Proper nutrition during early childhood is critical for cognitive and physical development. However, getting kids to eat healthy foods– let alone eat during mealtimes– has always been a struggle. They would rather play than eat or complain that they have no appetite. To help parents cope with this dilemma, Ajinomoto Philippines Corporation shares how the science of umami can be used to entice children to eat more during their formative years.
“We understand how difficult mealtimes can be. Children during their development years are usually picky eaters but this is also the time where they need proper nutrition the most,” says Ajinomoto’s Science Communication Executive Deborah S. Fajarda, RND. “As parents spend more time at home, it is ideal to use this opportunity to properly monitor their kids’ eating habits. At Ajinomoto, we hope to empower parents in this pursuit by helping them understand childhood nutrition more.”
Nutrition for Early Childhood Development
Nutrition is one of the key factors that affect a child’s development during the early ages of 0 to 8 years old. During this period, optimal brain formation as well as ideal physical growth requires adequate nourishment. If children fail to consume necessary amounts of nutrients like protein, vitamin A, iron, and zinc, they may become vulnerable to illnesses and have delayed development that can be hard to correct in their later years.
The more kids eat a variety of foods, the more they are exposed to different nutrients. However, there are many instances when kids refuse to eat. Sometimes, it’s because they’re distracted by toys and every so often, they simply don’t find the dishes tasty enough to finish. Fortunately, the wonders of umami offer a way to make meals more appetizing for kids.
Did you know that umami is the first taste experience for most of us? This is because a mothers’ breast milk is rich in glutamate, making its taste not sweet, sour, bitter or salty but umami. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization up to 6 months and continued breastfeeding along with appropriate solid food up to 2 years and beyond. It’s no wonder that we are drawn to food with umami or delicious taste.
How umami science can help parents and kids
Umami is the fifth taste, joining sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is the one related to the food’s tastiness or deliciousness. When umami is sensed by the body, it triggers longer saliva secretion, enhancing the kid’s ability to taste and swallow food smoothly. Adding umami to dishes can help in boosting children’s appetite especially during their formative years.
To add the umami taste, parents can use MSG (monosodium glutamate) to achieve delicious meals that children will enjoy eating. MSG is simply glutamate, an amino acid, attached to a molecule of sodium, which has the ability to intensify and harmonize flavors that are already present in the dish, making the meal more palatable. For example, AJI-NO-MOTO® Umami Seasoning can help in bringing out the umami on different nutritious dishes like Vegetable French Toast, Stir Fried Tofu with Vegetables, and Chicken Broccoli Soup.
Aside from its taste benefits, MSG also has many nutritional merits. It promotes digestion as MSG stimulates the umami substance sensors in the digestive system. MSG which is often mistaken to be high in sodium, actually helps us to reduce the sodium level of our dishes by up to 40%, without affecting the palatability of the dish. In fact, MSG only has 1/3 the amount of sodium found in table salt. Table salt contains 39% sodium (39 grams of sodium per 100 grams of salt), while MSG only contains 12% sodium (12 grams sodium per 100 grams MSG).
“Understanding umami allows us in Ajinomoto to craft solutions towards improving the wellness of Filipino families, especially with regards to children’s development,” shares Fajarda. “We hope that through our efforts for nutrition innovation and education, we could help parents raise healthy and well-nourished kids at home”
Helping parents keep their family healthy through umami education and innovation is part of Ajinomoto’s “Eat Well, Live Well” commitment. Ajinomoto has dedicated itself to promoting smart ideas and creating innovative products that aim to improve the wellness of Filipino households.