Many parents have figured out ways to get kids to eat healthy foods, and one common way is trickery. I won’t call it complete deceit; the meal’s healthy food is nearly always evident, just…let’s call it… unobtrusively disguised. Yes, I confess, this parent regularly tricks her children into eating healthy meat and vegetables by hiding them. The butternut squash and apple bake I described in the previous post is a good example. The healthy squash was sandwiched between a layer of apples, and a cornflake-sugar-pecan topping. Both topping and apples blended in with the squash’s vibrant orange making it less noticeable. A child might think, “Hey, if I like what’s on top and what’s on the bottom, and everything looks more or less the same, then I might like what’s in the middle.” True, savvy kids aren’t so easily fooled. They use counter-tactics such as picking and poking at their food to discover and dislodge offensive vegetables from their concealment, but parents usually get a bite or two of healthy vegetable into their children before the vegetable’s revealed.
One easy vegetable topping which I grew up with is a mix of fine bread-crumbs toasted in butter and poured over zucchini or cauliflower. A great meatloaf disguiser is cranberry topping. My kids actually ask for this one! A friend long ago recommended burying asparagus beneath Velveeta…but in Wisconsin we can do better. My friend has a point though, cheese is the ultimate disguiser of healthy meat and vegetables. Click on “Continue reading…” for some cheesy ideas.
Last night I had to think fast on how to disguise the green-chili chicken I’d been cooking in the crockpot. In the morning it had seemed a good idea to toss boneless chicken thighs, a chopped onion, a few cloves of diced garlic, a can of chicken broth, a can of green chili sauce, and a small can of diced green chilies into the crock-pot before I left for work. When I got home and had to think of how to actually get my children to eat this green-chili chicken, I fell back on the ol’ cheese trick.
For each child, I smeared a large tortilla with cream cheese, spooned some chicken on it (trying to remove as many green chilies as possible in a short time) covered the chicken with thin slices of Wisconsin mozzarella cheese, rolled up the burrito, then “nuked” it on high for a minute to melt the cheese. On their plates, the children got what looked like an innocent cheese burrito. They’d had these dozens of times, so no alarm bells of suspicion went off. And in fact, my 10-year-old didn’t start picking out the spiced chicken until she’d already consumed most of the burrito. Point for mom! I wasn’t so lucky with the 6-year-old. He started right in with the poking. Sure, I got some meat into him along with the cheese, but not as much as I’d hoped. So in this case, I comfort myself with the thought that cheese is high in protein and calcium, (at least REAL cheese is…not so sure about cheesy imitations). And I remember the words of another mother who assured me that if children taste a disliked food 17 times they will come to like it.
So, will my children like green-chili chicken 17 green-chili-chicken meals from now? I hope so, but at least I know they like the cheese! (And sorry, no picture of my green-chili chicken burritos. They tasted good, but can’t say they were pleasingly photogenic.) Instead, here’s a picture of an Aztec chicken burrito I previously made. I loved it. The children loved the cheese in it. The peppers were too easy for them to pick out; next time I’ll dice them (the peppers that is, not the kids). Click on the recipe, and enjoy.