Raisins: Formulating with Fats and Sweets

Raisins are an ingredient that makes food more visually appealing, tasteful and nutritious. According to 2015 IFIC data, taste, price, healthfulness, convenience and sustainability are the top five drivers of consumer choices in foods and beverages. On food packages, consumers look at expiration dates, nutrition facts panels, ingredient lists, serving size and servings per container, calorie and other nutrition information, and brand name. (See chart “Factors Influencing Consumer Choices.”)

“Sensual Nutrition” is a term being used to describe a process of enticing consumers to eat foods by making them look great, with wonderful aromas and flavors, and then making them healthy by stealth. Some foods are being described as “slightly healthier,” which might mean plenty of vegetables; right-sized portions; grilled, fresh ingredients; or lower in calories. The Sensual Nutrition process takes a dish and “romances” it by making it slightly healthier—while promoting the sensual characteristics—such as the sizzle of a grilled burger, now served with crisp sweet potato fries.

“People need to be seduced by wonderfully delicious, healthful foods, because typical low-calorie, low-fat, no-salt foods are not appealing. However, diets are in need of improvement, as shown by the state of American’s chronic disease due to being overweight,” explained Jim Painter, PhD, RD, adjunct professor at University of Texas, presenting on behalf of Sun Maid, in his Prepared Foods R&D Seminar presentation titled “Raisins: Formulating with Fats and Sweets.”

When romancing a menu, Painter suggested, “Focus on the ingredients, such as Pacific Salmon and a selection of farmer’s market vegetables. Tell a story, like: ‘we only buy the freshest ingredients from local suppliers.’  Or describe preparation, ‘thoughtfully prepared,’ or ‘pan roasted.’” When positioning, the words “nutrition” and “health” should be used cautiously, as should “light” menus or “lower calorie” sections. These can sometimes be the “kiss of death” to a menu, Painter added.

Good ingredients to use include ginger, garlic, turmeric, chocolate, soy, nuts, psyllium and raisins. Raisins come in many forms, for a variety of applications and convenience. Raisin pastes can be used for sweetening, adding fiber and other nutrients, preserving moisture and acting as a natural preservative.

Several studies have shown raisins’ positive effect on blood glucose levels and glycemic index. Raisins can be used to reduce sugar by up to half and also for fat and sodium reduction, in some cases. Spices help enhance flavor. Raisins can be used in sauces, salad dressings and glazes, providing flavor and viscosity.

Studies show that people stay fuller longer when eating raisins as compared to other common snacks, and people who eat raisins and other dried fruit are less likely to be overweight. Raisins may promote satiety by affecting hormones that regulate appetite.

“Raisins: Formulating with Fats and Sweets,” Jim Painter, PhD, RD, adjunct professor at University of Texas, presenting on behalf of Sun Maid, 217-549-3275, jimpainterphd@gmail.comwww.drjimpainter.com

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor


Making Vegetables Easier to Consume in Recommended Daily Quantities

The value of vegetables is their capacity to enhance intake of key nutrients. Vegetables contribute to the intake of shortfall nutrients, particularly in young adults, including vitamins, minerals and fiber. Strong associations exist between vegetable consumption and lowered risk of chronic diseases.

“While the true associations between vegetable and fruit consumption and chronic diseases have not been fully elucidated, vegetables and fruit are the only characteristic of the diet consistently identified across all health outcomes as being protective,” stated Helen Ann Dillon, vice president of sales and marketing, at Canadian Prairie Garden Pure Products. Dillon informed attendees of the benefits of vegetables and how to make them more palatable for the consumer in her R&D Seminar presentation, “Making Vegetables Easier to Consume in Recommended Daily Quantities.”

Consumers have a high interest in vegetables for their health potential and physiological benefits, such as more energy, and healthier skin and hair. Some 93% of moms surveyed in 2014 said vegetables and fruits are important to their family meals, while 76% felt eating vegetables is enjoyable; 63% believe their families are not eating enough vegetables.

“Vegetables fit into the four key trends driving today’s food industry: clean label, plant-based, free-from and ancient wisdom,” reported Dillon. To ensure their diet is healthy, people report eating more fruits and vegetables, fresh foods, fiber, fish, chicken and turkey, and organically grown or natural foods. They also say they eat fewer prepared and highly processed foods, bread, junk food and carbohydrates. A large percentage of people believe consuming vegetables and fruits may be beneficial for preventing overweight and obesity, heart disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

However actions are falling far short of intentions in all age groups, says the NHANES 2007-2010 from nationally representative samples using the 24-hour recall method. A significant drop in vegetable consumption among Americans was seen in the mean vegetable intakes from the 2001-2004 to the 2007-2010 NHANES.

“People have good intentions at time of purchase, but food waste is a multi-billion dollar problem! Indications of the magnitude of this waste come from a Canadian report showing a $31 billion dollar food waste problem in that country, with 47% coming from consumers at home,” added Dillon, and “a lot of that is in fresh produce.”

Consumers report challenges and barriers to consuming vegetables, such as family members having different likes and dislikes; short shelflives; needing new ideas for preparation; lack of variety in restaurants; high cost; time needed to prepare; poor quality available; unappetizing; and just being forgotten.

The food industry can help by addressing the need for convenience in the preparation of fresh vegetables to reduce kitchen time. Formats are needed for products that make vegetables easier for on-the-go consumption: Consider the smoothie craze and drinkable soups. Vegetables can be hidden in processed foods; classics can be re-invented using vegetables to reduce fat and sugar, meanwhile increasing vegetable consumption.

Vegetables also can be used as ingredients to create healthier treats, or “permissible indulgence.”

“Currently, 70% of vegetable occasions happen at dinner, leaving opportunity for breakfast and lunch ideas,” added Dillon.

Vegetables contribute color, texture, taste and versatility to foods. Whole fruit and vegetable products provide all the inherent nutrients, where juices often lack the fiber. Whole fruit and vegetable purees can provide many functions and benefits in product development, including color, sweetness, fiber and phytonutrients; and legumes contain approximately twice as much protein as grains. Legumes also help control blood sugar levels, control appetite, lower cholesterol levels and protect against colon cancer.

Applications where vegetables and legumes can play important roles include smoothies and other beverages, yogurt, baked goods, dips and spreads, soups and sauces, snacks and pasta dishes. 

“Making Vegetables Easier to Consume in Recommended Daily Quantities,” Helen Ann Dillon, MSc, RD, VP–Sales and Marketing, Canadian Prairie Garden Pure Products, 905-537-7711, hdillon@canadianprairiegarden.com

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor