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Government food scientist creates healthy snacks with hidden treasures

The government’s tender documents describe Dr Wood’s Hidden Treasures Healthy Biscuit snack as novel, non-allergenic (no gluten, dairy, egg, nuts, soy, lupin or sesame), vegan, baked, convenient and shelf stable – and “they taste great”.

Taste testing of 53 students found 96 per cent wanted the biscuit in their lunch box, and 78 per cent wanted it twice or more times per week.

It claims a 23 g biscuit contains a third of a serve of vegetables and legumes/beans – such as chick peas, lentils and beans – is low fat and low salt and would earn a Healthy Star Rating of 4.

Compared to some snacks on the market, such as Kellogg’s LCMs Golden Joys, which has 1.5 stars, a 23g Hidden Treasures’ biscuit has two thirds of the sugar, about a fifth of the salt and the fat, and about eight times as much fibre.

The tender documents also detailed a five star baby rusk with only three ingredients and a low fat 4.5 star cracker for adults as well as kids.

Unable to talk directly to the media during the tender process, the scientist has described herself as passionate about pulses (protein rich foods like lentils and chickpea), reducing food waste and the need for children to eat healthier snacks at school.

“Why can’t healthy be tasty?” she said in a presentation. “Our solution was to develop snacks that use pulses and ugly vegetables.”

Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said a shift towards healthier foods, including at sporting venues, and products like Hidden Treasures, was encouraging.

Hidden Treasures contains a daily intake of fruit and vegetables “cleverly hidden so your kids won’t know.”

Ms Martin said most heavily advertised school snacks – which parents are buying – are “frankenfoods”. They are “highly processed, high in sugar, high in fat, and it is not a healthy snack for a child at school and bad at teeth”.

She was also concerned about the proliferation of sweet and sticky food targeting parents of toddlers, often establishing a pattern of unhealthy snacking.