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Four Reasons I’m Against “Sneaking” Food.

 By | July 23, 2020 | 34 Comments
 Category: General Wellness Healthy Diet

I’m opinionated.

I’m not judgmental (what works for me may not work for you & vice versa), but there are a few gray areas in my home. Whether it’s food, fitness or child-rearing I know what I want for my child and make choices I believe will empower her to get there.

It’s in this vein I’m completely against the food sneak.

You’re familiar with the sneak, yes? It’s when we slip healthy items (usually veggies) into food. It refers to pureeing/mashing *anything* a recipient would have refused and sneaking it into something s/he loves. The concept isn’t new (I remember helping my mom make black bean brownies back in the 70’s), but the emphasis on sneaking is.

And it’s popular.

Parents across the country celebrated they could finally get their family to eat particular foods without a fight. Chop, puree, sneak.

I was in, too, until that final word.

Here’s why:

It breaks trust. Much of my anti-sneaking stance has nothing to do with food and everything to do with my child’s trust. As an adult it wouldn’t bother me (much) to discover after eating something it was not what I’d been told. As a child? I’m not certain. In my opinion, nothing ensures my child *won’t* try new foods more than finding out I’ve tricked her. Not to mention this trust-factor bleeds into other area of life, too.

It doesn’t build habits. Whether you’re sneaking on a six or a 40-year-old you’re not creating lifestyle changes. Sure my husband, err, child may reap the benefits of veggies if I sneak them, but what about when she’s free to make her own choices? Healthy living should be about the layering of healthy habits one upon another. We need to help our children (or spouses or partners) learn and embrace a lifestyle.

It takes the FUN from nutrition. My daughter and I love to sneak — on ourselves. She’s aware veggies are part of a healthy food plan. She also knows neither she nor I will love all veggies so we’ve transformed the sneak into a game. We puree anything we aren’t tremendously fond of and see if we can find a way we’ll eat it! Sometimes our self-sneaks rock (hello cauliflower in her mac & cheese) and other times not so much (greetings green peppers in *anything*). Either way we have fun, together, creating in the kitchen.

It isn’t empowering. I’m a believer in gifting our children with roots and wings. When we sneak we underestimate what our kids are capable of. Sure, it’s been a challenge to steer my daughter away from sweet fruits and toward summer veggies — but her pride when she makes (and enjoys!) the veggie-choice is palpable. She’s learning what she likes and doesn’t like. She’ll happily add kale and avocado to her smoothies yet decline my offer of spinach. She’s finding her voice in the kitchen and this extends to other parts of her growing world as well.

Have you successfully sneaked veggies into a loved one’s food & feel firmly it’s the way to go?

Are you a fan of the open-sneak and believe we can teach and empower those around us in that way?



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34 thoughts on “Four Reasons I’m Against “Sneaking” Food.

Sheryl says:

While sneaking may work for some, I firmly believe that it takes away from teaching valuable healthy lessons to our children. How will they ever know they like black beans if they’re hidden and disguised as something else?? The truth is that it takes time for a child’s taste buds to acclimate to the taste of some veggies. I like beets now…while I hated them as a child. I like your strategies!




Carla says:

Thanks Sheryl. I’m also a firm believer we parents are just doing the best we can each day, going to bed, and getting back up and doing it all again:-)
For MY FAMILY however this is 100% what works and what makes sense.




Victoria says:

I am not a mommy yet, but I never understood why people would food sneak. I would think it would lead to kids being adults that don’t want to try fun foods nor eat veggies because they were not presents but sneaked in.




Kierston says:

I don’t remember my parents sneaking in food into my meals! Let’s just say, I’m thankful for that simply because it added (if not being the reason why) I’m open to try anything at least once!

My little sister, for one, is super experimental with her food! She’ll eat anything without questioning it! She thinks everything deserves at least a taste and from there, she’ll decide if she likes it or not (She’s more courageous than me more often than not!) - She knows she doesn’t like onions, that’s for sure! (We don’t try and sneak them in! lol)




MrsFatass says:

Oh I absolutely sneak food. I have never really called it ‘sneaking’ though, which I suppose can be kind of a negative word. But even so, I’ve done it ever since I made baby food for my kids. But the thing is - and I think this is an important point - I don’t use it as my ONLY means to nourish my family. It’s just one way I assure they are getting a variety of nutritious foods. If I ONLY ‘snuck’ foods, then I agree it wouldn’t teach them anything, but when it’s one tool in the entire box, then I think it is an effective way to make sure good food is going in even while other teaching tools are being utilized.

We also grow a garden together, because I learned early on with my (very picky) son that if I used a green pepper in something, for example, he’d say ‘eeew.’ But if I told him I needed one from the garden and he PICKED the green pepper that he helped grow, he’d try it. We also cook together. Grocery shop together. Look at pictures in cooking magazines together and choose our menus. And my kids absolutely have the power to tell me No, I Don’t Like That.

