Delicious Without the Deception

Today I received a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious–and with all due respect to Ms. Seinfeld and gratitude to the giver of this gift, its arrival has launched over the last 12 hours something of an ethical quandary. 

The assumptions driving this cookbook, of course, are (1) kids like a finite number of dishes, (2) they don’t like vegetables, and (3) the only way to get some kids to eat vegetables is to slip them in surreptitiously to the foods they will eat–butternut squash in noodles, cauliflower in mozzarella sticks, chickpeas in chocolate chip cookies. 

No one can argue the nutritional benefit of adding pureed spinach or carrots to foods you’re already eating; and if you can’t taste them, then what’s the harm?

The harm, I think, has to do with the deception.  I don’t like surprises.  I don’t like to be tricked.  And as a former vegetarian, I would hate to think that someone along the way deceived me–perhaps telling me a soup was vegetarian when, in fact, it had been made with chicken broth, duping me into believing that a veggie burger I ordered was not prepared on the same grill as one made from beef. 

And deception has no place in our home.  As I consider what is being proposed in this book, I can’t help but conclude that at its core it is saying it’s okay to lie to people if it’s for their benefit.  But is it?  Eventually children will discover this culinary ruse, and it might lead them to wonder about what else they might have been deceived.

So, even though I would be positively giddy if my children chose to eat and willingly embraced gorgeous, fresh vegetables, I don’t think I have it in me to trick them into eating them.  If I want them to eat broccoli, I’m not going to puree it and sneak it into their chicken nuggets.  I’m going to put it on the plate next to their chicken nuggets–in plain sight–and let them decide if they’re going to eat it. 

And I have to believe eventually they will.


13 thoughts on “Delicious Without the Deception

  1. “Eventually they will….”
    However, will that time be too late to alter bad habits?
    THink of the pride when they realize that some foods, not eaten in their pure form, were eaten, and they managed to ingest and eject without major consequences, and how much better they are for it. Duping isn’t the charge; but cleverly accepting the challenges of their limited undiscerning palates. Who would choose broccoli over ice cream? And there are cookie manufacturers who realize changing recipes can be beneficial, like WHO NU. The cookies satisfy as well as any chocolate chip, but have more fiber, less sugar, etc.
    I have a Scottish friend who put raisins in red gravy. Such augmentations help build a tolerance for balanced meals. One baked french fry equals 3 green beans. Kids don’t deserve to wage the waist battle in their forecast, and eventually it catches them and deal with diabetes, and they need to be guided into healthy habits as well as being given the opportunities for independence, but in the realm of nutrition health is a battle worth providing. Granted, they will veer, and experiment, and indulge outside the home, but within adults are the parents responsible for providing the best upbringing they can provide.

    • I can see that there might be “pride,” but, then, for someone like Oscar (and, to be fair, me), it might be something else. When something is pureed and hidden, the eating experience goes from trying and tasting to mere ingesting. I recently noticed that the daily vitamin I have been taking for decades has fish oil in it. This is in super-tiny print that you really have to hunt for. As a former vegetarian, I’m not pleased to know that this ingredient is “slipped” in there (as in hidden in small print and not emblazoned across the front label). No one denies the health benefits of fish oil; but if I wanted fish oil (as a vegetarian) I would want the option of seeking it out separately. If I make a dish for someone and it includes an unexpected ingredient, I would tell them–because I think it’s the fair thing to do. If I go to Fatulli’s and buy a brownie, and the brownies had pureed spinach, that should be disclosed before purchase. Spinach is not an expected ingredient. Cookies that are made with chickpeas should be labeled such. In the meantime, the kiddos always get their daily vitamin, regular checkups, and the choice (among healthy options) of what to put in their bodies.

  2. We try both approaches. I sneak in the veggies and I put whole veggies on her plate. I hope that one day I won’t be sneaking them in any more. Although, honestly I’ve found it to be a great way to up my own veggie intake as well! I add veggies to just about everything now and I am sure that my whole family is benefiting.


    • I love the idea of “adding nutrients” to dishes they’re already eating. However, I think I would need to offer full disclosure. The challenge, I think, instead of “hiding” veggies, is to make the veggies taste good. Good luck in your quest, too! 🙂

  3. Yep, I totally agree. And eventually at least one of them will eat the broccoli. There are a lot of grown ups that do not like certain vegetables and that is ok because they do like others. (your sister comes to mind) You have 3 boys, so odds are they will like a vegetable at some point – although it may not be the same one! In the meantime – go carrot sticks!

