School Lunch Line - ©

Kids Like Their Veggies Spicy!

It’s an age-old quandary: How do you get kids to eat their Vegetables? Now, science has an answer, at least as far as older kids are concerned. And the research got started because someone got fed up with the tremendous waste of Veggies in school lunch programs…

School Lunches in the U.S. must contain no more than mandated amounts of Salt and Fat.
That means bland, yucky Veggies. New recipes developed by flavour experts
may make more Veggies attractive to more kids!

In the U.S., most school lunch programs are mandated to offer vegetables and other healthy foods which kids have not been choosing. Or, if they are served them automatically, the kids have been ditching them. It’s a tremendous waste and a major cost factor. Not to mention that obvious fact that the kids aren’t getting their veggies.

Current official dietary recommendations call for teenagers to get 2.5 to 4 cups of vegges a day, minimum, for good nutrition. Most don’t get that much. In fact, a recent survey revealed that only 2 percent of American kids eat enough veggies. So, researchers set out to discover why kids hate veggies so much.

The reason is simple…

In the end, kids resoundingly complained that the Veggies they were getting, at school and at home, tasted bad. More precisely, they were bland. At school, the lunch kitchens are constrained in the amount of salt they can add to food to make it more palatable. Under-seasoned Veggies can be pretty yucky. But there’s no prohibition or limit to the other herbs and spices they can add to make Veggies more Interesting.

What they did…

The researchers gave the students taste tests to measure how much they liked a variety of plain versus seasoned vegetables. The plain vegetables were prepared with a small amount of oil and salt, while the seasoned vegetables were prepared with a seasoning blend specifically developed for each vegetable. For example, the corn and peas were seasoned with a blend designed to mimic the flavor of nachos.

Taste tests were held for eight different vegetables, with about 100 students participating in each test. All recipes used either frozen or canned vegetables, to make them easy to replicate by the school’s food service workers.

The researchers found that overall, the students preferred the seasoned version of the vegetables, except for the sweet potatoes. The seasoned versions of corn and peas, black beans and corn, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, and carrots were all rated as better tasting than the plain versions.

DO try this at home!

Do your lids like Nachos? Try dusting their Corn and Peas with Nacho Seasoning> Do they like Hot Dogs? The major flavour in Frankfurters is Paprika. Give really bland Veggies like Cauliflower and Squash a shot of that. Do the kids love Italian food? Sprinkle Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and/or Thyme over Broccoli, Carrots or Parsnips.

Kathleen Keller, Associate Professor of Nutritional Sciences, says, “I’m a big proponent of not being afraid to use Herbs and Spices, even with young kids or toddlers. Even with baby food, you can add small amounts of Herbs or Spices, so they’re getting used to the flavors of the family. If you’re going to be using these things in the foods you make for your family later on, it doesn’t make sense to avoid them when kids are little.”

The specific seasoned Veggie recipes that Keller and her team developed for school Lunch chefs is available in the main article of the study report, published recently in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

Here’s to healthier kids!

~ Maggie J.