But I have snuck various purees in turkey burger patties and things like that for example for years. I have one adventurous eater and one extremely picky one and adding foods is one way for me to make sure they’re both getting good stuff. I mean, we also do the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, and I know parents are opposed to those ideas because they are ‘lies’. But in our house my son was TERRIFIED of losing a tooth. And the story of the Tooth Fairy helped ease his fears. He also has a healthy fear of pretty much anything that doesn’t resemble a chicken nugget, and it’s my job to try LOTS of different things to get better nutrition in his stubborn little body. Lol.

Good post!




Heather @ Not a DIY Life says:

I’m also against sneaking. The 5 year old regularly helps me in the kitchen so she sees when I put greens in our smoothies, or shredded zucchini in bread. She knows she has to try it even if she thinks she won’t like it. I also take baked goods with “snuck in” veggies to church & will gladly tell anyone that they have healthy ingredients.




Janet Oberholtzer says:

Totally agree with the teach and empower idea!

I tried sneaking a few things into my boys’ food when they were young, but I felt guilty doing it, so I quit and instead I tried to teach them about what our bodies need or don’t need.

Today my boys are 19, 22 and 24 and two have excellent eating habits, the other one not so much, but I think with time he will also, because he knows what’s healthy, but he tends to take the easy route and eating junk food is easier for him right now.




Coco says:

This is such an interesting perspective and raises some points that I haven’t really seen raised anywhere else. I never was successful at sneaking veggies into entrees (never really tried), but I still need to assure my teenage son that I haven’t “healthified” his dinner.




Sam says:

Here’s my problem. My step daughter has not met a veggie she does not “think” she hates. To the point of “fake” crying if we try to get her to try one. Because of this, the sneak sounds tempting - because I know she needs the nutrients in veggies to grow strong and healthy. But…I agree that, unless she builds good habits, she will not continue them once she is not under our roof.




Barbara says:

I don’t believe in the food sneak per se. Our kids have fruits or vegetables with meals daily so I’m not tempted to sneak. That said, if I happen to have added a pureed red pepper to meatloaf or something, I don’t go out of my way to announce it. That would get a chorus of “eeeewwwwww” in our house. Yet, this recipe, they love it.




Katie @wishandwhimsy says:

I’ve said it before, but I must say it again…you inspire me. I’m not a mother, hope to be one day….in the far off future. I want to model the way you share your passion for health and nutrition with your daughter. It’s so obvious you have a trusting relationship, a unique and special bond so many parents lack with their children these days. I’d never really thought about how “sneaking” food can limit what they are capable of. Definitely “filing” this for down the road. Thanks for being you! Wishing you the best.




Angela @ Happy Fit Mama says:

I’m a sneaker but I tell my kids (who are 2) that there’s veggies in the food. I make pancakes full of broccoli, peas, carrots, and blueberries. I point out the veggies and they still love ‘em. I also offer whole food too. I use it as a little back up on nutrients. In all honesty, I do it for myself and husband too. A little extra veggies in our diets isn’t hurting us!




Heather @ Side of Sneakers says:

I’m all for using veggies & fruits in creative ways in food, but to do it in a “sneaky” or “secret” way defeats the purpose. Instead it should be away to show kids just how fun and good these healthy foods can be. My step sister wrote a great post about the same topic: http://www.healthhoot.com/2010/08/fruits-vegetables-nothing-to-hide/




Kerryn Woods (@kerrynwoods) says:

In principle, I agree. But faced with a kid who’d only eat 2 veggies (and one of those was potatoes), the choice was yell/threaten/force feed…or sneak. We still kept openly offering different foods though and 16 years on he eats most things. At least he didn’t suffer the effects of malnutrition in the meantime.




Tara @ A Daily Dose of Fit says:

Love this. I’m a fan of the self-sneak approach…trying to find ways to incorporate foods we don’t like with those that we actually do. Remixing them, if you will. I do this with my husband all the time because he is super picky when it comes to veggies….yet willing. To give anything I make a try. And I always let him know what is in whatever I am making. And I’ve found that my 6-month old won’t eat apricots straight but loves them in her oatmeal. It’s truly is a fun way to learn about food.




lindsay says:

these are such valuable points i never thought about. I did sneak a pack of greens into my nephews chocolate/pb healthy bites. BUT.. I TOLD HIM! And you know what, he still ate it. Progress perhaps? Trust? Yes.




Stephanie says:

It does break trust! My in-laws “sneak” in wild game by telling me it’s beef or chicken. Why won’t they be up front wit me? I’m an adult and am free to mae my own choices. I no longer trust them and will often bring my own food to their gatherings. It has totally broken down our relationship.




Jody - Fit at 54 says:

I am not a fan of this for all of your reasons Carla. For me, if you start the kids out young just eating foods - all foods - regular foods - whole foods & as you said with your daughter, allow them to see what they like & don’t like.. also builds their ability to want to try new things. Make food & veggies not a scary thing or something that is not fun to eat. Make it just another food.. that is what teaches a life lesson, not showing them with actions that it is bad food….




