There are two approaches to boosting the nutrient profile of baked goods. One is to directly add isolated vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds to the batter or dough. This is often in the form of a pre-mix, which is a pre-measured and dispersed package of nutrients. The other is to formulate with whole food ingredients that are sources of critical nutrients.

Regarding the latter, there are certain nutrients that are crucial for brain development. Some of these are found in nuts and seeds, such as essential fatty acids, protein, zinc and B vitamins. While bakers may have avoided nuts and seeds in the past because of food allergies, the new Dietary Guidelines recommend early introduction to help prevent food allergies.

Berries are another nutrient-dense whole food ingredient, which also may assist with natural sweetening while delivering eye-appealing color. Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, in particular, are high in flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, which are believed to improve mental performance by increasing blood flow to the brain.

“They also protect against inflammation and improve certain signaling pathways that promote nerve cell production and cellular processes involved in learning and memory,” said Patrick Quinn, former educator and current parenting expert at Brainly, an online learning community headquartered in Poland.“Oats are also extremely nutritious, and they can provide the energy and fuel for the brain that kids need first thing in the morning. Oatmeal is a fiber-rich food that keeps heart and brain arteries clear.”

Baking with eggs makes nutritional sense, too.

“The versatile egg is a great source of protein, and egg yolks are packed with choline, which helps memory development,” Mr. Quinn said.

Using whole food ingredients is the approach Serenity Kids, Austin, Texas, takes with its new Grain Free Puffs. This snack is made with nutrient-rich cassava root, dehydrated organic vegetables, grass-fed beef bone broth and olive oil.

“We wanted to keep providing nutrient-dense, healthy options for babies as they grow up,” said Serenity Carr, co-founder and chief operating officer, Serenity Kids.

Quaker is also relying on whole food ingredients to add nutrition appeal to its new Quaker Kids Organic soft-baked bars and bites. Made with organic whole grain oats and wheat flour, a serving provides 11 to 19 grams of whole grains. While the product delivers on fiber and protein, it does not provide notable amounts of most vitamins and minerals.

That’s not the case with the Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Company’s Nutri-Grain Kids soft-baked mini cereal bars. This formula delivers 10% of the Daily Value of many key nutrients, including calcium.

“During childhood and adolescence, getting enough calcium is vital for healthy bone mass development,” said Bill Hanes, vice president marketing and strategy, Lesaffre. “Unfortunately, this also tends to be a time when children don’t get enough of this important nutrient. Kids do, however, tend to enjoy baked goods. Calcium-fortified baked goods appeal to parents not only for their children’s sake but also for their own.

“With our calcium fortification technology, we’ve incorporated good, excellent and 8 oz glass-of-milk levels of calcium into bakery applications without impacting the eating experience.”

Ms. Mesch agreed that bone health is one of the most important positioning categories of products for children. In response, SternVitamin developed a nutrient system for grain-based baked foods that includes vitamin D and calcium.

Immunity is also top of mind because of the pandemic, with vitamin D playing an important role in immune function. A deficiency has been shown to increase susceptibility to infection. Bakers may want to include other immunity-supporting ingredients, such as antioxidants, probiotics and postbiotics.

Postbiotics do away with the need to add probiotics by being the healthy metabolites that the microbiome produce, the compounds that possess the actual health benefit. This includes an array of enzymes, peptides, organic acids, fatty acids and more.

“Postbiotics are the new kids on the block,” said Justin Green, director of scientific affairs, Cargill Health Technologies. “Postbiotics provide increased stability and consistency as compared to the more familiar probiotics.” 

June Lin, global vice president marketing, health and wellness, ADM, said, “Since postbiotics do not contain living microorganisms, our postbiotic stretches farther across different applications as it can withstand harsh processing conditions like high heat during baking. This makes it possible for nutritional support to be added to foods caregivers and kids alike are grabbing on a day-to-day basis.”

Choline is another nutrient under-consumed by children. It is critical to cognitive functions throughout life and is specifically linked to fetal and infant brain development and enhanced memory. Omega-3 fatty acids are another. Specifically, docosahexaenoic acid contributes to the development and function of the brain and nervous system. It is essential for brain development in infants and toddlers, as well as eyesight and cognitive health throughout life.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Fortification & Enrichments, click here.