When it comes to children's nutrition, its no longer enough for companies to just serve up food and beverages with the main goal being that it tastes good. New and reformulated favorites have to take a healthier formulation plan into consideration to meet the changing attitudes about whats suitable to feed kids to prevent obesity and nourish growing minds and bodies.
While kids are seeking foods that appeal to their taste buds, parents are increasingly looking for products they feel good about feeding their families. And it's not just the parents. Everyone from school districts to public health organizations are scrutinizing the kids menu.
Having rebuilt school breakfasts and lunches in a healthier style, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is turning to snacks, using its new Smart Snacks in Schools standards to improve the nutritional quality of the snacks and drinks kids purchase on campus.
USDA now requires snack items to clock in at 200 calories or fewer per serving, and deliver no more than 230 mg of sodiuma quantity that drops to 200 mg on July 1, 2016. Total fat may account for no more than 35% of calories, with saturated fat making up less than 10% of that; trans fats aren't permitted at all. Also, any food item must be 50% whole grain, or have whole grain as the first ingredient. As for total sugars, their ceiling is set at 35% of the snack's weight.
And so, manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge and creating more healthful snacks not only in the tightly regulated market of the school cafeteria, but in retail snack aisles as well. Formulation trends to improve healthfulness of snacks include substituting raisins for some sugar and sodium in various recipes, using fruit- and vegetable-based ingredients to eliminate undesirable colorants and using bean and bean flours in baked good and chips.
Further, formulators are increasing nutrition in beverages for children by incorporating vegetable juices and fortifying with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Keeping sugar content low is also key, especially considering the majority of health and nutrition authorities blame sugary drinks as the leading source of unnecessary calories among obese children.
To keep in line with kids' flavor preferences, formulators often keep flavors simple, creative and fun. Classics, like strawberry, chocolate and green apple, tend to resonate well with children, while they also crave those that pique their curiosity, like pomegranate, dragon fruit and prickly pear. Ethnic flavors and complex flavor combinationslike blueberry lemonade and birthday cakeare also taking stage.
For a closer look at flavors for kids, as well as insight on kids nutritional needs and tips on formulating foods and beverages for children, visit Food Product Design's Digital Issues Healthy Snack for Kids and Kids' Foods and Beverages.