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How to Outsmart Your Picky Eater
By Missy Chase Lapine
Author of The Sneaky Chef

Mommy Nature's Preschool Blog

One day, my youngest daughter had strep throat, and in the time-honored tradition of mothers everywhere, I hid her foul-tasting medicine in some chocolate pudding. As I watched her swallow it without protest, I couldn’t help thinking about all the wars I had fought to get my kids to eat a fabulous grilled salmon or delicious carrot soup for dinner. Like other American children, mine had learned to run in horror from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes. It dawned on me that if I wanted them to grow up healthy and fit, I would have to take this “hiding” idea a step further. If it worked for healthy medicine, I reasoned, why couldn’t it work for healthy food? And as I looked at the bigger picture, I knew there had to be a way to rescue dinner hour from being a battlefield, but without giving up on getting my kids to eat nutritiously. As a mother, this was a battle I couldn’t afford to lose.

Thus was born The Sneaky Chef. I compiled a list of kids’ favorite foods, the ones they would eat without resistance. I then came up with List B -- “superfoods,” the world’s healthiest ingredients. And finally: How could I hide the items on List B inside List A? How could I conceal the foods they should eat inside the foods they would eat? After trying out hundreds of ideas in my own test kitchen, I came up with the secret: As long as they couldn’t see, smell or taste anything too different, they would eat what was placed in front of them without a fight.

Through careful testing, I eventually perfected the art of 13 hiding methods such as pureeing, using foods that hide well, and using visual and taste “decoys” to give food irresistible kid appeal. In the “make-aheads” -- the recipe within a recipe that I worked into almost every dish -- I made sure I used superfoods, which are ingredients that pack the most nutritious punch. Among them are spinach, which contains iron, calcium, folic acid and vitamins A and C; blueberries, which contain antioxidants, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium; cauliflower, which is packed with vitamin C, folate and fiber, and which fights disease and enhances immunity; and sweet potatoes, which stabilize blood sugar levels and contain vitamin B and folates. The basic principle was that if I wanted to eat smart, I had to buy smart, so I kept as many of the superfoods in my kitchen as possible all the time.

The way I looked at this endeavor was that I was a warrior going toe to toe with the food giants, companies that threw millions of dollars into seducing my kids into eating refined sugars and trans-fats and empty carbs. If they could “package” their products in a way that enticed little ones into craving soda instead of milk, salty snacks, deep-fried vegetables and ultra-sweet junk foods of every conceivable variety, why shouldn’t I entice them right back? Except that I would fool my kids, not with the goal of making a profit, but with the intention that they grow up strong and healthy.

Now I had my mission. All the sneaky methods I used in my signature “make-aheads” were designed to present the healthiest ingredients in great tasting, good looking “packaging.” I realized that the success of any recipe depends on the kids’ willingness to eat it. Any time doubt reared its head, I simply did more homework. Thousands of scientific articles pointed to the benefits of eating better, aside from the obvious point that it makes your body feel better. Add to that fewer illnesses, increased brain power, enhanced qualities of attention, strengthened immunity, better mood, and more energy.

The following make-ahead is an Orange Puree that blends excellently in pizza (and pasta) sauce, to bring a big nutritional boost to meals that usually aren’t thought of as health foods.

Orange Puree

1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and rough chopped
3 med-to-large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
2-3 tablespoons water

In medium pot, cover carrots and potatoes with cold water. Boil 20 minutes until tender. (Thoroughly cook carrots or they’ll leave telltale nuggets -- a gigantic no-no for the Sneaky Chef). Drain vegetables. Puree on high in food processor with two tablespoons water, until completely smooth. Use rest of water to make a smooth puree.

Makes about 2 cups of puree. Store in refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze ¼ cup portions in plastic containers.


Power Pizza
My kids have never noticed that I’m sneaking carrots and yams into their sauce! I mix the healthy puree right into the bottled tomato sauce, then I let the kids add the toppings. You can even prepare this pizza ahead of time without cooking it, and then refrigerate for a day or two. Simply bake when you’re ready to eat.

Makes 1 large pizza or 4 smaller pizzas:

1 store-bought pizza dough or 4 “Greek style” pocketless pitas (whole wheat preferred)
¾ cup store-bought tomato sauce
¼ cup Orange Puree (see recipe above)
1 to 2 cups low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and preheat a pizza stone or spray a baking sheet with oil.

