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Should I sneak fruits and veggies into my preschooler’s food?

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP


In addition to whole grains, a variety of vegetables and fruit is important for a young child's nutrition and palate. Some cookbooks offer sneaky ways to get more nutrient-rich foods into your child, such as black beans in her brownies and cauliflower in her macaroni and cheese. Sounds delicious to me! There are benefits to such nutritious home-cooked recipes, however the whole premise behind sneaking is that kids don't eat healthfully enough and need an intervention.

Who's In Charge?

If a parent is worried a child does not eat enough fruits and veggies, and thus needs to get these foods into him, this mindset violates the "division of responsibility" in feeding. Now you, not the child, are trying to take charge of how much of a certain food he eats.

Keeping It Whole

The other thing to remember is that it's important for children to be exposed to fruits and vegetables in their whole, natural state, so that as the child gets older, she knows she enjoys eating that food and will choose to eat it. That said, if the basics are met, there's nothing wrong with bumping up certain recipes with extra fruit or veggies to add color, flavor, or texture.

Adding Purees

If you want to add pureed fruit or veggies to recipes, do it for the right reasons. Do it, because it adds a great color or taste or different dimension to a recipe along with the extra nutrition it provides. Whether or not you are adding purees, make sure you are also offering plenty of regular fruits and veggies in their natural form, and not pressuring your child to eat them.

Additional Information from

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP

​Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP is an official American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson, assistant clinical professor at UCLA, author of What to Feed Your Baby, Mommy Calls, editor of Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, and a mom of three boys. Visit​ for more information. ​

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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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