Kraft Cheese and Macaroni

If there’s one rule of thumb every diet (and Mom) always mentions it’s: Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Much to the chagrin of American households raising children in a Happy Meal colored world, pre-teen palates are tainted early on with a hard to erase sugar coating that vexes parents and concerned First Ladies eager to improve the dietary choices of our obese, pre-diabetic youth regularly bingeing on Cinnabons and Mountain Dew. But, as recent marketing efforts by companies such as Kraft have attempted to “hide” fruits and vegetables in otherwise heinous food like stuffs, we have to ask ourselves: Is this really necessary? And, more important: Will it work?

In June, stores across the country began to stock Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner Veggie Pasta, which contains a half-serving of some type of denatured cauliflower powder pulverized into seemingly tasteless nutrition while still retaining Kraft’s signature neon cheesy glow amidst ingredients that include corn syrup, preservatives and artificial colors. What’s wrong with this picture is that regardless of how healthy that cauliflower addition appears to be to well intentioned parents, it’s swimming in a sauce filled with ingredients of questionable value. 

Further, and possibly even more important, is that recent research shows children actually like eating vegetables and will do so in large quantities if allowed to choose them for themselves. Author of the new book, FOOD, Field to Fork: How to Grow Sustainably, Shop Wisely, Cook Nutritiously, and Eat Deliciously, Anita M. Kobuszewski, MS, RD says serving kids hidden vegetables in processed foods is barely better than nothing. “Transforming fresh vegetables into a powder that is stashed in processed foods, in order to claim it saves the hassles of preparing and eating it fresh, is like getting a massage by someone wearing boxing gloves.”

Jessica Seinfeld (yes, THAT Seinfeld) has made a career out of cleverly sneaking vegetables and fruits into the most unsuspecting dishes (like brownies with carrots and spinach!), but the differences are significant: She’s baking from scratch using fresh ingredients versus factory made store bought processed foods. Jamie Oliver has also been successful in just being really good at knowing what tastes good to kids and getting them excited about the pleasure of eating fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Kobuszewski says we need to start giving kids more credit—they want to know where their food comes from; “Sneaking vegetables into processed foods by means of deception complicates an otherwise wholesome eating experience.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

image: ginnerobot