Family life

Why I lie to my kids about the ingredients in their food

Susan Goldberg thinks the occasional white lie about the ingredients in her kids' food isn't such a big deal.

1Brownies-October2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Thunder Bay, Ont. writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

I made brownies for the kids yesterday evening. I made some soft, chewy, dense little fudgey circles of chocolate, topped with sprinkles. They licked the batter off the spatula. They each had a brownie for dessert, and they each have a brownie in their lunch today. Because I am a fantastic mother.

That’s the official story.

The unofficial story is that I made black-bean brownies for the kids yesterday evening. I made vegan, gluten-free brownies with flax seed instead of eggs. I made brownies that called for a little more than half a cup of sugar and no flour at all — just legumes. And I added some sprinkles. Because I am a fantastic mother.

I nearly slipped up a couple of times. “I wonder if I put too many black beans in these,” I mused out loud to myself as I spooned the batter into muffin tins.

“BLACK BEANS?” asked Rowan, and I backtracked. “Did I say black beans? Ha. I meant flour. I wonder if I put too much flour in these.”

“Good,” he said. “Because black beans in brownies would be disgusting.”

Oh, child.

Yes, I have become the kind of mother who hides healthy things in perfectly good desserts.

And I am totally fine with that.

Read more: 7 surprising food combinations kids will love >

I’m aware that debates rage around this issue. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to enjoy things like black beans and flax and broccoli without grinding them up and covering them in chocolate? What’s the harm in an honest, old-fashioned brownie every now and again? Do we really have to resort to disguising food that contains actual nutrients as so-called junk food?

Here’s the thing: I do my best to teach my kids to enjoy (or at least choose) healthier foods as a baseline diet. They both eat fruits and vegetables (some days more, some days less). They both eat healthy breakfasts — Isaac likes oatmeal with yogurt and (unsweetened) applesauce, while Rowan has of late been on a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie kick — and lunches. One of their favourite snacks is air-popped popcorn. Most of the time, they both eat whatever generally healthy dish we make for dinner with relatively few complaints.

Read more: Picky eaters: 9 tips to get them eating! >

Further, there’s no shortage of so-called “real” junk food in my kids’ lives — from the cake and slushy and hotdog that Isaac had at a birthday party on the weekend to the full-sized chocolate bars that Rowan’s teacher handed out to his entire class on Monday, and now the chocolate-laden lead-up to Halloween, I never find myself worrying that my kids don’t get enough unadulterated sugar.

So, it’s not that I feel as though I must disguise healthy food in order to get my kids to eat it. And it’s not as though we don’t enjoy some good old-fashioned sugar every now and then. But if I can choose to make a recipe healthier by tossing some extra vegetables into the mix, or cutting some of the sugar, or replacing some oil with applesauce, or swapping out white flour for whole wheat or — heaven forbid! — black beans, well, then: to me, that’s a no-brainer. If my kids eat it happily, why wouldn’t I choose to give them healthier food?

And if I know that the mention of black beans in the brownies could well be a turnoff, then, at this point in my parenting career, I will choose to avoid mentioning those black beans.

You can call it deception, or even outright lying, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But, you know what? Really, it’s not that big a deal. We’re talking about brownies, not testifying in court. In the end, the kids are happy, and so am I. And that, to me, is worth a slight fudging (pun intended) of the truth.

 

Looking for some fun foods to cook with your kids? Check out this Cooking with Kids video on making peach muffins (yum)!