We started out so well. Three years ago, when I was weaning my two teeny babies, I was on the case, they were spoon fed homemade butternut squash puree and gnawed happily on carrot sticks. They only drank milk or water and a ‘treat’ was a wholemeal breadstick.
However, there’s gradually been a shift. They’ve got a little older, seen the contents of the other lunchboxes at nursery, spent time with older pals and more and more processed food has crept into their diet. Of course, I’m at fault too, a chocolate biscuit bribe can get a lot done around here and fish fingers are just so well received, they are sometimes the easiest choice all round. But I’ve had this niggling feeling for a while that I need to change the tide and put the focus back on more natural foods.
(She was a broccoli fan!)
When Organix got in touch recently and told me about their new research into kids eating habits, I was super keen to get involved and share our very own #NoJunkJourney.
Organix had noticed that kids’ palettes seem to have changed to be more accustomed to engineered, supposedly healthy foods, rather than the real thing. So, strawberry flavoured yoghurts rather vs strawberries, chicken nuggets vs chicken. You can read the full report here: Engineering Taste – Is this the future of children’s food? For a food lover like me, it makes sad reading, many children didn’t even know that apples have cores.
What else did the report find?
- Children’s eating habits are changing – they’re needing more instant taste gratification and ‘easy eats’.
- Engineered foods are impacting children’s ability to recognise, experience and enjoy the taste of ‘real’ foods.
- Children’s foods making ‘natural’ and ‘real’ claims often actually contain a huge list of unnatural ingredients.
- The research uncovers a new zone of food – the zone of artifice. Food being labelled as being ‘natural’, with no artificial flavours, yet which have additions that have no natural role in the food, but are there to enhance the eating experience. So, carrot juice added as a colouring to yoghurt for example. This leaves children with a confused view of what natural flavours actually are.
- Misleading claims about ‘real’ and ‘natural’ mean parents are unable to make informed purchase decisions.
So, what does that mean for us?
The findings of the report have truly given me the heebie jeebies. Is there anything more wonderful that the taste of a freshly picked strawberry, still warm from the sun? I don’t want my children to grow up and not appreciate that. I want them to enjoy a Sunday roast, knowing what a real piece of meat looks like and where it came from, so that they learn to respect it and appreciate every delicious slice.
For me, the key thing is to be more aware of the food labels of the ‘engineered’ foods I do buy. Let’s be honest, I’m not going to stop buying all processed food or denying my two sweet treats. But I can be more aware of those products where the flavours or textures are manufactured.
I had a look through our kitchen cupboards and I wasn’t entirely surprised. The foods that I thought may be full of hidden ingredients were (often bread products, which is such a shame when bread takes so few ingredients to make naturally). The sweetners in so many things were more of a shock. I tend to buy lower fat options for the whole family and obviously sweetners are added instead.
One label I found on a kids cereal packet that I thought were doing it well (clear, visual ingredients list, with an explanation of an unexpected ingredient) was this one:
(Although I think they could’ve added a percentage for the Coconut Blossom Nectar, which is essentially just a natural sugar, it could be 50% sugar for all we know from these ingredients!)
From now on, as a starting point, I’m going to keep a copy of the chart below on my phone for when in the supermarket and try and steer away from the following ingredients..
In the coming weeks, I’d like to try and address our fish finger addition too, but I’ll take that slowly, I don’t want to send them into shock!
What do you think about food labelling for kids, is it clear what’s natural and what isn’t? Do you think children are losing the love for natural, unprocessed tastes and textures? What to you think we can do to help turn that tide? I’d love to hear from you here or on Twitter using the hashtag #OrganixTaste.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Organix, however, it’s a cause I truly believe in and feel really passionate about.