Hidden Veggies?


The kids who eat vegetables are the kids whose parents eat vegetables and whose parents buy and serve vegetables. They are the kids whose parents limit the serving size of other foods so that kids don’t fill up on the empty calories in rice, pasta, bread and starchy vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes.

Hiding vegetables by blending or juicing them into smoothies is a path some parents take. If kids are also exposed to a wide variety of cooked and raw vegetables, this is a nice way to boost nutrition, but it can never replace the ultimate nutrition kids get by eating vegetables chock full of fiber, micronutrients and phytochemicals.

Vegetables aren’t sweet or salty or fatty—the things humans crave. They are, however, tasty in their own way and loaded with great things. Vegetables are a discipline and a practice. They should be tried again and again and not hidden until they can be enjoyed. Don’t fight with kids. Provide an age-appropriate serving of rice, pasta, tortilla, naan, or baguette and let the child decide what other foods he or she is still hungry enough to eat.

Now for some pasta box math.

The pasta product shown says it has one serving of vegetables in 4 ounces.

A 2 ounce serving of dry pasta equals 1 cup of cooked pasta and 200 calories.

When cooked, 4 ounces of this pasta makes 2 cups cooked pasta with 400 calories.

A serving size of pasta for a children up to age 12 years is 1/2 cup.

A child who eats 1/2 cup of this pasta adds 1/4 serving of vegetables to his or her diet.

To get 1 serving of vegetables, a child must eat 2 cups of this pasta—which is 4 servings of carbohydrates and more than half the child’s daily allowance.

The ingredients list dried corn first followed by dried squash and dried carrot. Corn is another starchy carbohydrate, so this pasta is no way to add vegetables to the diet!

Hidden veggies? Very.

For more on advertising sleight of hand and the halo effect of making nutrition claims, check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest and their newsletter Nutrition Action here.

There’s more kids versus vegetables information in the Food Challenge and Vegetable Resolution posts.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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