The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals
By Missy Chase Lapine
Running Press (2007)
Reviewed by Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N
The Sneaky Chef claims to transform the way America feeds its children by adding fruit and vegetable purees to common foods children enjoy, such as cauliflower and zucchini mixed into boxed macaroni and cheese, spinach and blueberries in brownies and sweet potatoes and carrots into spaghetti sauce.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan
Lapine became a "Sneaky Chef" when one of her daughters refused to eat anything other than pasta with butter and white bread, so she started sneaking in food purees as a last resort to get her children to eat more nutritious foods. The book begins with three chapters on why American children are picky eaters, why we should sneak fruit and vegetable purees into their foods and the author's philosophy on food and how to feed children. The fourth chapter introduces the reader to the practical portion of the book, including lists of the sneaky foods, staples to buy (specific small appliances the author recommends) and which foods are more likely to be accepted and refused by children. Chapter Five explains 13 methods of being a sneaky chef (ranging from "Using Foods That Hide Well" to "Cut the Effects of Toxins or Fats by Diluting the Ingredients with Something Healthier") and discusses health benefits associated with each method. Each recipe also contains the highlighted "sneaky ingredient" and nutrition benefits.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
While the author does quote a few scientific studies relating to childhood nutrition, the book is based largely on the author's own experiences with her two children. Nutrition Facts are not provided for the recipes, which is disappointing, but highlights such as "Vegetables, protein, calcium and fiber" or "Rich in vitamins A, C and K" are listed at the top of each recipe.
This book could be a useful cookbook option for families who would like to offer different foods in a familiar way. However, sneaking is not the only way to introduce fruits, vegetables and grains into children's diets. Eating a variety of foods and keeping nutritious foods on the menu in a variety of forms should be continuous from infancy through adulthood.