Bright Horizons Takes Unique Approach to Influence Palate Preference

As any parent knows, getting kids to eat their vegetables—or to try new foods of any kind—can be difficult. But at Bright Horizons of San Clemente, Chef Delanya Young takes pride in meeting that challenge daily.

“Every recipe I serve to the children includes healthy ingredients,” she said. “I sneak vegetables in where they don’t always see them. I have a child who is a picky eater, and that was my inspiration when I started this position.”

Chef Delanya’s creations include dishes such as black bean burrito bowls, vegan jambalaya, butternut squash chili, or “scrambled eggs” that are made from tofu and nutritional yeast. She’s so good at what she does that she recently won a Bright Horizons healthy snack recipe contest, open to chefs from the more than 700 Bright Horizons childcare centers across the country.

Chef Delanya sitting with students eating healthy snacks.

The contest was created by Bright Horizons as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to foster positive attitudes about healthier eating among children. The competition asked chefs at the centers to create a better-for-you, no-bake snack the children could help make, which included whole grains and veggies, but limited processed ingredients or sodium.

Chef Delanya came up with a recipe for Carrot Cake Energy Bites that included ingredients such as dates, oats, carrots, nutmeg, ginger, and shredded coconut.

“A lot of the parents were very happy the children were eating dates, ginger, carrots and oats all in one bite,” she said. “It was very yummy and the kids loved it.”

Kelli Vanta, Director of Bright Horizons at San Clemente, said she was “super proud” of her chef, but not just for winning the contest. She noted that the 120 children in the center’s care include many who are allergic to nuts, eggs, or gluten. Chef Delanya, she said, cooks meals that meet these dietary requirements so that parents don’t have to send in substitutions, and every child feels included at meal time.

“Delanya’s dedication to healthy lifestyles goes beyond cooking for the kids,” she said. “She juices for the staff in the morning. She encourages all of us to live healthier lifestyles. And she leads by example, going running on her lunch break. She has a great reputation in our community. People are always going to her for advice on how to live and eat healthier.”

Another way Bright Horizons instills passion for healthier eating is by including the children in the entire farm-to-table process, said Vanta, who pointed out that the center at San Clemente grows its own produce.

“The children care for and pick the fruits, veggies and herbs that we use in their meals,” she said. “They get to see the process from the very beginning. They see how long it actually takes to grow the food. They have a big sense of pride and it sparks their curiosity. By the time we serve it in a meal, they are a lot more likely to taste what we’re preparing since they’ve been part of that process.”

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