they are a pretty pink color, but the odor would knock you off your feet. You can’t sneak them into anything.”
Good advice, Missy. I think I’ll go with the spahgetti and meatballs with eight (sneaked in) veggies instead.
And for those of us who can’t get our husbands to eat well, Missy’s new book The Sneaky Chef—How to Cheat on your Man (In the Kitchen) is available now.
For more information on Missy’s books or to check her website click here or read how Missy can help make snacks and lunches more fun and nutritious.