Even the healthiest eaters usually have a few places where they draw the line. Broccoli, perhaps, or the dreaded spinach.
But getting more nutritious foods into your family meals doesn’t have to mean full-scale dinner table battles. With a few stealth cooking techniques, you can have them happily eating more green veggies, fiber and whole grains “hidden” inside their favorite foods.
“Sneaking [nutritious foods into dishes] really facilitates teaching good nutrition--now the pressure is off and the dinner table is a friendly, happy place,” says Missy Chase Lapine, creator of the “Sneaky Chef” book series, including “The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue” cookbook (Running Press, 2009).
Bring on the fruits and veggies
“You can add nutritious options quite easily by sneaking in healthier ingredients into your family’s favorite dishes,” agrees Dr. Andrea Mead, a pediatrician at the Banner Health Clinic in Loveland.
Grate vegetables like zucchini, spinach and carrots as a discreet addition into casseroles and sauces, or use pureed fruit for sweet toppings instead of sugary syrups. “Pineapple or apples add great taste and sweetness, or just use whatever’s the family’s favorite fruit,” Dr. Mead says.
Fresh dips are also an ideal vehicle for hiding pureed vegetables or fruits, flax seed, wheat germ and other healthy additions.
Kids love dips. They don’t even care what it is. Just the fact that they are dipping something is kind of neat to them.
The key to successful stealth cooking is to make small changes over time, especially when you’re adding fiber-boosting ingredients, which may take a little time for everyone’s bodies to get used to eating.
You can substitute whole grains for white flour favorites; whole wheat thin bagels that aren’t as starchy or English muffins boost nutrition without taking away from the overall flavor, says Dr. Mead.
Other options include serving whole-grain crackers instead of chips or using whole-wheat flour instead of white flour for tortillas. Casseroles can be topped with wheat germ or whole-wheat bread crumbs.
Grind or grate wheat germ or other whole-grain seeds such as flaxseed so their oil is released and absorbed by the body, Dr Mead cautions.
Make it tasty
No matter how much doctoring you do to your family’s foods, make sure the finished product still tastes good or you may encounter resistance.
“At the end of the day, flavor matters the most, says Dr. Mead. “If a dish tastes good, your loved ones won’t care if it’s got things they may not otherwise dream of eating, and you’ve got yourself a healthy family.”
To make an appointment to see Dr. Mead, call (970) 663-5437, or find other Banner Health physicians.