Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have a cunning plan. They suggest you discreetly add broccoli, zucchini and all that other green stuff to kids' meals.
Reuters news service reports their research found kids get more vegetables that way. And, while most of us might detect puree of broccoli on our macaroni and cheese, the little rubes don't even seem to notice the difference.
"We think of it as not deception, but recipe improvement," Barbara Rolls, one of the researchers, tells Reuters. "In this group of kids, we got most of them meeting their daily vegetable requirements -- that's pretty amazing."
Although the study was done in day care centers, researcher Maureen Spill tells Reuters parents could easily pull the same stunt at home. All they need is a blender.
Rolls says the technique can even work on older but equally stubborn children ... like husbands.
Adding pureed vegetables into adults' meals meant they ate more veggies and fewer total calories, she adds. Most of them couldn't taste the extra veggies, either.
According to Reuters, researchers fed prepared meals to 40 kids ages 3 to 5 one day a week for three weeks. The meals looked the same each day -- zucchini bread at breakfast, pasta with tomato sauce at lunch and a chicken noodle casserole at dinner.
One day's worth of meals was prepared normally -- with a typical veggie in each entree. On the other two days, researchers added pureed cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini and tomatoes to triple or quadruple every dish's dose of vegetables.
After each meal, researchers weighed the food to determine how much kids ate. The preschoolers were also allowed to eat non-doctored side dishes and snacks during the day -- including fruit, cheese and crackers.
Compared to the day when they ate standard meals, Reuters reports, kids almost doubled their total vegetable intake on the day they ate high-vegetable dishes.
"I would urge parents to try to get vegetables into their kids' meals wherever they can," Rolls tells Reuters. "This is an additional strategy that you put on top of exposing kids to real vegetables, eating the vegetables with the kids, (and) being persistent in exposing them to vegetables."