Fancy Nancy says:

I admit I do sneak but only because my daughter won’t even try anything new. I don’t sneak all the time since she helps me make smoothies and knows that there is spinach or kale in it. I hope as she gets older, she’s 3 now, that we will be able to sneak less and show her how yummy veggies can be!




Carla says:

(ok trying to bold this. may not work and Ill look like the misfit I am ) I LOVE THAT KERRYN kind of disagreed with me here too
This is what works for us.
For my trio.
And yet I have friends who SWEAR by the sneak and firmly believe their kids will learn later to love the veggies etc which they’re currently pureeing….




Carla says:

(points up. ooh it worked!)




    MrsFatass says:

    That made me giggle. You pointing up.

    This made me walk away and wonder if I should feel guilty that I don’t feel guilty for sneaking. (yes. I’m serious)

    But I don’t. I think it comes back to the point that, for me, I use ‘supplementing’ as one of many tools. Sometimes open, sometimes closed, but always as a SUPPLEMENT to the many other things we do. I think my kids trust me becuase they know they’re loved and because we spend so much time together and because I’m here every morning when they wake up and every night when they go to sleep.

    Or? Maybe I’m preparing some future therapist for much wealth when they meet my kids.




Nicole says:

I am 100% in line with your stance here. I also agree with the open sneak/having fun with adding veggies to foods in a fun way. Also the empowerment is so important to build healthy habits (like you said). I am interested to see how this plays out with my own child when they are old enough! Great post Miz.




cheryl says:

No-never did this. (Who has the time?) Most of our meals when kiddo was young was pasta/rice with chicken and broccoli. Boring but cheap and filling. Kiddo at 25 eats way healthier than I do today!




dana says:

hmmm. I think i am ok with the idea of putting foods into other foods as an easy way to get it — but the sneak part is unnecessary. Tell the child — they are smart enough to realize if they dont hate the test it does not matter what is in it.

my mom had small onions in her stew. We all thought they were grapes and she never said otherwise. Funny.

I think it also depends on age — 2 and 3 year olds are different than 5 and 6 year olds.




[email protected] says:

I’ve got several super picky eaters in my house and I do believe in a variation of the ‘sneak’. I always tell my family what’s in the food AFTER they’ve tried it. As they get more used to a recipe, I will ‘sneak’ more things in.




mimi says:

Never had to sneak with my kids — their first foods were veggies, and they all eat them willingly. My mom did it to my brothers, and neither of them are veggie fans to this day.




STUFT Mama says:

I like to sneak, but involve them in the sneaking process. We make green muffins over here like crazy, but the boys are the ones that help me mix in the spinach. I need to try the whole black bean thing.




Dr. Samantha says:

100% in agreement. Sometimes veggies are buried in what we eat (often, actually) but I tell my kid everything that’s in there. And then I serve another on the side. If he doesn’t like it, we offer a standard veggie that we know he likes.




Charlotte says:

when I was younger, I made a (whopping $1) bet with my dad that I wouldn’t eat a tomato (other than in sauce or ketchup.. i know, the logic of a 7 year old) and so he made us nachos and stuck a tomato under the cheese…..

I was so mad at him. he broke my trust. i didnt want to eat anything he made for quite some time after that.

however with that being said I totally do the sneak with my fiance. I know him well though. He says he doesn’t “like” foods that I know for certain he’s actually just never given a chance. So I make something then when he talks about how much he likes it I’ll say “oh so you do like _____” he gets mad, but not nearly as mad as I did as a kid.




Madeline @FoodFitandFam says:

I totally agree with you! I think honesty is best. Plus you’re totally right that sneaking in healthy foods doesn’t establish healthy habits. Love it as always




Shelley says:

I think you make some great points. I think turning it into a game of “how can we find a way to like this?” is a GREAT idea - totally going to use that idea around our house. You’re right in that it’s all about building habits.

I do remember my parents sneaking Gatorade into me when I was in the hospital as a kid. I was scared of it because of the name (no idea. kids are crazy). The next day they told me it was lemonade and I totally let them get away with it. I wasn’t fooled. And I bet a lot of kids are suspicious when their parents are overly eager for them to try something they know is usually a treat - squash brownies, etc.

On the other hand, if I want to add a new veggie to something, I don’t necessarily announce it first, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. My kid is pretty change-averse, but if I say “oh yeah, you totally like that - that veggie was in the pasta we had one time” he’s more likely to shrug and eat it knowingly the next time.

Great post!




Joyce Cherrier says:

I think for some “sneaking” is the only way they can get their child to eat something nutritious. It’s coming from a place of love. I also think the word “sneak” is used in humor. As far as trust, I guess there’s many things parents do that might be judged as breaking trust - such as saying there’s a Santa Claus or Easter bunny or some such thing. Each parent has to decide what works for them. I’ve done the sneak mainly when the kids were younger, and later on when I told them, it backed up the try-it-you-might-like-it idea. Ultimately they learn from our example of eating healthy and it becomes part of their lifestyle in the future.




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