Commercially prepared baby foods that are loaded with dark green vegetables are sweetened with fruit puree and often do not contain much dark green vegetables, according to a team of researchers.
John Hayes, an associate professor of food science at Penn State, led the team, says the lack of taste for dark green vegetables is because young children don’t learn to like the taste of broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts and kale, to name a few. , unless they are repeatedly exposed to them. So, they won’t want to eat them later.
“Other research indicates that young children need to be exposed to the taste of vegetables to learn to like them,” she said. “If true, this new work is important because it shows that current commercial products on the market fail to meet this need, because they mask and hide the taste of vegetables — even when vegetables are listed in the ingredients list.”
Because vegetables are an important but underutilized part of a healthy diet, there is growing interest in promoting vegetable acceptance and consumption among children to help establish lifelong healthy eating habits, noted Hayes, director of Penn States College’s Sensory Evaluation Center. of Agricultural Science.
He suggested that many well-meaning parents who want their young children to eat and prefer dark green vegetables may be fooled by misleading content descriptions.
“If parents don’t stop and taste these foods themselves, the front of the package may make them think these products taste like vegetables instead of fruit puree,” she said.
A recent survey of commercial baby food products in the United States revealed a lack of variety in vegetable types conducted by some of the team’s researchers. Most notably, there was no commercially available single, dark green vegetable product. Instead, dark green vegetables are often mixed with fruit or red/orange vegetables — such as squash — to provide extra sweetness.
To learn to like vegetables, the taste of the vegetables must be perceived in the mix, explained Alyssa Bakke, staff sensory scientist in Penn State’s food science department, who led the study. He noted that the study was an attempt to understand the sensory profiles of vegetable-containing, Stage 2 infant products that are commercially available in the United States, and how ingredient composition affects flavor profiles.
Recently published research Dr the hunger, researchers performed descriptive analyzes to quantitatively profile the sensory properties of 21 commercial vegetable-containing baby foods prepared in a Hayes laboratory. Eleven experienced adult panelists, after 14 1/2 hours of training, rated all 22 products — in triplicate — for 14 taste, aroma, and texture attributes.
Panelists found that products containing fruit were not only sweeter than products that did not contain fruit, but also had more fruit flavor and less vegetable flavor. In general, sensory profiles were driven by the first or majority component of the product. Because few products had dark green vegetables as the first ingredient, dark green vegetable flavors were not common.
“This suggests that the sensory profiles of commercially available infant vegetable foods may not be adequate to facilitate increased acceptance of green vegetables,” Bakke said. “It’s a big concern now — how do we promote the choice of vegetables? From children to adults, people don’t like vegetables.”
There are understandable reasons for not liking vegetables, Bakke said. They tend to be more bitter than other foods and have a less intense, more subtle flavor than other foods. The sensory qualities that, unfortunately, are the natural drivers of choice, he says, are salt and fat.
“Obviously vegetables don’t have those things, so we have to learn to like them, and sometimes we have to overcome things like bitterness,” he said. “The number one way we do it is repeat trials — try again and again. If it’s done early on, we can set people up to love vegetables for the rest of their lives.”