Stretch pizza dough, or roll out with floured rolling pin on floured surface, to form a pie. Transfer to stone or baking sheet. If using pocketless pitas, place them on the prepared baking sheet. Combine tomato sauce with Orange Puree. Mix well. Spread ½ to 1 cup of the sauce mixture across the large pizza dough (¼ cup for each pita), then top with 1 cup of mozzarella (½ cup per pita). Cover and refrigerate at this point, or bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned. Allow to cool a few minutes, then cut into triangles and serve.


© Missy Chase Lapine, all rights reserved.

Missy Chase Lapine is the author of The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals (Running Press, March 2007). She is the former publisher of Eating Well magazine and the founder of a natural baby product line Baby Spa®. Missy is currently on the Culinary Arts faculty of The New School, in New York City, and operates The Sneaky Chef workshops, which is a program of cooking classes and demonstrations that teach families how to eat healthier. She is a contributor to Parenting Magazine, ediets.com, and education.com, and available to individuals, groups and businesses for private cooking instruction, workshops and personal coaching in The Sneaky Chef methods and recipes. Missy lives with her family in Westchester, New York. For more information visit www.TheSneakyChef.com.
 



New Study Shows Merits of Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Meals
By Missy Chase Lapine, author of The Sneaky Chef

On May 1, 2007 a new Pennsylvania State University clinical study -- conducted by Dr. Barbara Rolls and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- was released. The study showed that sneaking vegetables into children’s meals reduces their consumption of calorie-dense foods, which is what’s contributing to an epidemic in childhood obesity. By increasing kids’ intake of nutrient-rich vegetables, they may be able to maintain a healthy weight. In the study, children who ate lower-calorie pasta with the hidden vegetables mixed in did not seem to favor one dish over the other so there was no downside to eating the healthier version. They consumed 17 percent fewer calories and ate significantly more vegetables. All indicators are that this study will have far-reaching implications.

In April of this year, my new book, The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals (Running Press, April, 2007) hit the stores. This book is quickly transforming how America feeds its children. It shows parents how to hide the foods that are super-rich in nutrients inside kids’ most popular dishes. With these recipes, children have begun to eat the fruit, vegetables, and whole grains that will fortify their bodies, and they pretty much have no idea they’re doing it. On its own, The Sneaky Chef was an instant star, rising to the New York Times bestseller list within weeks. Now there is proof that the book deserves its success.

The Penn State study is compelling proof that the "sneaking technique" really works. The vegetables that children used to resist, they will now eat without a fight, and their bodies will prosper because of it. Sneaking is proving itself to be a highly effective way to get kids to consume more from the healthier food groups and less from the undesirable foods, like fats and sugars.

The only real difference between the study and the book is that the book picks up where the study leaves off. The purpose of the study is to tell parents what to do. It doesn’t tell them how. In my book, I present a dozen creative methods for sneaking superfoods into meals that kids will actually eat without a fight.

The Penn State University study offers the proof; The Sneaky Chef offers the solution: over 75 kid-tested recipes that employ a variety of simple sneaking techniques for parents to use and experiment with on their own. The extra bonus is that it avoids the usual dinner-table fight. Parents have known for years that this is a fight they cannot afford to lose, and now they have an important tool for winning.

For more information, please see http://live.psu.edu/story/23925 and www.TheSneakyChef.com.

© Missy Chase Lapine

 
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A New York Times  bestseller!
The Sneaky Chef landed on the New York Times Advice/How To Paperback Bestseller list for Sunday, April 22, 2007

 

 

A fabulous book explaining how to get those healthy nutrients into our children's growing bodies in a yummy, fun way.  I have tested many of her recipes on several picky preschoolers with unbelievable success!

I didn't realize that I was already a Sneaky Chef, making breads with "mashed beans" and flax seed, sprinkling nutritional yeast under the cheese on pizza, and including ground nuts in my cookie recipes and pancake batter, all favorites of my children.  Missy gave me many more ideas that have already become family favorites, like her chocolate pudding with "green juice" (secret ingredient:  spinach!).  We're ready for more, Ms. Lapine!

~Gina Moore,
editor/owner MommyNature.com

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