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Battling with Kids over Vegetables - Interview with Ellyn Satter

Which Is Better: Forcing or Sneaking? Try Neither One

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Kids and Vegetables

What Makes Kids Want Vegetables?

Jim Esposito/Getty Images

In the old days, kids were told, "Eat your vegetables or you won't get dessert."

Many of today's parents feel that approach doesn't work. For one thing, it makes dinner a constant battle ground.

For another, it didn't work for a lot of us. We either refused to eat the vegetables anyway, or we choked them down and resented it so badly we still don't eat them as adults.

They Gotta Have Veggies Somehow, Right?

Still, we know vegetables are essential to proper growth, concentration at school, and preventing illness.

Enter Jessica Seinfeld and friends.

Pureeing is the answer! Pulverize vegetables so they're unrecognizable, then sneak them into regular foods, like mac and cheese, and the kids won't know the difference!

Obviously, the idea struck a chord with desperate parents, because Seinfeld's book, Deceptively Delicious (Compare Prices), and Missy Chase Lapine's book, The Sneaky Chef (Compare Prices), have been hugely successful.

Are You Going to Follow Them to College and Sneak Veggies in Their Dorm Food?

But what about the long-term implications of sneaking? What happens when the kids are 10 and 12 and go to friends' houses where the mac and cheese is just mac and cheese? Will they still come home and eat the pureed stuff?

What happens when they go to college? Will Seinfeld and Lapine sneak into the dining hall to hide pureed cauliflower in the chicken a la king at Harvard?

To be fair, both women say vegetables should still be offered at the table in their regular, non-pureed form.

But if the kids weren't eating the vegetables before these women resorted to their stealth tactics, why should they eat them after?

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding: A Sane Approach

To help answer these questions and more, I spoke with Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter, author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family (Compare Prices).

Satter is the woman who pioneered the concept of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

You've probably heard this idea before, likely from your child's doctor. But you may not have heard the most important aspects of this approach.

Here's what Satter has to say:

What is wrong with making kids eat vegetables?

Satter: "It's helpful to start from a child's point of view because kids have their own logic.

"From a child’s perspective, they think, 'If I have to be made to eat that, it can’t be so good.'"

So you're saying this tells kids vegetables are bad before they get a chance to decide for themselves if they like them?

Satter: "Yes, but also we have to realize that children do not have to be made to grow up with their eating or anything else. They want to do it on their own. They want to get better with everything they do, including eating.

"Our getting pushy with eating just totally ignores their need to grow up on their own."

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