No, You Shouldn’t #LieLikeAParent

Last week Kraft launched a new ad campaign, #LieLikeAParent. To sell ranch salad dressing disguised as ‘frosting’ they’re asking parents to comment with the lies they tell their children, saying that we all lie to our kids to get them to eat.

To say I’m pissed off about this campaign is an understatement.

I understand parents lie to their kids. We lie about Santa, and the Easter Bunny. We lie about not knowing what happened to the left over Halloween candy. I lied about the library being closed once. But there are things that I believe we should never lie about and food is one of them.

Don’t Lie About Food

When you lie to your children about the food they’re eating you are setting them up to have a bad relationship with food. It takes dozens of exposures to a new food to learn to like it. And hiding kale in a muffin does not teach them how it tastes or the texture of it. While, yes, you can technically say they eat kale your child doesn’t know that they are. How will they ever learn to like vegetables if they don’t know they’ve ever eaten one?

The word frosting evokes cupcakes and sugar and sweetness. How will your child react when they put that ‘frosting’ in their mouth only to find ranch salad dressing? Which is savoury, fatty, and rich? Are they going to trust you the next time you serve them something new? Or are they going to dig in harder because the last time you tried something new on them they we lied to?

How can we expect our children to have a healthy relationship with food and grow up to make healthy responsible choices around food when we are teaching them to lie about what they’re putting in their bodies? Healthy eaters are made. Your child is not just going to wake up one day and say ‘Today I’m going to eat everything put in front of me and I’m going to like it all’. You have to be the one to teach them and to model that behaviour to them.

Maybe your kid doesn’t like Ranch Dressing. Mine doesn’t. He prefers Three Cheese Ranch (when he can get it), at home, he has olive oil, salt, and pepper, sometimes hot sauce (not sure where that one came from).

Make Food Fun

What can you do instead? How do you get your kids to eat veggies without lying? Here are my tips (no tricks) for how I got my son to eat whatever I put in front of him.

  • Make it fun! Pretend the broccoli is a tree. Or if the florets have a funny texture then slice up the stem into coins.
  • Try different sauces. Cheese sauce, pesto, gravy, sunshine sauce. I don’t know many people who would be happy eating plain steamed broccoli or plain sauteed kale. Add some flavour to it!
  • Take you kids to the grocery store and let them pick out a special vegetable or fruit to try that week. You never know what they’ll pick. My son used to bring home eggplant because it was purple. Now he’s stuck on dragon fruit because it’s hot pink. When you let your child pick out something new they’re more likely to try it.
  • Get them helping in the kitchen. When kids help prepare supper they become invested in the meal. They see the work that goes into it and they feel a sense of accomplishment. They also get a greater sense of community by feeding the family. Even if is just slicing peppers and putting them on a plate.
  • Prepare the same vegetable in different ways. You never know what will be your kids favourite.
  • Be consistent. Put vegetables on the table every night and eat them yourself. Children learn more from watching us then from listening. If your kids see you eating vegetables and you’re consistent in putting vegetables on their plate they will eventually do what you do.
  • Don’t put too much on their plates. When I started feeding salad to my son he didn’t like it but it was important that he learn that we all eat the same meal and we eat what we have. I started with a single bite of salad for him and that was all I expected him to eat. It’s been 5 years so I start him with a larger portion and he finishes it. Sometimes he even goes back for seconds!

You Are The Parent

You kids will only eat what you bring into the house. If you want your kids to eat veggies, then you have to buy them and serve them. Every night in different ways. Steamed, sauteed, creamed, baked, grilled, change the spices, add sauces. If you don’t want your kids having so much sugar don’t buy it. And the adult you are the one responsible for what comes into the house.

Lying about food complicates it. It creates shame and falsehood around something that we all need and should enjoy.

Food is enjoyable, communal, essential. It should never be shameful. When we teach our children to lie about food we create shame around a necessary part of our lives. We teach them that healthy food is weird and gross and that they need to trick themselves into eating vegetables.

Our children deserve better. They deserve to be taught how to have a good relationship with food. They should be taught what a healthy diet is and why it’s important. As a parent that’s your job and you can’t do it of you’re lying.

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