As part of the initiative, PHA said it will create more affordable and healthy options for parents to help raise "lifelong veggie lovers."
Last April, PHA launched a partnership with Sprout Foods Inc., a manufacturer of organic foods and snacks for babies and toddlers, to help influence nutritious food preferences by ensuring at least 50% of its purees have a vegetable as the first, most prevalent ingredient and continue to add no sugar to any of its pouches.
Since that initial partnership more companies have recently joined the cause including: Nurture Life, Good Feeding, Fresh Bellies, lil'gourmets, and Tiny Organics, all of which share a common vision of training young palates to develop a taste and preference for healthy, nutritious, and fresh foods, especially vegetables.
"We strive to not only develop a love of vegetables but also cultivate a curiosity for flavors and cultures from around the world. We imagine a world where our kids request a vegetable curry more often than a mac' and cheese," said founder and CEO of lil'gourmets, Shibani Baluja.
Announcing the new 'Shaping Early Palates' industry initiative to online attendees of the PHA10: Accelerating a Healthier Future Virtual Summit yesterday, PHA president & CEO of PHA, Nancy E. Roman, said: "For the past 18 months, PHA has been intently studying the food landscape for our youngest eaters. Our vision? It’s to work with companies to cultivate healthy palates and create a lifelong desire for nutrient rich foods, particularly vegetables."
According to PHA, the initiative is targeted at cultivating healthy palates to create a lifelong desire for nutrient-rich foods, especially vegetables, among all children.
"Palate training is an essential but misunderstood and under-promoted strategy for imparting healthier eating habits to infants and toddlers. PHA is well-positioned to raise awareness and deliver results that diminish health disparities and empower parents, caregivers, and our partners—including food manufacturers, associations, and public health stakeholders—to reduce barriers and champion best practices," said PHA.
"We are providing increased access to affordable, veggie-forward foods for infants and toddlers," Roman added.
Palate training: It starts early
On an industry panel during PHA's virtual summit, CEO of Nurture Life, Jennifer Chow; Bettina Elias Siegel, author of Kid Food; and Shannon Whaley, director of research and evaluation, PHFE WIC, acknowledged the struggle many parents go through to get their kids to eat vegetables.
Siegel admitted that even before she became an advocate for promoting access to and education around healthy food choices for kids, she too struggled with the time-consuming and frustrating reality of getting her kids to eat vegetables, which led her to start the blog, Lunch Tray.
"I just did not think that raising a healthy eater was going to be any kind of parenting challenge. I was prepared for other challenges, but not that one. And to my surprise and dismay, I found that it was challenging in all kinds of ways I had never really anticipated," said Siegel.
Siegel's recently-published book, Kid Food, has an entire section dedicated to helping parents cultivate kids' palates toward healthy food.
Commenting on early childhood development, Whaley added that the practice must start early and that parents should expect and push through resistance, as hard as it may be.
"This is where I think we have to be very intentional with our education to moms and show them the science that this could take 20 times until your child’s going to like it, and if we can normalize that, we will go a long way," said Whaley.
Upside to home confinement
While the silver lining is hard to find as the US goes hits record unemployment levels and drastic changes to everyday routines, one of the upsides to mandated home confinement is that families are finally getting the opportunity to eat together and are growing more confident in their cooking abilities.
"I hate to call anything about this pandemic a silver lining, but I think one of them is that children are at the table more with their parents and it’s the perfect learning lab for exploring new flavors and textures," said Siegel.
"I think a lot of people were intimidated at the prospect of regular cooking. And I’m hoping that now people realize they can do it. They can make healthy inexpensive meals mostly from pantry ingredients."
Chow commented that Nurture Life's direct-to-consumer model has been "a lifeline" for many families who are avoiding physical grocery stores amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.
"They’re spending more time together than ever before including eating most, if not all, of their meals together. This has given a lot of parents the opportunity to work on introducing more variety and new foods into their kids’ diets, especially picky eaters," said Chow.