Reformulating popular foods for school children to make them nutrient dense could be a key tool to slash risk factors for chronic disease, finds a new study.
Researchers at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona found that young children were unable to tell the difference between regular burritos and chocolate - chip cookies and those formulated with a whole grain and soluble fiber boost.
“The study results show potential for both whole grain and soluble fiber-enriched products to be incorporated into the school menus, particularly chocolate chip cookies,” commented lead researcher Maria B. Omary.
In the US today, research suggests that one in eight children has two or more risk factors for heart disease, with growing rates recorded for child diabetes and obesity.
Combining whole grain ingredients - with their potent protective components - into popular foods for children, such as pizza, pasta and chicken nuggets, could contribute to the greater consumption of whole grains and dietary fiber recommended by US dietary guidelines to combat disease risk factors.
"Efforts to increase the consumption of whole grains and soluble fiber among elementary school-aged children are needed," write the researchers.
According to the FDA and DHHS (2002), 25 g of total dietary fiber is recommended daily along with 6 g of soluble fiber in a 2000- calorie diet. This amount is based on the ratio of soluble fiber to total dietary fiber that naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.
The Californian researchers claim that the average fiber intake in the United States is only about 14 g/d (Arndt 2006).
Published in the June/July 2009 issue of the Journal of Food Science, the researchers write that the overall objectives of their study were to examine the consumption of whole grain and soluble fiber-enriched burritos and cookies among elementary school-aged children and to perform a quality evaluation of all products.
Children in grades K to 6 from a local elementary school consumed control (CTR) products made with refined flour along with the test "treatment" products ( TRT) over a 13 week period.
The treatment cookies contained 1.2 g of β -glucan soluble fiber from Prowashonupana barley (sustagrain R from ConAgra Foods) and 8 g of whole grains per serving. The TRT burritos were formulated with 1.4 g of β -glucan soluble fiber in the tortilla and made with 25 per cent
Prowashonupana barley flour - that contains 'at least' 30 per cent total dietary fiber - and 26 per cent white whole wheat flour (ultragrain R provided by ConAgra Foods) flour basis. The burritos contained 19 g of whole grains/serving.
According to the researchers, the TRT burritos and cookies contained 51 per cent and 100 per cent whole grain respectively.
CTR and TRT products were served on three and four different Fridays with children’s consumption determined by how much they left on the plate. Quality parameters such as texture, color, water activity, weight, and product dimensions were also measured.
"No significant differences in consumption between CTR and TRT burritos and cookies were found - 36 per cent and 90 per cent respectively," report the Californian researchers.
Source: Journal of Food Science
Volume 74, Issue 5
“Children's Acceptance, Nutritional, and Instrumental Evaluations of Whole Grain and Soluble Fiber Enriched Foods"
Authors: A. Toma, M.B. Omary, L.F. Marquart, E.A. Arndt, K.A. Rosentrater, B. Burns-Whitmore, L.Kessler, K. Hwan, A. Sandoval, and A. Sung