Does Hiding Veggies in Their Food Give Your Kids Good Eating Habits?

04/03/2008 10:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The most commonly asked question I have gotten from parents in the last few months is: "What do I think of that new cookbook?" I think you know the one I am talking about here.

I love that the title is not coy about the deception involved. I also don't think it is all bad because parents do want to make sure their kids are getting their fair share of vitamins and nutrients. Absolutely. There are reasons this book is on the bestseller list; the hordes of moms breathing a sigh of relief that they now can get those veggies into their kids' bodies!

However. And this is a big however. I am a big believer that teaching kids good eating habits is not just about eating veggies.

It is about empowering them to make decisions. It is about making sure they have the information to know how to feed their bodies well with a range of things it need. Foods with calcium. Protein. Vitamins. And yes, how to include that food group (and yes, I call it a food group), sugar and junk food. How to balance it all so that they know how to eat for their life and how to take care of their own body.

Giving our kids healthy eating habits is not just about the food. Eating habits are HOW we eat, how quickly; can you wait, do you eat out of boredom, anxiety, control? Control is a big deal for kids and they will use food to control their world if we let them.

Eating is the last thing you want to fight about, but it is important to teach them how to take good care of themselves and our job as parents to make sure they are safe and we are doing our part to make them healthy. Maybe for little ones, if we can hide nutritious food, they will eat it and make us feel good about the job we are doing. But it gets more complicated as they grow.

Here are some tips to arm yourselves:

1) Teach them about the food groups in ways they can connect and relate to: i.e. the protein, (chicken nugget or whatever they like) helps them concentrate at their games longer, or kick the soccer ball and run faster

2) Help them to know their body and how full and hungry they are; help them to take charge of that; they can feel it on the inside; help them become a BODY EXPERT

3) Help them to know the difference between: "I am hungry", from 'I am bored", (Or tired, anxious, sad)

4) Give them tools to make decisions: "If I eat this treat now, how will I feel when everyone else is having dessert and I have already had my treat?" (If your rule is one treat a day, if it is two, then let them pick the time and stick by the rule if that is what you have set)

Let's treat our kids like they can learn this stuff. They can learn to have healthy eating habits. Eating nutritious food is just one part.

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