New trend promotes higher nutrient intake among children

Reporter: Therese O'Shea
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While it’s no secret children don’t care for vegetables, a new trend is helping parents sneak in the good stuff so their children stay healthy.

Maria Smith tries to make nutritious meals for her four children, even if it means sneaking in fruits and vegetables into the mix.

“I put spinach in pasta sauce. I put corn in my taco meat,” she said.

Now, she’s trying prepackaged meals with hidden fruits and vegetables.

“I know if I serve it to them plain, which I do as well, they probably won’t eat as much of it,” she said.

Some companies are packing extra nutrients into kid-friendly favorites, such as pizza and macaroni and cheese.

However, Sally Kuzemchak, a registered dietitian who manages the website, Real Mom Nutrition, said while she understands these hidden foods may serve more nutrients, they are also serving mixed messages.

“On the surface, these products will have more vitamins and minerals if they have these dehydrated or pureed vegetables inside them,” she said. “They’re not actually teaching kids to enjoy eating vegetables. They’re teaching them to enjoy eating pasta or pizza.”

A spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes these products can help bridge the gap, but shouldn’t replace fruits and vegetables — Smith agrees.

“If some of these prepackaged foods make it easier for a season of my life when my kids are little, I think that’s perfectly fine,” Smith said.

Nutritionists say it take the average child 13 to 14 times to try something before they like it. They suggest getting children involved in shopping at the grocery store or farmers market as they’re more apt to try something they picked.

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