Melissa Rycroft Tricks Her Daughter (and Husband!) at the Dinner Table

01/22/2013 at 09:00 AM ET

Melissa Rycroft Tricks Her Daughter at the Dinner Table

She triumphed with her fancy footwork on the dance floor, but Melissa Rycroft may have finally met her match.

Although completely head over heels in love with daughter Ava Grace, 2 next month, the first-time mom admits her little girl has her beat.

“She pushes my buttons like nobody else on this earth can do,” Rycroft, 29, tells PEOPLE.

“She’s going through that phase right now, the ‘I’m sorry, Mommy, you didn’t want me to touch this? This right here I wasn’t supposed to touch?’ And she just gives you this look and I want to be so angry with her, but I can’t!”

Rycroft isn’t the only one being tested by the toddler; Dad Tye Strickland has been known to be on the receiving end of a few of Ava’s tricks, too.

“It’s Daddy’s day with her while Mommy goes and works and as I was leaving [Ava] pooped in the bathtub,” she says with a laugh. “It’s little things like that where I go, ‘That’s my girl! There you go, Tye!'”

At the end of the day, however, it’s Rycroft versus the father-daughter duo — at least when it comes to the dinner table.

“We don’t want to make her a vegetarian or just a meatatarian or just a hot dogatarian like most toddlers are,” she quips. “It doesn’t help in my house that my husband also eats like a 5-year-old, so it’s almost like I’m raising two kids [and] trying to get vegetables in both of them.”

Noting that “if it’s green [Ava’s] not going to eat it,” a crafty Rycroft reveals she may have finally found the secret to her struggles.

“I’m finding new recipes online of how you can kind of hide vegetables in meals and so far they can’t tell that it’s there,” she shares. “There’s a nice stuffed chicken you can do [where] you can put some spinach and cheese right in there. They’ll never know it’s there!”

— Anya Leon

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting , Video

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Showing 62 comments

MommytoanE on

Have to say, I never was a fan of hiding foods. I have always been huge on honesty is the best policy. What works better…having kids help in the kitchen and having kids help shop. My daughter was a bit picky for a time…but that’s pretty normal I think. I haven’t met many people (outside of chefs) who say their kids didn’t go through a “stage” of some sort. It passes…and the sooner they learn what that yummy thing they are eating is…the sooner you’ll be over picky stages.

NoItDoesnt on

If that was true, but 3 year old son would actually eat the broccoli that he tells me to buy when we’re at the store. He’s stubborn, and I would much rather hide his veggies than shove them down his throat like you seem to be doing.

ava on

This woman is not newsworthy.

Tam on

When I was growing up, I had to eat what was on my plate. No hiding. No questions. No whining.

Abbie on

Growing up (even when I was very little) my parents made my siblings and I eat our vegetables. The deal was: each kid had 1 vegetable that we did not have to eat all of but we had to have a very tiny scoop of it on our plate and eat that. For me it was canned green beens and for my siblings it was beets. All vegetables we ate often enough so we still had to eat them on a regular basis just not a full serving. Worked out well.

Brandi on

I think hiding foods is a wonderful idea for picky eaters to get the nutrients they need. I’m sure those children will not feel horribly betrayed if they ever find spinach in their chicken or eggplant in their pasta sauce. Kudos to her for finding creative ways to feed her daughter. A little effort and creativity go a long way.

Stacey on

Gheez, I would’ve hated to grow up in Tam’s house. CAN’T STAND “comando parents” who think they are God. Do what I say, no questions , respect my rules or get out of my house. Parents who treat their children like that have some serious self esteem issues.

What? on

Why is making your child eat vegetables considered “commando parenting”? I’m not seeing the connection…

klutzy_girl on

No Stacey, it’s called discipline. Many kids these days (likely yours) could learn a thing or two about listening to their parents. The adults should run the house not the children….

CCmommy on

I agree with Stacey. Usually when kids are raised in such strict households, they tend to rebel(Likely klutzy_girl’s kids;)-!!! I know this for a fact. I am sooo thankful that my parents allowed their children to voice their opinions and didn’t look down on us. We were thought that in order to get respect you need to earn it, and that is exactly how my kids are being raised. My girls tell me everything as opposed to acting reckless and hearing it from others!

torgster on

Ava, you’re hilarious! Newsworthy? Like 90% of the so-called celebs on here are? It’s called entertainment. You want news, go to Newsweeks’ website lol.

Tam on

Stacey, you have a very valid point. I was very happy to get out of the house when I went away to college. And I rarely eat vegetables now LOL. I’m a very picky eater, so my mom let me choose which vegetables to eat. I just couldn’t eat a full meal without one.

