New study shows merits of hiding healthy foods in kids’ meals

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.

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© Missy Chase Lapine