Do you sometimes have not-so-great eating habits? Same thing here. One of my nicknames growing up was “Sugar Freak Seixas.” I still love sugar very much. Maybe too much. At least now I know that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies should be an occasional indulgence, not a full dinner.
Fact: Eating patterns are formed in the first few years of an individual’s life. False: Children will inevitably be addicted to sugar throughout adulthood. I turned to Smart Moms Organics Co-founders Alice Liang and Crystal Liu for more information on this topic. Founded in 2021, SmartMoms is a meal delivery service dedicated to creating a healthy relationship between kids and food. In the field of meal delivery, their dishes stand out among other brands. Think Korean short ribs with polenta, kiwi fruit cups, and apple chickpea mini cakes. Their packaging is also stunning, as the Delish team saw when Liang and Liu visited our kitchens. I spoke with Liang, who is also the chef at SmartMoms, to learn more about the brand’s ambitious mission and how to get kids to eat better.
Robert Seixas: Why did you start SmartMoms?
Alice Liang: We started SmartMoms Organics for a number of reasons. If you look at the market today, they are saturated with purees and a lot of added sugar. We aim to bridge the gap between ages 1-5. We focus on nutrition. Nutrients provide the building blocks that play a crucial role in the cognitive development of the brain. This is especially important at this age for developing memory, thinking and learning.
The (meal delivery) market offers limited options for children. Pizza and macaroni and cheese are widely accepted as the only items that kids want to eat. And that’s good sometimes. Some of our most popular items are salmon croquettes, eggplant souffle, oxtail mushroom crepes, and chicken chestnut soup. Children love these dishes. It’s just a matter of taste and exposure.
What are your professional backgrounds?
Crystal and I worked together in finance. With our busy work schedules and sudden business trips, important family time was taken up, and what little time was left was used to prepare food.
Mostly kids (including a big kid like me) like sweet things. How can you overcome that?
We don’t do that. Sweetness comes from whole foods. Natural sugar is found in fruits and vegetables. A cup of apples or beets contains about 12 grams of sugar. However, the sugar in apples or beets has a low glycemic index, so it doesn’t cause a sugar rush in the same way as added or artificial sugar.
You also get loads of fiber and the benefits of antioxidant phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. For example, we use bananas, sweet potatoes, apples, berries, and beets. A great approach is to reduce orange juice and use it as a syrup in our blueberry muffins, or use peaches and beets for flavor and moisture in our seasonal muffins.
Tell me about the global nature of your food? What influences around the world do you bring to the United States?
We are global citizens, and food is our global language. By exploring global food, we want to expose our children to a variety of ingredients and set our children up to thrive no matter what they are presented with on the plate. We offer a variety of products. Korean Short Ribs, Japanese Hamburgers, French Peas, Veggie Farfalle and Mini Pizzas are some of our most popular items and have a wide range of global influence. We are constantly evolving our menu and creating new dishes, influenced by our customers (the mini croissants were inspired by our parents), our staff, our travels and our experiences.
Why is there an assumption that children only eat a certain type of food?
In most parts of Asia and Europe, starting at an early age, children eat a smaller portion of the food of adults. In restaurants in France, for example, a smaller portion and fractional price are served. Daycare centers also serve foods similar to those found in a restaurant or at home.
Here is an example from a typical general daycare menu: olive bread, chicken with peas in artichoke heart sauce, soft cheese, and seasonal fruits. The school points out that “Mealtime is a particularly important moment in a child’s day. Our responsibility is to provide children with healthy, balanced meals; to develop their sense of taste; and to help children, complementing what they learn at home, to prepare good food choices without being influenced by trends, media and marketing.” Teaching them the relationship between eating habits and health“.
In contrast, in much of the Western world, children are given a completely different menu than adults. Pizza, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets are almost always served. Most people, when asked, will say that this is because children are picky eaters and that this type of menu is palatable to most people, but we seem to be leading children in this direction by giving them a separate menu.
Do you think kids who eat SmartMoms will become more accepting of other cultures and diversity?
When a child eats a wide variety of dishes influenced by multiple cultures and heritages, he or she realizes that there is a broader diversity than the culture of his or her home country. Their tastes are open and they deal with difference with curiosity, not hostility. Thus our food becomes a means of acceptance of other cultures and an open mind.
Robert Seixas is the Food Director at Delish. Previously, he was Director of Education at the International Culinary Center (French Culinary Institute), Senior Editor at Zagat, and initiated and managed food training programs in homeless shelters throughout New York City. He lives in the Hudson Valley and loves it, enjoying juice any time of the day.
(Tags for translation)SmartMoms Organics