Anin on

Parents are the role models if parents don’t explore food and introduce new tastes kids will pick that up,kids follow parents eating habits bad and good…. she is following her father….

valeskas on

As a little girl I was a picky eater, but my parents still made me eat, what was on the plate.

Mommy007 on

I have a 2 year old. They don’t understand that you HAVE to eat all your vegetables on your plate at this age. The hiding veggies in food is perfect for the fussy eaters, and it’s not being dishonest… in fact my household loves the hiding veggies in food because all of us get the nutrients without the sometimes not so great taste.

Anonymous on

These type of “parenting” aka “I’m not going to act like an adult to avoid confrontation with a child” stories are obnoxious. Until any child is old enough to support themselves and buy their own food, I suggest they eat what’s on the table. End of story. Ugh!

Kaylee on

Some kids (like my daughter) just refuse to eat vegetables. I am not going to make my 2 yr old sit and cry at the table and make her eat her veggies or force them in her mouth. To make sure she gets the nutrients she needs, hiding some vegetables in food is a great idea, but also give veggies on her plate so when she tries them and spits them back out she is still getting what she needs but it tastes better. People are so quick to judge others!

Anonymous on

Why is she STILL in the media??!! She was rejected on Bachelor years ago!

Anonymous on

you could use a food processor too, my mom had to do that when I was little.

Anonymous on

Both of my parents were very healthy eaters. My brother would eat anything without question or problem. But me? Absolutely not. I literally built up a fear around fruits and vegetables. Textures really bothered me. Luckily, because I was so active (something that also came from my parents), being healthy was important to me. The older I got, the more I looked at food as a fuel source for my body. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I have a much more diverse pallet. But I have to say, it wasn’t until I was in the end of college that I began eating any vegetables! Even then I had to sort of choke them down. Every person is different, which is why there really is no right or wrong answer to finding ways to get your kids to eat healthy.

Jennifer Coombes on

Hiding vegetables is nothing new. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a book on this years ago.

Stephanie on

I love Melissa! Have since she was on CMT’s Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders years ago. She’s so spunky and fun! She sounds like any first time mom trying to get their kid to eat well. She’s just doing what works for her family, good on her for it.

BoFAn on

Gees, it never ceases to amaze me how some people feel they are they only ones who know whats best. It’s her life, her kid, her problem.

SteveRR on

Yeah.. treat your husband like a two year old – that will make for a healthy marriage. Sheesh.

dawn nor on

Boys had a great doctor he made the suggestion if they only want nacho’s serve it to them but tell them you have to eat this first even if you don’t like it and then you can have these. after a about 2 weeks they forgot about the chips or what ever they wanted instead and started enjoying what was put infront of them.

Claire on

This is nothing new. Moms have been doing this for years. Didnt Jerry Seinfields wife reallly bring it to light with her cookbook. This article is so not newsworthy.

happy on

Stacey..sounds like you needed discipline period! You eat what is served or go hungry…that’s the way IT SHOULD BE! Kids shouldn’t rule the roost, the parents should.

Kat on

I don’t think “Tam” is a commando type of parent. Eat what is prepared for you. This is respect, not force.

shannon on

isn’t her 15 minutesup yet she is not newsworthy

Barbara on

Raising three children all born within one year didn’t allow for food fussies. Nobody ever complained. Meal time was a celebration without critique. Just want to say that pooping in the bath water would not happen if this mommy stayed home to care for her child instead of rushing out for work like she said. This toddler can’t speak but she sure can act angry.

Paola on

I can see why she does it. My parents were strict, I had to eat everything on my plate no excuses, one time my dad sat down next to me with his belt. I was warned that if I gagged, I would get hit. I didn’t eat any vegetables for a very long time as an adult. I think I like her method better!!

anna on

It’s better for kids to KNOW and APPRECIATE veggies, rather than the hiding.

Eva on

I’m totally honest with my kids. I tell them honestly that Mama’s not a short-order cook, that they eat what I serve, or they don’t eat. It’s been that way since their first bite of “real” food and at almost 7 and 4 1/2, they very happily eat fruit, vegetables, yogurt, “green stuff” , and just about anything else I offer them. They also don’t run up and down the aisles, screaming like banshees, in restaurants, and they don’t throw temper tantrums when they beg for a toy or candy and don’t get it. Discipline doesn’t have to involve beatings, it only requires a THINKING adult who understands that teaching his/her child boundaries and basic manners won’t turn them into a robot or guarantee that they will rebel against all authority when they hit their teenage years.

Anonymous on

Jessica Seinfeld has a great recipe book that uses vegetable purees in different foods. You can’t even tell it’s in there.

