Monday, October 8, 2007

Deceptively Delicious or Just Deceptive?

I had a chance to catch up with my Tivo this evening and watch today's episode of Oprah (10/8). Now you would be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of Oprah than me, but today, I am all but FREAKING OUT about her latest guest/"next big thing".

Oprah hosted Jessica Seinfeld, yes, Jerry's wife, and led a discussion on Ms. Seinfeld's new book, "Deceptively Delicious". The premise of the book is that to get your kids/family to eat better, you should add vegetable purees to their foods so that the veggies go by unnoticed. Ms. Seinfeld's recipes are lowfat and there's no hint of the offending vegetables anywhere. I'm guessing the basic idea is that it's best to get nutrition in there somehow. I so strongly disagree with her ideas on how to do that.

Ms. Seinfeld is a busy mother of three, thin, beautiful, and let's not joke around here, pretty darn well off. Even with all of this, I have no doubts that she struggles with getting the good stuff off the kid's plates and into their bellies. It seems an almost universal problem. But here's my issue: What are we teaching our kids here? Why are we giving the control to the kids about what they eat? What about the lack of trust????

Before you start thinking that I'm some maniac who beats her children in order to get them to eat their broccoli, let me assure you that I am not (that was my dad ;). I work hard to teach my kids what foods are good, which ones are a treat, and which ones are necessary. I also work hard to get my kids to eat their veggies, but don't go overboard with the pressure. But, we're also not rocking out McDonald's that often either.

My approach is a bit more time-consuming than Ms. Seinfeld's, but I think it results in much happier, open-minded children overall. My approach? Get your kids cooking. Have then help you in the kitchen. Teach them how to cook. Teach them healthy eating from junk food eating by letting them shop with you and make decsions in the store. Give them some responsibility at dinner-time. (Please see my previous post.)

Parents don't have tons of time nowadays to spend cooking with their kids. I think that's one of the reasons that my cooking classes and cooking camps for kids and teens are so popular. I'll tell you this though, when kids have a hand in making their meals, they are so much more apt to give new things a try.

If you saw Oprah you also saw the part about "Honey, We're Killing the Kids" on the Discovery Health channel. Three very overweight young men and their parents got a rude-awakening as to where their health is headed without some important changes. The kid's initial reaction to the healthier diet (tofu right out of the gate...Are you kidding me???), was of course one of pain and disgust. But, cut to the next scene and watch Junior starting a stir-fry himself; he's soooo into it. He had a hand in making the dinner and was automatically more invested. I'd like to say "Thus proving my point", but I'm afraid of over-kill right now.

I promise not to dedicate this blog to just children and eating/cooking, but today, it's my soapbox and I'll stand if I want to!

What do you think? Agree or disagree?



Unknown said...

This is definitely a tough one. I cook for a couple of families where the kids absolutely refuse to eat their veggies (and believe me, I'm tempted to sneak them in wherever I can). But you're absolutely right -- it merely reinforces bad behavior.

In addition, inevitably it's one of the PARENTS who doesn't like veggies, and they just pass that on to their kids.

Chef Christine said...

Please--I never met a head of broccoli I could stand, but my daughter loves it. What's up with that? She still eats it, and I make sure it's available. Isn't that most of the battle right there?

Anonymous said...
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michele said...
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Anonymous said...

I didn't see Oprah and I would probably feel the same. But, if you really want to get analytical about food. There are two aspects to healthy eating. Healthy choices and portion control. Everyone is proud of little Jimmy because he eats everything and then he grows up with a bigger problem. I was always a picky eater. There was never any pressure from either direction - what I ate or whether or not I cleaned my plate. Now, I eat my veggies and I stop eating when I am full. I agree immensely that cooking with your kids gets them excited to try new things. There should always be conversation about healthy eating habits!

Stu said...

Your essay on Seinfeld's book has been nominated for Hot Stuff Of The Week by our readers over at GNMParents. Congrats, and good luck in the voting!

Kerry said...

I agree with you, I think getting kids involved and eating veggies is important. However I also like the idea of boosting the nutritional value of what they are already eating with J.S. book.

Chef Christine said...

I like the idea of boosting nutritional value too, but I feel like this idea doesn't address the how of teaching your kids to eat right and many parents will take this as the easy out. I suppose that used in tandem, Ms. Seinfeld and I could join our approaches to make things better nutritionally across the board. Ultimately though, I believe the idea of this book is a band-aid on a huge problem across the country today. I'm more interested in the real solution than the quick-fix.

