Veggies, Olly Olly Oxen Free! Children don’t mind if you’re in their cake

by Suzy OGawa on March 5, 2012

Source: noukorama - Flikr Creative Commons

Fortunately for my parents, I was one of those rare kids who ate their vegetables growing up. While I had finicky friends, I always gobbled up my vegetables and I still do! Well, except for lima beans, and who really likes lima beans? I was even a vegetarian for my four years in undergrad. But many parents have a hard time getting their kids to eat their veggies and have resorted to sneakily hiding them in foods kids like, such as mac and cheese, lasagna, or even desserts!

Well, hide no more! New research says you don’t have to be sneaky. So put away the camo and listen up. A pilot study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior looked at whether informing kids of the presence of vegetables in their snack foods altered their taste preference.  A random sample of 68 elementary and middle school kids tasted identical pairs of three snacks containing vegetables. In each pair, one sample’s label included the food’s vegetable and one sample’s label did not. For example broccoli gingerbread spice cake versus gingerbread spice cake. After tasting each sample, participants were asked whether they preferred one over the other or if they tasted the same. A huge exhale for all those guilty parents out there; the results showed that taste preferences did not differ.

So parents, if you have a finicky offspring in your life, there’s no need to worry about maintaining your covert kitchen operations. If your kid hates chocolate zucchini bread, he’s going to hate it whether he knows that there is zucchini in it or not. And of course, if he loves it, he’ll love it despite its veggie label.

And honestly, chocolate zucchini bread is pretty incredible, so how could he not like it. Here is a recipe to find out for yourself.

Charles March 5, 2012 at 6:31 am

Love this post. One of my pet peeves is veg in a dessert! For me its a crime! The study itself is an interesting one, as I can always tell when there is carrott in a cake. I know because I’m always disappointed by the taste. Even when it isn’t labelled as carrot cake. Seems I hate it despite its veggie label. But now I’m going to have to try the chocolate zucchini bread.

Suzy OGawa March 5, 2012 at 8:57 am

Thank you! I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted the carrot in the carrot cake, or the zucchini in my chocolate zucchini bread. I like them in desserts because they bring a lot of moisture to the cake/bread. Maybe if you pureed the vegetable it might not be so noticeable.

MB Lewis March 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

HEADLINE TYPO ALERT, Suzy! Do you mean “you’re in” (your doesn’t make sense to me!)
Good topic though.

Suzy OGawa March 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

Good catch. I write what I hear, so I have issues when typing. I always have to do careful editing.

MB Lewis March 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

Writing like you hear speaking is actually a great thing in MOST ways, I’d say, esp for blogs!

Catherine OGawa March 5, 2012 at 10:01 am

Zucchini grows so well in the garden – it’s great to have another recipe! It does add alot of moisture to the recipe and no veggie taste. By the way ground up zucchini also freezes well, so can be used all winter long!!

Suzy OGawa March 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

Indeed. Now we have something to do with those ginormo zucchinis!

Sheril Kirshenbaum March 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

Fun topic – and parenting is great to cover because it brings a lot of new readers to science topics. Might also be interesting to discuss how children taste more than adults.

Suzy OGawa March 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

Thanks for reading!

Patricia March 7, 2012 at 8:47 am

Nice, short and centered post. Loved that for once you can tell parents to stop thinking kids don’t know what thwy eat and can be misguided!!!

I agree with the first post: except for carrot cake, vegs in dessert are a crime!!! But then, I always ate my vegs.

Angela March 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

I may be wrong, but from my experience, a lot of children grow up hating veggies, because the latter are prepared and served in an awful way. Having worked as a cook in different environments from factory canteens to posh dinner parties for 15 years alongside my studies, I have seen colleagues commit unspeakable culinary crimes in the veg department (frozen cabbage boiled with water and vinegar?!). Managed to convert entire factory populations and care homes to a veg-heavy diet through different preparation methods and spices/marinades/dressings – without the glory of Jamie Oliver ; )

Suzy OGawa March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Agreed! Thank you for your comments.

beatrice March 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm


beatrice March 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm


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