Healthy food choices aren’t just for adults with physical ailments. Children can be diagnosed with similar issues, and a nutritional diet should begin at a young age.

“The state of kids’ health today is alarming,” said Nancy Farrell Allen, MS, registered dietitian nutritionist, Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “I see childhood failure to thrive as well as childhood obesity and eating disorders. Some ailments such as diabetes, elevated blood fat levels, asthma, or anxiety and depression are prevalent in the pediatric population, too.”

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the CDC recommends children eat the following: a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, protein and oils. But as dependents, children must rely on parents or other caregivers to supply a nutrient-rich diet.

In 2017, the University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital did a poll on children’s health. The survey uncovered that only one-third of parents think they do a good job helping their children eat healthy, and only one in six rate their children’s diets as nutritious. Poll co-director Sarah Clark said a major inhibitor for parents is a tension between buying foods that are healthy and those that their children like.

Before introducing Perfect Kids in 2018, San Diego-based Perfect Bar surveyed parents to understand what they desired for their children. The responses highlighted a lack of nutritious snacks, and 86% of parents said they preferred to shop on the store’s perimeter for their children. This led to Perfect Kids, a refrigerated snack bar line that is gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher-friendly.

In January, The Campbell Soup Co., Norwalk, Conn., launched Goldfish Veggie crackers in Cheesy Tomato and Sweet Carrot. The snacks offer a one-third serving of vegetables and are made with colors sourced from plants such as beet juice, tomato, carrot and paprika extract. Each serving provides two to three grams of protein.

“Campbell’s Snacks has been working on Veggie Goldfish for years to make sure we deliver on taste and nutritional value,” said Kaylee Gill, research chef for Campbell’s Snacks, The Campbell Soup Co.

The Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich., rolled out Nutri-Grain Kids in July 2019 before the school year began. The 140-calorie, soft-baked mini bars are filled with fruit and have eight grams of whole grains per serving. Additionally, they’re free from artificial flavors and high-fructose corn syrup. The Kellogg Co. said this snack was created especially for school lunches so that children don’t come home with their food untouched.

Parents want their children to be healthy, and sometimes it’s faster, cheaper and easier to rely on a product’s nutritional qualities rather than making something themselves. Although many companies are targeting children, there’s room for more of these products in the baking and snack industries.

“As adults, we are often correcting years of dietary damage done to our bodies,” said Christine Cochran, executive director, Grain Foods Foundation. “With children, we have an opportunity to build a nutritional foundation that will strengthen and protect them throughout life.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on health and wellness trends, click here