Janie on

I love the,” I don’t hide, I’m honest about food and we explore it together” parents. That works – for some kids. My 2 year old LOVES broccoli, and all kinds of beans (especially kidney) and peas. She despised most meat products and green/red peppers. I don’t like certain foods too. So I do work on creative ways to add it into things, and try to make it taste like things she likes (she’ll eat salmon or chicken if I mix it with avocado – cause it tastes good). Her preference changes and I don’t make her special meals, but I may add stuff to hers or try new things for the whole family. I’d never criticize anything that works when it comes to feeding our children healthy food.

Erin0428 on

I have 2 children who are night and day on what they will eat. My stepson (4) is autistic, so texture determines what he will eat. That said, I do have to get creative to get him to eat enough vegetables. As of right now, he will only routinely eat green beans and steamed carrots and corn. So I puree steamed veggies, like broccoli, spinach, etc. for sauces. My daughter is willing to try pretty much anything. Sneaking veggies into foods does not make you a bad parent. I grew up a super picky eater, and I don’t want that for my kids. My mom has even said she wished she knew about hiding veggies to get us to eat more. I ate like my stepson pretty much.

Kudos to Melissa for talking about hiding veggies! Parents, look up The Sneaky Chef. Great recipes packed with nutrients!

Cristina on

I grew up in a household where I ate what was put on my plate. My parent’s sure as heck didn’t make me a separate meal just because I didn’t like what they cooked. I can tell from the comments below which moms let their kids dictate the household. What a shame! I can guarantee you that I am thankful for my strict parents telling me what I could and could not do. How about when you turn 18 you can move out and do whatever you please, but until then you follow my rules. I have the best relationship with my parents, none of my 6 siblings have “self-esteem issues, we are all college graduates so you can save that garbage about how living in a strict home can ruin a kid…let me know how it goes when you bail your kids out of jail because they’ve been raised to tell their parents what to do instead of the other way around.

Mimi on

I know it’s a celeb mag, but why is this woman and this stories showbiz mag worthy? Hiding veggies in foods is not new. There are recipe books devoted to the idea.

What? on

Ava runs that household and the parents can’t put their foot because she is too cute. Two of my good friends are going through the samething. And I’m ashamed to say but these toddlers now a days have out-smarted the adults lol

Kris on

We fed our kids liver for years by calling it “flat steak”…until my dad blew it !

Toddler Mom on

Some of you “hard asses” really amaze me. She is talking about a toddler, not an older child who can reason. Yes, you remember your parents making you eat food, because you were old enough to have memories. Toddlers aren’t. Toddlers don’t reason like older children. If you really discipline your 1-2 year olds for not eating everything on their plate, I would hate to live in your house!

Connie on

Wow so if you make your kids eat vegetables your kids are going to rebel – act out – have self esteem issues?! LMAO! You set rules for your childen, even as toddlers, but for my husband and I, we established that the kids only needed to eat if they were hungry at dinner time, but that meant that if they weren’t they weren’t going to snack later in the evening on junk. If they did not want dinner then their snack was an apple or banana instead of a cookie or ice cream. Not a punishment but a choice to make sure they got their nuitritional needs met. These same toddlers, now teenagers, make great food choices and eat a variety of foods. Not pickey eaters and knew that what was for dinner was dinner – period. I guess I’ll just have to pay for therapy when their are adults by the sounds of some of these posts.

Michelle on

It goes without saying, every time there is an article with kids involved all the “perfect” parents come out in full force. Everyone thinks they have the “perfect” way…they know what’s best. When really, come on people. Everyone does what works for THEIR household. I know since I’ve had my two kids I have eaten a whole lot of words! 🙂

I have one girl and one boy and they are complete opposites of each other! My daughter was, and still is really easy when it comes to trying new and different foods. My son, at 2, is so unbelievably picky! Stop acting like someones way of doing something is so wrong or appalling just because it’s different from what you would do.

Anonymous on

I was raised by my grandparents so everyone knows they can be tougher because of their experience. However, I was a kid who loved vegetables and refused to eat other things. Still, my grandmother made me eat what she cooked and if I didn’t like it then I was free to make myself a peanut butter sandwich. After getting really tired of those with my vegetables , I learned to eat what was on my plate.

E.L.M on

Well, my parents told me that if I didn’t eat vegetables my ears would grow – and be as large as an elephants!

Sure worked for the kids in my family and many of my friends kids as well.

lynn on

And this is a story needing to be printed? Isn’t her 15 minutes up already? Trying SO hard to be relevent.

MO-JO on

Who really cares what this chick has to say ? Her time in the limelight was SO yesterday ! She has nothing to offer. Good-bye now. Go do something productive NOT in front of the TV camera, please.