Anonymous said...

I love this post ... I'm a Big Brother (as in Big Brothers Big Sisters) and we cook together once a week. He's 12, and I have him shop with me -- it's true, getting him to help choose makes a big difference. Since we've started cooking together, he's discovered (and loves) mango smoothies.

You go, girl!

Anonymous said...

I also struggle on my client's behalf with getting their little darlings to eat a vegetable - knowingly. As I'm coming in late in the game,my approach is to hide the offending ingredients in anyway possible, then once the kids are addicted to the yumminess, I let it slip that, "Like, OMG! That was zucchini!" Now, if when the kids were small their parents had taken the role of parents and not chauffeurs to every fast food drive through in town I would not have to resort to deception with their children now. Kids don't like a lot of things. They fight, cry and pout over things like bedtimes, homeowrk, how much Sponge Bob could be considered toxic - why is it that food is always the first battle given up? Good for you Christine!

Anonymous said...

She did say on Oprah, though, that she puts fresh vegetables on the table such as carrot sticks so that she gives across the message that vegetables are important. I think if you are going to hide the veggies in food, then you also need to follow this suggestion so that kids get the right idea.

Chef Christine said...

You're right Baggage. There it was -- beautiful, green, pretty broccoli. What I didn't get from that was that the broccoli was more than a prop. It seemed to me more like it was there to make a statement. I just didn't get the vibe that anyone was strongly encouraging/or even making the kids to eat the veggies in their natural state.

If Ms. Seinfeld gets kids to eat their veggies, more power to her. I really applaud her efforts. It just seems to me that this is only a band-aid. That is, something that parents will jump on in a huge way but never back up by teaching their kids how important a balanced diet really is. Parents need to act like PARENTS and not let the kids make the decisions in the house.

After they gave the kids at the school in NYC samples and told them the ingredients, the kids weren't all of the sudden sworn to vegetables. They were still grossed out (my take on it), but surprised those veggies had made it into the yummy stuff.

I've never been a fan of pulling one over on kids, with the obvious exceptions around holiday times. To me, I'm just not a fan of the abdication of responsibility that goes with the concept.

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I really love the friendly debate and questions!

Anonymous said...

Dang it. We've tried everything, my husband and I are excellent cooks and gardeners, and my kids will eat NO veggies (other than french fries and occasionally a baked potato) and NO fruit. (Except apples and pears. No melon, no strawberries, nada.)

They'll dig up the carrots and pick the tomatoes, but refuse to eat them.

I thought Jessica's book was a godsend and said so in my review.

But I do get where you're coming from.

Anonymous said...

Kids are kids. They don't love veggies. The book gives parents another opportunity to put nutritional value in the foods kids naturally enjoy. Combine that with the veggies and fruits they do choose to eat and you have a winning combo. I don't think there is one right answer. Talking about nutrition and its importance will give kids knowledge. Getting kids in the kitchen will give them valuable cooking skills. The control about what kids choose to eat ends early. They are out in the world making their own choices before you know it. And as young adults, they may say "How do I make your famous bannana bread" And you say, "Start with pureeing some carrots". What it comes down to is recipes. Right?

Chef Christine said...

You're right. Recipes and education are the key. My point is that this new book is not the "be all end all" of the issue. I think it's being treated as the holy grail of healthy eating for kids but leaves out a vital component (making kids part of the process).

BTW-The 2 deleted posts were duplicates by a new poster. They weren't anything offensive.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! This post won GNMParents' Hot Stuff of the week award!
You can email me at hatchew at hotmail dott com to receive your button. Great post!


Karen said...

I have to agree with you here. Slipping veggies in unnoticed will not teach kids that eating veggies is healthy. When you finally do present them with a piece of broccoli they'll freak out in disgust. Get them cooking! You preach it! ;)

Anonymous said...

This book basicly teaches parents to cheat their way out of responsibility. It's ridiculous.
Just find the nastiest, most gruesome picture of a person dying from scurvy and show it to the little brats, then tell them this is what happens to people who don't eat vegetables.

Anonymous said...

You know I think this is a great idea, I have a gaggle of kids and some days it's really hard to find something that they all enjoy. I would love to have a sauce that has some nutritional value in it, with carrots, squash etc in it, and if they eat it, all the better. You know I applaud J. Seinfeld for her book, I think there are lots of people out there like me who just can't get their kids to eat healthy, and if this works...great!