New trend aimed at nudging up kids nutrient intake

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Maria Smith tries to make meals as nutritious as possible for her four children, even if it means sneaking fruits and veggies into the menu. (KFSN)

Maria Smith tries to make meals as nutritious as possible for her four children, even if it means sneaking fruits and veggies into the menu.

"I put spinach in pasta sauce. I put corn in my taco meat."

And now, Smith is even trying pre-packaged meals that have hidden fruits and veggies inside.

"I know if I serve it to them plain, which I do as well, they probably won't eat as much of it."

From pizzas to macaroni and cheese, some companies now pack extra nutrients into kid-friendly favorites.

"On the surface, these products will have more vitamins and minerals if they have these dehydrated or pureed vegetables inside them," said Sally Kuzemchak, RealMomNutrition.com.

Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian and runs the website "Real Mom Nutrition." She understands the hidden fruits and veggies may help parents serve up more nutrients, but said we are also serving up mixed messages.

"They're not actually teaching kids to enjoy eating vegetables. They're teaching them to enjoy eating pasta or pizza."

Kuzemchak believes kids really need to learn to love the flavor and texture of whole fruits and vegetables.

"Are your children, when they go to college and beyond, are they going to puree vegetables and put it into their pizza sauce? Probably not. But would you like your children to develop a love for fruits and vegetables, so they choose to include those in their meals on their own? Absolutely."

Some nutrition experts believe these products can help bridge the gap, but shouldn't take the place of fruits and vegetables on the plate-- Smith agrees.

"If some of these pre-packaged foods make it easier for a season of my life when my kids are little. I think that's perfectly fine."

Health experts say it takes the average child 13 to 14 times to try something before they like it, so don't give up on the veggies.

Nutritionists also suggest getting kids involved in shopping at the grocery store or farmers market so they are more apt to try something they picked.
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