Practical food tips for parents from a RD and mom of three

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stealth health or straight-up nutrition?

I read an article today about “stealth health” – changing recipes so kids eat better without realizing it. Your kids still eat their favorite foods, but fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are hidden inside (for example, adding prune puree to brownies). Are you a creative chef who can disguise the taste of butternut squash in a bowl of homemade mac & cheese? Do your kids run from a plate of broccoli but love baked goods that can hide a wealth of fruits and veggies? Then stealth nutrition may be for you! A good book to guide you is Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. Seinfeld gives great tips on pureeing fruits and vegetables, then provides tons of recipes using these purees to boost the nutritional value of your kids' favorite foods. This method is really convenient if you are feeding a baby and young children, as the baby can eat the purees while you cook for the kids.

Some see stealth health as miraculous, while others think it doesn't teach children about proper nutrition. Are you the type of parent who prepares a new vegetable for the family each week? Do you cook with your kids? You sound like a proponent of nutrition education – improving your kids' health by teaching them about new foods and encouraging a varied diet. I recommend The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers, Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time by Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex for delicious, healthy recipes plus tons of tips for healthy family eating.

Personally, I fall in the middle of these two philosophies (and like both books!). I think it is important to expose your children to a variety of healthy foods. Sneaking fruits, veggies, and grains into their favorite foods will not teach your children about these foods, and they may continue to shy away from them when selecting a meal. However, if I can hide a little of a veggie that my children don't eat in something that they do, well no harm done!

Please comment and tell me where you stand. Do you put healthy choices right on the table or hide them in favorite foods? Any good tips for either option? I'm curious to hear from you!


  1. I have hid pureed cauliflower in ricotta cheese filling for manicotti. I hide it more for my husband than my daughter who loves veggies and eats almost anything. But as far as baked goods, I didn't think it was that worth it since the added purees are small in amounts added and the serving of baked goods you eat is also small (or at least should be!). I didn't think they would get any significant amount of the good stuff by adding it to those recipes. However, I'm with you- it doesn't hurt.

  2. I'm all for beefing up the nutritional content of foods by adding fruit or veggie purees, but I also think it is important to continue to offer the whole fruit or veggie at meal times. Who knows? They might just get familiar with the taste when it is added as a puree, and might be more daring to try it as a whole. My kids aren't fussy, and I can mention that I added squash puree to mac and cheese -- if they think that it tastes good, they'll still eat it. But when I add a puree, I almost always offer the whole as a side dish to boot.

    We also always talk about the importance of trying foods (new foods, and foods we think we don't like to see if we like them now), and both my kids are good about trying at least one bite. Sometimes it's a no, but sometimes it's a yes! We talk a lot about healthy foods verse unhealthy foods, grow fruits and veggies in our garden, and joined an organic food service. We also dine at ethnic restaurants. And cook and bake together.