A Household Word: Hide and Sneak

By Carol Band

At dinner time, they still approach anything from the plant kingdom like contestants on Fear Factor facing a plate of Madagascar cockroaches.

My kids don't trust me. It's not because I snoop in their rooms, or listen in on their phone conversations or rummage through their backpacks without permission. It's because I mess with their food.

That's right. I plead guilty to sneaking healthy stuff into their abysmal, beige-colored diets. As the mother of three picky eaters, it's my duty.

Left to their own devices, my kids would eat only pasta (with butter, no sauce) pancakes and pizza. Oh, they also like Pez. You'll notice that all of these foods have something in common. They all contain: NO VEGETABLES!

Yet, somehow my kids have survived - even seemingly thrived - without green beans, broccoli, peppers, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, brussels sprouts, eggplant, squash, spinach or asparagus. But I've read the USDA recommendations. They say that kids should consume 2-1/2 cups of vegetables every day. Are they kidding? My children haven't eaten that many vegetables in their lifetimes - unless you count candy corn. Yet, when I asked my pediatrician about the long-term ramifications of an all-carb diet, he didn't seem overly concerned. He said that if they eat ice cream and peanut butter and pop an occasional multivitamin, they'll probably be fine.

Still, I worry that they'll contract scurvy, or become constipated or get cavities. I imagine them growing up without ever tasting a fresh-picked tomato, my mother's candied sweet potatoes or the Cobb Salad at Chili's. So I keep pushing vegetables.

Now I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I know that there are tricks that parents use to get their kids to eat vegetables. And I know that they don't work, because I've tried them all.

I've cut carrots into coins and staged treasure hunts. I've played "hungry dinosaur" with broccoli trees. I've poured cheese sauce onto cauliflower, dipped green peppers into ranch dressing and smeared peanut butter over everything else. I've carved radish roses, created clown faces with snow peas and used a quart of canola oil to make sweet potato fries. I've even enlisted my kids to help shop for, cook and grow their own vegetables. Nothing works. At dinner time, they still approach anything from the plant kingdom like contestants on Fear Factor facing a plate of Madagascar cockroaches.

So, I've had to get a little sneaky. I'm not proud of the deception, but, I have only my children's health at heart.

I started small. First, I added a dollop of canned pumpkin to the pancake mix. Then, I sprinkled a teaspoon of chopped spinach into the pizza sauce. They didn't suspect a thing. So I got a little bolder. I grated zucchini into the pancake batter and tossed in some flax seed. I threw a handful of broccoli florets into the pizza sauce and mixed the mozzarella cheese with tofu.

This time they noticed.

"There's green stuff in my pancakes!?" my son said, recoiling with horror. "It's mold!"

"It's just a little zucchini," I said in my most produce-loving voice. "Try it, it's delicious."

"Ewwwwww no way. I hate zucchini! Yuck."

They were on to me.

Now, they approach every meal with suspicion. They examine their dinners like they are food tasters for the Czar.

"What's in this pizza?" my daughter says, sniffing her slice. "It smells funny."

"Can I see the box that the macaroni came in?"

"Is this the same bread you usually buy?"

It's not easy. In fact, I've had to discover new tricks. But it's all for their own good.

Did you know that chewable vitamins can fit into a Pez dispenser?

Trust me.

Carol Band's fridge is stocked with asparagus spears and other weapons of mass deception. Write to her at To read more of Carol's Household Word columns, visit Household Word Archives.