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Finger-licking veggie treats could give babies better start in life

Frances and Phil McGrath have a ground-breaking plan to help children like their vegetables
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Offering babies tiny tastes of many different vegetables could save them from obesity and diabetes in later life, according to Napier couple Frances and Phil McGrath.

The McGraths have a background in health and nutrition.  Early in 2021 their new business called Good Feeding will start producing baby food for the United States market where they believe the need is greatest.

Their business is based around a critical 1000-day window from conception through to the second birthday where there is the opportunity to mould healthy eating practices and habits for life, in particular, between four to seven months when babies are very receptive to new flavours.

“Capitalising on this opportunity to offer small tastes across a wide range of vegetables and in repetition we build familiarity and have the potential to establish lifelong acceptances and preferences,” says Frances.

Past generations lightly cooked vegetables and pureed them into baby food by using a hand-operated kitchen utensil called a mouli.

Baby foods too sweet 

However parents now reach for convenience baby foods which are often overloaded with sweet bases, Frances says.

If baby’s first foods and tastes during this period are limited to sweet bland foods (apple puree – sweet), banana (sweet), pumpkin (sweet), carrot (sweet), infant cereal (bland), we are helping to solidify preferences for these foods.

 

“Conversely, if we offer a wide variety of vegetable tastes – across the whole flavour spectrum we can capitalise to help mould children’s ongoing preferences for vegetables and healthy foods.

“A taste is all that is required in the very early phases as all their nutrition is coming from milk. Then when solid foods are required to supply critical nutrients – iron, zinc, protein and good fats (known as complementary feeding), the transition is much easier as baby has already acquired a taste for veggie-forward foods.

“If baby doesn’t immediately grasp how to suck off of a spoon, that’s okay. Put some puree on your finger and let them taste it from there first,” she says.

Educational shift required

Frances says the industry knows change must happen and an educational shift is needed in parents. Currently parents want their babies to be happy about eating and are put off when baby screws up their face.

“However, the problem is that the industry is currently dominated by companies selling cents/kilo of baby food. They know that babies have a preference for sweet and therefore nearly every food item on the shelf contains something sweet, be that from carrots, sweet potato or apple sauce.”

The journey towards Good Feeding began when Frances and Phil identified a yet-to-be-commercialised innovative technology capable of producing the world’s best baby food.

It was something Phil had significant domain knowledge in after he co-founded another company that became the first in Australasia to package baby food in spout pouches.

However, a high acid environment was needed to keep the pouches safe. It prevented including meat in the pouch contents and needed a high level of the sweet apple puree so common in baby food.

If meat or vegetable pouches did not contain a high fruit content, then they needed to be cooked at high temperatures for long periods, destroying nutrition, colour and flavours.

These limitations are similar to those for traditional home bottling of fruits and vegetables.

More recently the McGraths explored a new processing technique that rapidly heats then cools the natural ingredients to ensure a safe but minimally cooked chilled product.

Good Feeding’s baby food for the American market

The McGraths’ business was selected as one of three winners of the Trailblazers Challenge, an annual event held by Food-Navigator USA where start-ups and established brands pitch their innovative food and nutrition products targeting parents and children.

Good Feeding took centre-stage at the Food for Kids summit held in the US in November 2020.

Frances says their brand’s identification of the problem (obesity, lack of fresh vegetable and fruit consumption, reliance on sweet and nutrient-devoid foods and poor relationships with food), and the solution they are offering to the market were outlined to a panel of experts at the summit.

Frances says they had a great response from the panel.

”They feel we are poised to fulfil a great need/hole in the baby feeding space with great education and ‘best for baby’ food.”

US production to start in 2021

Good Feeding baby food will be produced in a North Carolina factory and be delivered chilled to customers’ doors. They will begin with a pilot project of 100 healthcare professionals and 200 mothers.

Frances believes the campaign against obesity should begin at conception.

“The first 1000 days are critical for laying down the blueprint for future health, from metabolism and immunity to taste preferences, healthy eating habits and healthy relationships with food.

“As a health professional in primary care I have had first-hand experience of being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, dealing with the consequences of obesity and diabetes.

Starting from the get-go and putting a fence up at the top of the cliff makes a lot more sense.”

 

She believes most parents know what their infants should be eating but life gets busy and they buy what is convenient.

“We know that infants, toddlers and children, the world over, consume far too few fresh vegetables, and what meat they do eat tends to be in the form of chicken nuggets, hamburgers and sausages.

“So I don’t think it is the balance of vegetables and meat, but the quality of these offerings and the balance within a diet of sweet, highly processed and nutrient-poor alternatives.”

Availability in New Zealand?

So will the company’s baby food be for sale in New Zealand?

“Good Feeding plans to bring the exclusive ground-breaking technology suite used to make our nutrient-dense food offering to New Zealand in the future.

“In the short term we intend to have a digitalised version of the step-by-step programme available soon. For now though, Goodfeeding.com has a tonne of information for parents to access, as well as some free downloadable resources.”

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For more information:

Goodfeeding website

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