Mandy on

Why does everyone have to be so judgemental? She’s not giving parenting tips, she’s just saying what works for her. Also her daughter is 2 & you cannot reason with a 2 year old. There is nothing wrong with hiding it. I was also raised that you eat what is put before you, until I threw up greens because I hated them. After that, I always had to tryo stuff, but if I didn’t like it then I just doubled up on another side item. There were never 2 different meals. I do the same with my step-daughter up to a point. I have always made her try new things & I can tell when she really doesn’t like something. Then she doesn’t have to eat it.

Jesse on

Yikes. I think comment sections should be turned off. Everyone is saying horrible things while defending what they think. It gets downright nasty. And what’s amazing is people are writing its not newsworthy or who cares yet are going into private details about themselves.Who really cares about someone making up whatever they want behind a computer? What amazes me the bullying that goes on against the celebs or pseudo celebs, etc. Weren’t you all taught that if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything? Not to be a bully? Did you all learn that while eating or not eating vegetables at the dinner table!?

Anonymous on

Love this Lady! If I’m not mistaken Jerry Sinfield’s wife wrote a book about hiding veggies in food, or was it Ray Romano’s wife…whatever. Anyway, at least she is trying to get her husband and daughter to eat healthy. Kudos.

davisfamilyblogs on

I never hid veggies. I got toddler books on nutrition and showed my son how to eat properly. He had some food allergies and we had to be careful anyway… but he is a fan of all foods because we try new things. If he really doesn’t LIKE something, I don’t make him eat it. He spit peas out as a baby and still doesn’t like them. Whatever! We all have our things. While his friends eat junk, he reaches for an apple. Be “in charge” of your child. They don’t need to be tricked. They need to be told.

Megan on

Growing up, my brother and I always ate our vegetables! It was my mom who didn’t like hardly any, and so we always loved the carrots, green beans, peas, and corn my mom always fixed. My brother still eats those and he does have big salads after working in the heat all day. I, however, have learned to love vegetables thanks to my mother-in-law. My husband grew up eating tons of different things and over the years I’ve tried it all and surprisingly eat so many more things than I was exposed to growing up. It’s almost fun to go out to eat with my mom when I want something she doesn’t eat because she tends to always make a face at it! I’m so glad I didn’t get her picky eating habits!

Messiejessy on

@ Tam, her baby is not even two yet. It doesn’t work that way!

Jenn on

When I was little my mother tried to make me eat all my peas and I told her I didn’t like them. That didn’t matter…I had to eat them. Well guess what, I threw them up all over the table. I will never make my daughter eat what she doesn’t like. She DOES have to try it, though – at least once. I usually get her to eat veggies by putting a little cheese on it or something that makes it tastier. Beats the purpose of healthy, but I’m trying! 🙂

happy on

She’s a hot little chick…I wish I had her tight body.

Christina on

So let me see if I understand, she thinks it’s funny when the kid poops in the tub and she can’t handle getting a toddler to eat veggies? The teen years should be fun! Good Luck lady!

Shannon on

Making your child “clean their plate” is not the best thing- because the child has no concept of feeling full, and to stop eating when you feel full. There is nothing wrong with hiding veggies for your kids- or putting cheese on it to make it more desireable to them, kids are just that kids- sometimes you have to get a little creative. My 3 year old hates sweets- not because I taught her to, but because I always make healthy options availabe to her- she will eat a carrot over a cookie anyday- I’m glad that she she is making the decision to eat healthy and not me forcing her. Parents aren’t always going to be there- you have to teach them how to make positive healthy eating choices.

lisa on

@Christina it doesn’t sound like you understood what she is saying at all.

Grace on

I don’t think Tam is referencing “commando” style. Is Authoritative parenting and NOT Authoritarian. Big difference, Stacey. Hiding veggies? They will find. Mine did, always. Then they mistrust. Now it’s the full blown veggie on their plate – small quantities.

betty on

Oh Barbara, you crack me up… “Just want to say that pooping in the bath water would not happen if this mommy stayed home to care for her child instead of rushing out for work like she said.” If a mom wants to work, she can work. Get over it. Besides, it not like she was leaving her child with a stranger/babysitter/nanny… it was her daughter’s father for pete’s sake! Or are moms the only ones who should stay home with the children?

does anyone use their real name here? on

Ava Grace? Wow she doesn’t put much thought into a name does she? I think that’s the most unoriginal used up combo I have ever heard. On a positive note, Melissa is one gorgeous mommy. Poor kid though is destined to be a blend in sort of person with a name like that.

Alex on

Hiding food doesn’t work. My husband is living proof of it. My mother in law used to hide candy and sweets so that my husband and his siblings would only eat it when she saw fit but often she would forget about it, sometimes for years, the expiration date would pass and then she would just show them the stuff, that they could no longer eat, and be all like “oh, look at this amount of chocolates, its not ok for you to eat this anymore, what a waste”….to this day my husband gets mad when he thinks of it and if he opens a package he doesn’t stop eating until its empty…