If you’re a parent, you’re probably already familiar with Organix, the producers of simple, junk-free children’s snacks.
Well lately, Organix has become increasingly concerned about the growing trend towards heavily engineered children’s foods, and the impact that artificial flavourings, colourings and disguised flavours are having on the development of children’s taste.
What does Organix mean by engineered food? Well, it’s all about how packaged foods affect young children’s perceptions of what food ‘should’ look and taste like.
Organix has been working with the University of Nottingham Food Science department to produce the Organix Taste Report, which gives a fascinating insight into the current generation of children’s experience of food.
Now, obviously I’m big on home cooking and passionate about eating well as a family.
We’re all busy parents trying to do the best for our kids, aren’t we? Most of the time, we try to prepare healthy meals from scratch. I’m guessing you’re similar. The kids have seen me prepare a joint for the oven, they’ve helped wash and peel veg, rinsed lentils, and mashed up mackerel. They know where their food comes from, and usually, they’ll eat it.
I’m not opposed to buying ready meals to have in the freezer, provided the ingredients are healthy and simple.T he ones that just have ingredients I’d have in my fridge and cupboards anyway are the ones I really love. The ones that leave me me wishing I’d taken a degree in chemistry when I’m trying to read the back of the pack? Not so much.
Sometimes if the kids decide on fish fingers for tea, then sometimes fish fingers they shall have. And while they might spend the occasional evening insisting they NEED a chocolate biscuit, or that only “pizza from the pizza man” (ie takeaway pizza) will do, the vast majority of the time they’re pretty good eaters.
So where do problems arise? Well, the Organix Taste Report reveals that many children have become so used to ‘engineered food’ – food which is artificially enhanced, with unnatural tastes and flavours – that they prefer them to ‘real’ foods. This means that in some cases fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in their natural state appear unusual or unpalatable, leading to mealtime battles and pressure on parents to give in to processed food, again and again.
And please, please don’t think it’s a judgement on parents. We all feed our children as best we can and if a child is really fussy (JD was when he was younger) then my goodness, eventually we cave and give them what they want, don’t we? Just for a quiet dinner now and then.
But the root of the problem it seems, isn’t in fact the odd sweet treat or the obviously e-number filled and artificially flavoured options. No, according to the report, part of the problem is so called engineered foods that are being marketed as containing only ‘natural’ or ‘real’ ingredients when in fact the food is still highly processed.
For example, we’ll see concentrated apple juice being used to sweeten a naturally savoury dish. Now we’re not talking about a little apple in a baby’s chicken meal – that’s quite a clever way to make a home cooked dish more palatable to young tastebuds, in my opinion. We’re talking about ‘naturally’ but intensely sweetened food that leads babies and toddlers to come to expect sweetness in all their meals. It goes as far as texture too; many processed foods are deliberately engineered to be extremely soft and easy to chew, making naturally prepared food appear unfamiliar, much harder work and therefore less appealing.
Are you surprised at these findings? Have you been relying on the ‘no artificial…’ labels? Do you feel that it’s hard to navigate the minefield of food choices?
Becoming a No Junk Mum with Organix
In a quest to discover more about how we can all be more savvy about our family food choices, this year I’m working with Organix as a “No Junk Mum”.
Will you join me in exploring fun, achievable ways to help our children discover, understand and love ‘real’ food? Let’s see how big a difference we can make.
This is a commissioned post for Organix