A new Pan-European project is finding out how making vegetables tastier can improve health across the continent
Meet the expert..
Dr Heather Hartwell
Only one in ten children and less than a third of adults are eating the recommended ‘five a day’ of fruit and vegetables, according to the latest government figures. Their health is suffering as a result.
BU’s Dr Heather Hartwell is leading a cross-European project to encourage people to eat more vegetables and to enjoy them too. As food service operators can have a powerful influence here, the project is in collaboration with some high profile industry partners.
The VeggiEAT team are researching the characteristics people most like to taste in vegetables, including how factors like size, sweetness and texture make a difference to people’s enjoyment. Using this knowledge, the team will develop innovative new recipe ideas involving vegetables, such as sweetcorn mousse and cake made with peas.
VeggiEAT is due to be completed in September 2017, and it is hoped the project will eventually inform government policy across Europe and put the food service industry at the forefront of healthy eating interventions – while also giving consumers foods they’ll enjoy.
French company Bonduelle, which produces and sells processed vegetables, is providing samples of different peas and sweetcorn for tasting, to see whether characteristics like size, sweetness and texture make a difference to people’s enjoyment. The French training academy and research centre for the food and hospitality industries - the Institute Paul Bocuse - is also a partner.
Aalborg University in Denmark and the University of Florence are also collaborating in VeggiEAT, which is a Marie-Curie Industry and Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) project, funded by the European Commission.
To find out more visit: www.veggieat.eu.
Dr Hartwell is a registered nutritionist and a member of the Nutrition Society. She researches public health nutrition and is widely published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Science and British Food Journal, among others.
VeggiEAT is the latest in a series of Dr Hartwell’s impact-led projects, which have influenced nutrition and food provision in organisations such as hospitals and prisons.
“There’s been a lot of individual intervention such as the ‘five-a-day’ message. VeggiEAT is looking at vegetable consumption from the premise that we are all eating out more and so the food service industry needs to take more responsibility”, she said.
“These kinds of collaborations are a win-win situation really. Industry gets help with their research and development, and it’s really important that the work we do in universities is not isolated from how industry works. We can suggest solutions, but unless they are going to work in a real-life context, they are never going to be useful. That is one of the strengths of the VeggiEAT project.”
Dr Heather Hartwell, Registered nutritionist
Having the opportunity to help with the VeggiEAT Project was great as it gave me an insight into real life research. I helped with the data collection as part of the Festival of Learning which involved taste-testing of vegetables with school children and older adults.
This was an excellent chance to experience working as part of a team of international researchers as well as collecting data. Assisting with the data collection of the project has taught me skills which will be very valuable for the data collection of my PhD project.
Sarah Price, MSc Public Health
The Institut Paul Bocuse is pleased to be able to participate in such an ambitious project because it aims at improving health and pleasure of people eating out at restaurants and food outlets.
The research particularly targets teenagers, who often need to be encouraged to make healthy choices and learn to enjoy a variety of food such as vegetables; and the elderly, for whom a sensory variety could improve the pleasure of eating and so contribute to a better dietary balance. We are very happy to bring our skills and knowledge in culinary and consumer sciences to the VeggiEAT project, as well as our unique living lab, used to develop and pre-test recipes and food offer designs.
We are very grateful to Bournemouth University for the effort put into bringing several research and industrial teams together to cooperate and produce knowledge and actionable solutions across Europe.
Agnes Giboreau, Research Director at the Institute Paul Bocuse – a partner in VeggiEAT