by Stefania Revelli
As most of the nation’s little ones get into back-to-school mode, their Millennial and Xer parents are stuck with their own daily homework: solving the problem of how to pack more produce into lunchboxes — a struggle that dominates meal planners’ daily lives. Why else would Deceptively Delicious and its stealth approach to health have topped New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestseller lists for months?
The “deception” road is a highly charged one. On the one hand, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition described how preschoolers almost doubled their intake of vegetables when they were given meals with “hidden” veggies (Reuters, 26 July 2011). Indeed, one Gen X foodie mom told us, “Last night, I hid broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in the marinara sauce, and my kids ate more vegetables in one dinner than they’ve eaten in a lifetime.” On the flip side, a study in Obesity magazine found that seeing someone enjoy a food makes kids more open to trying it. Openly exposing elementary school kids to veggies they dislike at least six times may change their mind, says Louisiana State University (Everyday Food, September 2011).
So when it comes to feeding the pint-size people in our lives, is it better to practice deception, or is honesty the best policy? In the name of health, maybe marketers should call the cauliflower in the mac and cheese by another name: creative cooking. Educating kids about long-term healthy habits through approaches that highlight novelty, excitement and balance might be the smartest, most universally debate-proof approach of all.