The start of a new year brings all kinds of “new” things: new goals, new resolutions, new plans, new adventures and new trends. One of the newest trends for 2017 has the potential to affect those who work in the food service industry, including child nutrition professionals – the rise in popularity and consumption of purple foods. So, while 2016 was the “Year of Pulses”, 2017 is (unofficially) “The Year of Purple Foods” According to experts from the health food store Whole Foods, plates will likely be a lot more colorful this year, with purple foods in particular expected to “fly off the shelves.”

Cardiff Sports Nutrition adviser Matthew Plowman attributes this purple food fad to the rise of our nation becoming more health conscious. “This could be partly put down to social media which has helped to raise awareness of health bloggers, nutritionists and dieticians who are sharing insights into their health tips and inspiring us to make better food choices.” And parents, as well as child nutrition professionals, are hopping on that health conscious train – they want to make sure they’re feeding their kiddos the best, most nutritious food to help them grow up to be healthy and strong.

We’ve all heard of purple foods like plums, eggplants and even purple cabbage. But there are plenty of other purple options to load onto your plate, including purple cauliflower, black rice, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple yams, purple corn and cereal. This purple food trend is quite reminiscent of the Heinz Company “flop” of introducing purple ketchup to the masses in 2000. But, unlike the EZ Squirt Funky purple, these purple foods are not only a vibrant purple color, but also nutrient-dense and full of healthy antioxidants.

Antioxidants, like the ones found in these purple foods, have plenty of natural health benefits, according to Plowman. He notes that antioxidants “are known to fight disease, keep you looking younger, reduce inflammation, and are good for your heart.” What better way to celebrate National Heart Month than by feeding your body foods that are not only good for your heart, but also proven to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and low cholesterol?

There are a few ways to begin implementing these trendy purple foods into your child nutrition program. First, you can introduce these foods in a taste test. Discuss with your team which food will be best received by your students, while still fitting your nutritional guidelines. You could also send out a survey to see which foods your students would be most interested in trying. When you’re all ready to go, host the taste test in your cafeteria or in the classroom, then ask the students to vote on the foods and provide constructive feedback.

Another way you can celebrate the “Year of Purple Foods” is to do just that – celebrate! NationalDayCalendar.com is a free resource you can access to see which holidays to celebrate on any given day of the year. According to their website, not one but two “national holidays” that you can center around purple foods actually take place this month! February  17th marks National Cabbage Day, so feel free to celebrate this holiday by coming up with a fun menu item and market it to your students. Cabbage, we learn, has no fat or cholesterol, is low in sodium and carbs, and is a good source of Vitamin C!

Less than a week from National Cabbage Day is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. You can celebrate by offering purple yams to your students – they’ll love the color, and you’ll love the fact they’re eating a food that is an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Convinced your students won’t eat plain yams? Consider preparing them as sweet potato fries. And to make these purple food days even more festive, consider encouraging your line staff to wear something purple!

Have you introduced any purple foods – or any “strange” foods – into your lunch lines with great success in the past? Or do you have plans to test out this trend on your menus in the future? Please leave your comments below!

If you’re interested in finding out more about how PrimeroEdge can help manage your child nutrition program’s Menu Planning and Production efforts, please click on the links to schedule your demo and find out more.

About the Author:

Hi there! My name is Michael Grillo and I am a Marketing Specialist at PrimeroEdge. I love creating valuable content for school nutrition professionals across the nation and helping them serve their students in new and exciting ways.