Kitchen know-how leads to better nutrition

Articles
May 20, 2009

Kitchen know-how leads to better nutrition

Retailers and CPG manufacturers can do a lot to help American households bridge the gap between good intentions and good nutrition at home. Food rating programs, dieticians, nutritionists, and recipes in stores and on web sits are pretty well established by now. However, findings of new Rutgers University research add helpful insights that could lead to new tactics. Their study, published in the April issue of Appetite and commissioned by the Canned Food Alliance (CFA), suggests that once people bring food home, it will be eaten (rather than returned, donated or discarded) even if it isn’t a nutritionally smart purchase. The study examined the food inventories of 100 mothers with young children in New Jersey, a demographically diverse state. Lead researcher Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, FADA, of the Nutritional Sciences Department at Rutgers, said: “People eat food, not nutrients, so it was important to take a look at the food families have in their kitchens. If the food people have in their homes does not support healthful eating, it can be more difficult for families to manage their weight and avoid obesity-related illnesses.” In households where dads have a body mass index of 25 or more, the fruits and vegetables on hand “contained significantly more carbohydrates than in households where fathers had a healthy BMI. Frozen vegetables contained more fat because frozen potatoes and vegetables in sauce were more common. The fresh and frozen meats contained significantly more total fat and saturated fat,” said a Rutgers U. statement.

Retailers and CPG manufacturers can do a lot to help American households bridge the gap between good intentions and good nutrition at home.

Food rating programs, dieticians, nutritionists, and recipes in stores and on web sits are pretty well established by now. However, findings of new Rutgers University research add helpful insights that could lead to new tactics.

Their study, published in the April issue of Appetite and commissioned by the Canned Food Alliance (CFA), suggests that once people bring food home, it will be eaten (rather than returned, donated or discarded) even if it isn’t a nutritionally smart purchase. The study examined the food inventories of 100 mothers with young children in New Jersey, a demographically diverse state.

Lead researcher Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, FADA, of the Nutritional Sciences Department at Rutgers, said: “People eat food, not nutrients, so it was important to take a look at the food families have in their kitchens. If the food people have in their homes does not support healthful eating, it can be more difficult for families to manage their weight and avoid obesity-related illnesses.”

In households where dads have a body mass index of 25 or more, the fruits and vegetables on hand “contained significantly more carbohydrates than in households where fathers had a healthy BMI. Frozen vegetables contained more fat because frozen potatoes and vegetables in sauce were more common. The fresh and frozen meats contained significantly more total fat and saturated fat,” said a Rutgers U. statement.

“Our challenge is to help parents learn to turn the contents of their kitchens into healthy meals…get [canned] ingredients off the shelf and onto the table, helping to deliver necessary nutrition, convenience and much-appreciated value,” expressed Rich Tavoletti, executive director, CFA.

A few of their expected suggestions, which do have merit: canned beans, a lean source of protein, fiber, iron, folate and potassium; canned tuna for protein; canned salmon for healthy oils.

The crux of this study was the BMI and implied health condition of the dad—whom we think could be a viable target of education and marketing initiatives. A few ideas: A cook-what-you-have-on-hand recipe contest, perhaps with a cookware prize. Reinforce the food pyramid in store flyers and Web communications. Encourage a physical exam at a doctor before starting an exercise program, and partner with a nearby fitness center. To avoid a trickle-down of dad’s bad eating habits, communicate with the kids about smarter ways to eat, and the wonders of different areas of the store (such as fresh produce) that might not have drawn their attention before.