Hiding healthy: Tricks to get children to eat vegetables

Local 6 puts recipes to the test with anchors' children

ORLANDO, Fla. – For many parents, going down the produce aisle at the grocery store or planning dinner can be a struggle, because you know you'll likely to have to battle your children to get them to eat their vegetables.

[WEB EXTRA: Arthur's healthy eating tips | Truffles & Trifles Recipes | Eggplant Brownie | Avocado Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Cookie | Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookie | Chocolate Beet Cake]

But Marci Arthur, chef and owner of Truffles & Trifles Cooking School in College Park, said it doesn't have to be a nightly challenge.

She invited Local 6 to visit her children's summertime cooking camp to see what she meant.

They had quite the menu planned, including potato wedges and meatloaf, chicken-stuffed ravioli, glazed carrots, Caesar salad and chocolate cake with buttercream icing, made from scratch.

All of the campers seemed very excited, even though nearly every recipe includes several vegetables.

Arthur said getting the kids involved in cooking is what changes everything.

"If they're making it, suddenly it changes and it becomes their experience," said Arthur. "They have this false idea of what it's going to taste like. Let's face it, kale is not beautiful. It's beautiful to me, but it's not beautiful to a lot of children. But when they make something with it, like we today we had the Tuscan kale soup, the kids loved it. Yet if you tell a lot of adults 'We're going have kale,' they'll just cross their eyes."

Arthur said she regularly has the children cook meals with vegetables in them, and even the kids who think they won't like the meal going in change their minds as soon as they have a taste.

"Yesterday, we did a kind of like a chicken pot pie, but a healthy one," said Arthur. "We did 10 different vegetables in it and the kids ate every bite of it."

We asked the budding chefs what the secret was.

"Does making food yourself make it yummier?" asked Local 6's Julie Broughton.

"Yes," said one camper.

"Are you going to try the meatloaf you made, even though it's got some vegetables going on?" asked Broughton.

"Sure, yes" said another.

"Are you more likely to want to eat it because you helped make it?" asked Broughton.

"Yes," said another pint-sized chef.

Then it's tasting time. The verdict?

"How are those vegetables and stuff in there?" asked Broughton. "Can you taste them?"

"No," said the campers.

"Tastes interesting, it's actually kind of good."

"It's delicious."

For extra-picky palates, Arthur said just finely grate the veggies to sneak them into your child's favorite dishes.

"We use what is called a microplane grater," said Arthur. "It's like a cheese grater and we grate carrots, I love to chop leeks and there are all kinds of vegetables you can sneak into meatloaf or even baked with chicken."

But does it actually work, even when the kids aren't helping?

We searched for desserts with hidden veggies online and came up with four: eggplant brownies, avocado and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, zucchini chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate beet cake.

Then, anchors Matt Austin and Lisa Bell joined Broughton and brought their children along to do a blind taste-test.

We gave them a little bit of each dessert and had them tell us what they thought.

"I think the cookies are pretty good," said Isla, Broughton's 5-year-old daughter.

"What do they taste like?" asked Broughton.

"Taste pretty good," said Isla.

"Lulu, what do you think? You've got your mouth full, you must like it," said Austin.

"I like the cookies the best," said Austin's 7-year-old daughter, Lulu.

"What do you think about the cake?" asked Austin.

"A little bit too chocolatey," said Lulu.

"Addi, you like chocolate, what do you think about the cake?" asked Austin.

"I don't really like it," said Addi, Austin's 9-year-old.

"I appreciate you being polite," said Austin. "What's so gross about it?"

"I don't know, it's kind of too chocolatey for me, too," said Addi.

Bell asked her 17-month-old son Henry if he liked the desserts and got a smile as he ate more of the cake as her response.

Overall, the feedback was positive, and they didn't suspect the hidden veggies.

Then, Austin and Bell broke the bad news.

"You know what is packed into that food right there? Vegetables!"

The children looked shocked, especially when Austin asked them if they usually liked eggplant, zucchini, avocado and beets. But still, they admit they were totally fooled.

"So what did you think?" asked Austin.

"I thought it was pretty good for vegetable cookies," said Addi. "You can't really tell there's vegetables inside unless somebody tells you."

Isla agreed.

"I don't really taste them in the cookies," she said.

Lulu admitted she had spotted a little bit of green in the avocado and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but didn't taste anything odd and ate them anyway.

"Would this be a good way for mom and dad to get you to eat your vegetables?" asked Matt.

"Well, that's the way my mom would get me to eat my vegetables," said Isla.

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