Picky eaters: 6 chefs share personal stories

Picky eaters: 6 chefs share personal stories

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The Sneaky Chef

Missy Chase Lapine, mother of two, is the author of The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals. Chase Lapine's oldest daughter chowed down on seaweed salad, caviar, and other exotica from toddlerhood. Chase Lapine thought her child's adventurous palate was the result of good parenting. Then her second daughter entered the picture and the term picky eater entered her vocabulary.

Childhood food memory: "I spent many a night in front of a cold bowl of spinach. That scarred me for life. To this day, I despise spinach. I can only eat it if it's hidden in something else."

Food lessons: The challenges of feeding her own picky eater, youngest daughter Samantha, prompted Chase Lapine to develop the recipes for her best-selling book, which sings the praises of concealing nutrition-packed, so-called superfoods like spinach, sweet potatoes, and blueberries – in foods lots of kids love, like brownies, French toast, and spaghetti sauce. "I started sneaking as a last resort," admits Chase Lapine, former publisher of Eating Well magazine. "But it gives me peace of mind."

Visit Chase Lapine’s website:

The Renegade Lunch Lady

Ann Cooper doesn't have kids of her own, but she feeds thousands of school-age children every day as the Director of Food Services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. She is coauthor of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.

"One of the most important things parents can do is set a good example," says Cooper. "If you turn your nose up at certain foods, like broccoli, you can't expect your child to try it either."

Childhood food memory: "In the summer, I used to go with my grandfather to catch flounder and lobster – I grew up on the East Coast – and then we'd pick his home-grown tomatoes. It wasn't high cuisine, but we ate local, fresh, healthy real food."

Food lessons: Cooper hasn't always served school food – she's also cooked for the likes of Hillary Clinton and the Grateful Dead. Cooper firmly believes that processed, trans-fat and sugar-filled foods have no place on a school lunch menu. So when she took over the Berkeley public school cafeterias three years ago, she nixed junky chicken nuggets, burgers, and fries. Instead, she serves meals made from scratch, brimming with seasonal, local, and organic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Perhaps her biggest hit? The self-serve salad bar. Given half a chance, it turns out, kids really do like to eat their greens.

Visit Cooper’s website:

The Lovingly Deceptive Mom

Jessica Seinfeld, mother of three, is the author of Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. Before she began secretly adding wholesome, pureed foods to her children's favorite dishes, Seinfeld dreaded family dinners and the endless effort to get her kids to eat their veggies.

Childhood food memory: "I grew up with a single mom who shopped at a natural food co-op then went home and cooked for three kids after a very long work day. If she could do it, then I can do it. She made delicious, healthy versions of traditional favorites like spaghetti and meatballs – that would be my last meal."

Food lessons: "Sascha is my toughest taster," says Seinfeld, who is indeed the wife of that funny guy with the same last name. "She's apprehensive about food and rarely will try anything new. The baby eats anything. And Julian is a good eater – if his sister isn't around to influence him." Encouraged by her success on the home front with hidden nutrition – butternut squash disguised in mac and cheese, for starters – Seinfled decided to write a book about camouflage cooking to help other flummoxed parents. Mealtimes at the Seinfelds are pure pleasure, she says, since she started practicing "loving deception."

Visit Seinfeld’s website:

The Healthy-Living Chef

Jennifer Iserloh is a private chef and consultant on Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food as well author of her own books on healthy eating, including Secrets of a Skinny Chef.

Like all proponents of so-called hidden nutrition, Iserloh says it's no substitute for also offering the unadorned foods in their recognizable form. "You don't want to send the signal that vegetables aren't a good thing," she says.

Childhood food memory: "My mother died when I was three, and I was raised by my granny. I've eaten a lot of great food cooked by four-star chefs, and let me tell you, my granny has got the goods. I cooked with her from a young age. She had a garden, too: She grew eggplants, Swiss chard, rhubarb – even asparagus. There's nothing like eating freshly picked vegetables."

Food lessons: A private chef who has worked with several families, Iserloh has no qualms about secretly adding healthy ingredients to classic dishes, as she does in Seinfeld's cookbook. Recently she filmed a pilot for a TV show that's focused on helping overweight families make better food choices. She brings personal experience to the table: Most of her immediate family is morbidly obese, says Iserioh, who won her own battle with the bulge through healthier eating and exercise.

Visit Iserioh’s website:

The Commonsense Cook

Vicki Lansky is mother of two, grandma of three, and author of more than 30 books, including Feed Me I'm Yours and Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster. Her message for moms and dads dealing with challenges on the food front is one she knows may be hard to hear: Relax. Kids will eventually eat a balanced diet. She speaks from personal experience.

Childhood food memory: "I'm a child of the generation who grew up with food shortages, so we were told to clean our plates and think of the starving children in China, India, or wherever. To this day, I can't break that habit. I still eat everything on my plate. It was just as well my mom was a good cook. She made great borscht, rugella, and sweet-and-sour cabbage."

Food lessons: For more than 30 years, Lansky has been dispensing parenting advice to American families, including down-to-earth, commonsense suggestions on feeding young children. "My son started on solids at three weeks old, that was the thinking back then," admits the best-selling author. "When my daughter arrived, I waited a bit longer, but she never would eat soft food. She went straight from milk to finger food. They're both perfectly healthy eaters today. My son has traveled the globe and eaten off the floor of the world."

Visit Lansky’s website:

The No-Nonsense Nutritionist

Ellyn Satter, mom of three, grandma of six, is author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family and Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. "It's the parent's job to plan meals, cook, and get dinner on the table," says Satter. "Here's what some parents may have a tough time getting their heads around: A child is responsible for what, how much, or even whether he eats."

Childhood food memory: "When I was 4, my mother had to go away on a trip, and I had this coven of aunts who felt sorry for me and looked after me by feeding me strawberries in great vats. I ate so many, I got the worst case of hives. To this day, strawberries equal love – not hives – to me.

Food lessons: A dietitian, social worker, and therapist, Satter's reputation for helping families handle eating issues is firmly rooted in what she refers to as her responsibility of feeding philosophy. "You make a variety of foods available – don't limit the menu to only the food your child will eat," says Satter, who has dispensed advice on food to families for decades. "Then let the child decide what to eat. Take 'no' for an answer, and set the tone for a calm, pleasant mealtime environment without pushing or pressuring."

Visit Satter’s website:

Watch the video: Healthy Living LIVE with Dr. Alan Goldhamer (May 2022).