Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sly and the Family? The debate over deception and vegetable consumption

Recently, there’s been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere about sneaking vegetables into kid’s food. This practice gained notoriety a few years back with the publication of cookbooks by both Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry) and Missy Lapine (“The Sneaky Chef”) and came back into the conversation with the publication of another cookbook by Ms. Seinfeld. Plenty has been said about the potential merits and potential harms of this practice - from mom chefs/bloggers like Stacey at one hungry mama to nutrition powerhouses like Marion Nestle.

Why does this matter for cancer prevention? Because eating vegetables matters for cancer prevention. Eating fruits and vegetables is one of our key 8 ways to prevent cancer. Some fruits and vegetables have specific benefits for specific cancers – like tomatoes and prostate cancer. But fruits and vegetables are also important for healthy weight management – they provide lots of fiber (bulk) without a lot of calories – that means you feel full without taking in a lot of calories. That’s why most weight management programs encourage eating lots of them and focus on counting the other items you are eating. Those other items are the calorie high ones that add up.

Dr. Nestle points to some other alternatives for encouraging kids to eat vegetables that don’t involve deception based on behavioral economic principles and the research of Dr. Brian Wansink. She also points out that parents have the responsibility to decide what kids eat.

There are some really great strategies at work among the CNiC families – many of which have been written about or suggested elsewhere – having kids help grow the vegetables increases their interest in eating them; serving fruits and vegetables at every meal; giving kids a role in choosing which vegetables to eat, but not whether vegetables are consumed; focusing dessert on fruit not processed baked goods; including fruits and vegetables in other dishes in an open and transparent manner; making meals colorful using fruits and vegetables.

What do you think? Is there a role for deception or sneakiness in a health promotion/disease prevention diet to boost fruit and vegetable consumption? What strategies do you use to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables?

Related CNiC Posts

Related Links
Your Disease Risk - Risk Assessment
Cancer Prevention - Google Knol
8 Ways to Stay Healthy and Prevent Cancer (PDF)


  1. If we're sneaking produce into food, our kids won't learn to choose and enjoy fruits and vegetables as a healthy alternative to junk/processed foods. Parents can "shape" their children's tastes by limiting/avoiding foods that aren't good for them and feeding them foods that are not processed, low salt, low sugar, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, etc.. In my business I teach adults and children the importance of getting more fruits and vegetables into their diet every day, and if they're still not getting enough, to add Juice Plus concentrated fruit and vegetables capsules/chews.

  2. Eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables actually isn’t that hard, since servings sizes are smaller than most people think. And, if you’re swapping out processed foods, it is even easier. Processing fruits and vegetables often changes their composition, and much of the benefit from fruits and vegetables comes from their bulk and high water content, both of which are lost in processed products like Juice Plus and similar foods/supplements. This is why we do NOT endorse those products. We also don’t know what the processing has done to the benefits those fruits and vegetables provide in their natural state. As we learned from the supplement trials – sometimes that processing can have unintended consequences. To date, few rigorous peer-reviewed scientific studies have evaluated the health benefits of Juice Plus or similar products. The recommendations that we make at CNiC and Your Disease Risk are based on a wealth of studies showing consistent associations across numerous studies for both mechanisms and cancer risk.