The Forthright Chef vs. Stealth: In the War Zone

Dec 7, 2008 by


Is making healthy food look unhealthy our only hope of getting kids to eat it? No way, Sneaky Chef.

A spoonful of sugar makes the beets and squash go down. A chocolate brownie makes the cauliflower go down.

That’s the main idea of not one but two 2007 mom-written books. I hesitate to name the books, because the last time I told another mom about them, she said she was going to get one of them, and that’s the last thing I recommend.

“Every recipe in this book is dedicated to making healthy foods taste decadent,” writes one of the writer-moms. I’m all for that.  But then she goes on:  “To be brutally honest, it is to make healthy food look sort of unhealthy.”

These books are based on the view, to which I don’t subscribe, that there’s healthy food and there’s yummy food, and never the twain shall meet. Pleasure and eating the “right thing” are mutually exclusive. Eating is never going to be anything but a battle—between what you want and what you should.

For these moms, you have only two choices in the “war zone” (the writer’s words) of feeding children. Either you beg, bribe and manipulate your kids to get them to down the foods that are good for them—but that they “naturally” dislike—or you outwit them. 

These moms’ winning strategy? Camouflaging pureed doses of healthy food within those few foods that kids “are known to shovel in without an argument.” Just like with cherry cough syrup, the key is masking that repulsive medicinal or healthy-food flavor. 

“We need to trick our minds into thinking we’re eating sinful foods,” the stealthy warrior explains.

For the cost of a few sugar calories, you can hit a slam dunk: cabbage in the kid’s tummy and no arguing! It’s practically a miracle.

“Why should healthy food feel like a punishment?” one writer asks. “Why, indeed?” I ask. Healthy food tastes great, at least it does at my house. But if mom doesn’t know that, how will the kid discover it?

“Wouldn’t it be great if kids came into the world with the innate desire to eat the right foods?” asks one of the authors. 

Well, fortunately for the survival of the human race, that is exactly how kids do come into the world. God designed them well. If kids don’t like what’s good for them, the problem isn’t nature, it’s nurture.

A child’s appetite functions beautifully in her favor if we don’t warp it by force feeding her unappealing “healthy” foods or giving her enticing non-foods.  Babies love the real food their bodies need, until we teach them through action and attitude that they are not supposed to enjoy what’s good for them. 

What I want to know is: who’s going to be around to sneak the spinach into these kids’ chocolate pudding once they’ve grown up and moved out of the house?

The books are: Jessica (Mrs. Jerry) Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food and the nearly identical The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lupine.

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Nov. 20, 2009

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon November 26, 2008 All Rights Reserved


I don't consider it sneaking to add nutritious ingredients to a recipe. I don't put up an ingredient list with each dish I prepare. I freeze in icecube trays all sorts of pureed veggies - squashes, spinach, cauliflower. This is also how I use my freezer as a pantry. (I don't can) I freeze this stuff when it is fresh and locally available. And when I make something it can go in I toss one or two in. I agree some of what they suggest doing is just silly, really. But personally, I don't like certain veggies straight up but don't mind them in something else. The one author suggest things like sprinkles on stuff to hide flavors - that is a line I won't cross. Great post!

Millie@Real Food for Less Money
Millie@Real Food for Less Money

Not terribly long ago I was using a recipe for a spaghetti sauce that had an optional ingredient of grated liver. I thought that sounded brilliant, my girls don't really care for liver but I believe in the nourising qualities of it. So I added it and had not yet stirred it up when one of the girls looked in the pot. She is not a liver fan and freaked a little bit. The liver could not be tasted in the final sauce but both of the girls were sure that it could be. Even now when I make spaghetti sauce or anything with ground beef they quiz me as to whether there is liver in it. I am obviously not a very good 'sneaky cook'. That is the last time I will try to 'sneak' liver or anything else. My baby still loves everything. He just finished eating a hm sourdough cracker with pate on it. mmmm. Pate is so good.