At this time of the year many of us make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthily by making better food choices.
The food technologists at CAFRE’s Loughry Campus have wide-ranging practical knowledge when it comes to converting everyday products into healthier options.
Of course, a healthy diet means different things to different people.
Recent consumer study data indicates that to some people a healthy diet is all about reducing their fat, sugar and salt intakes, but it is important to appreciate that a healthy diet also involves increasing the dietary intake of fat soluble vitamins and fibre.
The addition of fortified foods with minerals and or vitamins can also improve the diet too.
Some people improve their diet solely by simply drinking more water!
However, most of us choose to implement a mixed rationale and select healthier options from all four routes.
Over the past decade, the food industry has been challenged to reduce salt, fat and sugar to meet the needs of the more health conscious consumer, while delivering a balanced tasty meal.
CAFRE’s technologists have added flavour to foods using herbs and spices as opposed to just adding salt or by reducing the salt content and substituting part of the salt with potassium instead of sodium chloride.
Products have been reformulated to develop low fat or reduced fat formulations, by careful ingredient selection and embracing fat replacers, while maintaining product eating quality.
Sugar levels have been removed and or lowered by reducing the sugar component from the ingredients and adding natural sugars, for example adding raisins, sultanas, dates or fruit, sometimes in combination with sugar replacers.
Many people in Northern Ireland have an inadequate level of dietary fibre, however it is important to appreciate that the addition of chicory root to products can increase the fibre content without influencing their eating quality.
Loughry’s food technologists have even added this successfully to ice cream and found that the consumers were blissfully unaware!
Fortification of foods with vitamins or minerals is not new.
For over 60 years flours have been fortified. For example, white wheat flour milled in the UK by law contains added calcium carbonate, iron, thiamine/Vitamin B1 and nicotinic acid.
It is important to appreciate that the inclusion of fortified flours in products does not automatically make the product a healthier option, as often these products may contain high levels of salt, fat and sugar.
Trials at CAFRE have shown that it is possible to improve the nutritional quality of bakery goods through careful ingredient choices, based on the scientific understanding of the role of each constituent.
CAFRE’s food technologists, based in the Loughry Campus, have a wealth of experience when it comes to the production of healthy food products; their development and reformulation knowledge and skills are available to assist the NI food industry in a commercial in confidence basis.
n For further information on developing healthier products, please contact Zita McNaugher on Zita.McNaugher@daera-ni.gov.uk