    • Food tastes are so incredibly personal. And when you’re cooking for someone, there is the issue of trust. This summer (when I was still a vegetarian) I made meatball grinders for lunch while my father was here. He knew mine was made with meatless “meatballs.” He then looked at his lunch and asked me if I was trying to sneak my vegetarian “meatballs” into his lunch. I would never do that. If I present something as a “meatball grinder,” then that’s what it is. If I make you macaroni and cheese, it’s not going to be a macaroni and cheese and butternut squash casserole.

  4. …i’m still with you sam…no sneakin’ anything in my food please…i’m all for full disclosure…yes ma’am, these brownies have spinach in them…heaven forbid!…as for kids, and veggies…there’s no need to fib to them…there are endless varieties of veggies from all around the world…chances are, the boys are gonna find quite a few they like…steamed entamame beans in a tasty soy dipping sauce…finger food…what kid doesn’t like finger food?…broccoli with cheese…yummy!…i could go on forever, and mind you, i HATED veggies!…i don’t like certain veggies cooked, like spinach, but i can eat a mad bowl of raw spinach…maybe it’s a texture thing…and with my niece’s/nephews…i simply don’t mention the word vegetable, a convienient lapse, and they find something they like…they do gravitate to asian veggies…bamboo, bean sprouts, kai-lan( a chinese broccoli), and spaghetti squash…i make it a game with them…healthy food can be quite entertaining to both parent, and shorty(ies)…it’s all in the delivery!

  5. I also agree with you, Samantha…my mother did not make us eat anything my three brothers and I did not like, including veggies…in fact, my youngest of brothers went through a phase at the age of 5 where all he would eat was Captain Crunch cereal, hot dogs and spaghettio’s…my mother, who naturally thought this would adversely affect not my brother’s health and that he would never eat anything else differently again, voiced her concerns to the pediatrician who very calmly told her that as long as he was getting a vitamin every day, he would survive…and that he did. My son is 29 and my daughter is 25 and I can attest as well to the fact that kids will survive quite handily without a daily veggie in their diets. I found it very ironic that when my kids were eating baby food as infants, they both eagerly ate their peas and squash, but as they got older and began eating solid foods, you would think I was attempting to bring about their demise by even suggesting they at least try a veggie or even fruit for that matter (although they did drink plenty of 100% fruit juice). Like my mother, I did not “force” them to eat anything their palates did not fancy, knowing full well that as they got older and their taste buds matured, they would some day venture into the world of veggies/fruits on their own and eventually eat what suited them. I made sure they had enough of whatever food they would eat as well as taking a daily vitamin. To this day, I laugh to myself when I witness how expansive their taste in food has become (not only do they eat most veggies, they also now eat fresh fruit with abandon and some foods that I don’t even like)…it’s called full circle.

    • That’s the same philosophy our pediatrician has. And, they definitely get their multi-vitamin every day. I think sometimes we over-engineer these things–understandable and all out of love. But, as you said, they will survive.

  6. First – I agree the deception is not appropriate. But, I wonder why it wouldn’t make sense to have the full disclosure conversation along with a taste test. This brownie has spinach in it; this one does not. The one with spinach is providing you all the nutrients of spinach, and even though you don’t currently like the taste of spinach, now you can have your spinach and eat it too. Maybe later you’ll even enjoy tasting it…

    My thought is, (though I don’t ever make sweets just because we’re not really a “sweets” family) if you’re making the brownies, and there’s a way to make them and provide an added nutrient benefit, why not? Tell them and ask them if it changes the flavor. Involve them in the experiments, so to speak. It might make them (not “them that’s yours” but “them in general”) more open to the idea that some foods don’t taste as bad as we think they might – and thus be more open to trying them sooner/again/over and over…

    • I like the idea of a little experiment involving the kiddos. Funny you mentioned the spinach, though . . . Yesterday I made a spinach (and garlic and pesto) lasagna; and when the spinach was on the table (baby spinach that had been sauteed in butter and garlic), there was a certain two-year-old who couldn’t help himself. Essentially, I had about a third less for the recipe than I intended. Spinach is good when seasoned well–all veggies are.

      • That sounds yummy. Care to share the recipe?
        My kids love raw spinach, but they won’t eat it cooked. I have tried with olive oil and garlic and found it quite bitter – maybe the butter is the better option…

      • I always share recipes! 🙂

        This one is Rachel Ray’s–it’s in the most recent issue of her magazine. Garlic, pesto, and spinach lasagna. If you can’t find it online, I’ll type it up for you!

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