Deceptively Sneaking: How to Feed Your Children Well Without Them Knowing

Jessica Harlan by Jessica Harlan | January 17th, 2008 | No Comments
topic: Family Health, Green Living, Healthy Eating, Healthy Home

At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, my 14-month-old Sadie is a very good eater. I’ll never know if this is because of the wholesome, organic homemade baby purees I labored over or, as one of her grandfathers believes, because she comes from a long line of hearty appetites. At any rate, I consider myself pretty lucky that, when faced with a waffle and a bowl of peas, she’ll dive into the veggies with gusto.

But I’m not naïve enough to believe that it’ll always be so easy. I’m sure Sadie will go on hunger strikes and white-food-only phases, and there will be battles over our ban on McDonald’s that we won’t always win. That’s why I’ve already built up a library full of kid-friendly cookbooks, each one promising to help moms create fun meals that are so yummy that their kids won’t even realize they’re healthy.

The two latest additions to my collection are The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine, and Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld.

The Sneaky Chef’s premise is to “hide the foods kids should eat in the dishes they will eat,” according to the cover copy. She has a number of smart methods on how to do this, some of which are common-sense, like using alternative cooking methods to frying, or making food look appealing and fun. But others are more unconventional and unexpected, like using fruit and vegetable purees that can be blended unobtrusively into a dish, combining refined ingredients like white flour with more wholesome versions, using creamy or fine-particle ingredients that can “disappear” into the finished dish, and using nutritious liquids like juices or broths in place of plain water.

Lapine has certainly done her homework, discussing not only the psychology behind how children perceive foods and mealtime (and how to use this knowledge to your advantage) but also outlining the framework for a healthy diet with regard to nutritious ingredients, avoiding toxins like pesticides and mercury, and focusing on slow-releasing sugars and carbs.

A rainbow of puree recipes are the backbone of the many meal recipes. For instance, Purple Puree, containing spinach and blueberries, appears in Cocoa Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Bonus Burgers and Brainy Brownies. And White Puree, a blend of cauliflower and zucchini, is used in Masterful Mac n Cheese and Triple Stuffed Potatoes. For each vegetable and fruit puree, Lapine outlines the nutritional information and benefits of the ingredients. And she even has “quick fixes” for packaged meals, such as adding pureed tofu or white beans to boxed macaroni and cheese, or mixing wheat germ into tuna salad.

Deceptively Delicious, meanwhile, is glossier, filled with adorable retro illustrations, and certainly has the added cachet of a celebrity author, but has a similar premise (a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Lapine, who is suing the Seinfelds for plagarism.) Seinfeld’s recipes, which she developed with the help of chef Jennifer Iserloh and nutrition expert Joy Bauer, are also based on having an arsenal of single-ingredient fruit and vegetable purees. The book also contains a helpful section of nutrition guidelines for children and a breakdown of the nutritional benefits of various fruits and vegetables.

There are quite a few similar recipes—grilled cheese sandwiches in both contain sweet potato puree, twice-baked potatoes are blended with cauliflower puree, and brownies contain spinach. You can try some of Seinfeld’s recipes (including that of the brownies made with spinach and carrot puree) on her Web site. And no, you really can’t taste the spinach in those brownies.

With all the similarities, you definitely don’t need both of these books, and with all of its extensive nutrition information, not to mention the tips on doctoring up packaged mixes, I suspect I’ll be turning more often to Lapine’s book. But nonetheless, I know that when Sadie hits her picky-eating phase, I’ll be armed and ready.

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