How often do you eat vegetables for breakfast? Probably not that often. Berend Eberson (25) starts his day with cauliflower... pie-flavoured cauliflower. With his vegetable breakfasts, he hopes to encourage the rest of the Netherlands to get their day off to a healthy start.
Vegetable-based breakfasts... How did you come up with that?
“I’d been making cauliflower breakfasts that tasted like apple pie for a few years. At university, I was known as Berend, that guy with a glass jar full of cauliflower. More and more people started asking me for the recipe after they’d had a taste. Even my parents, who usually just stick to a cheese sandwich, loved it. That’s when I knew I had to do more with the recipe.
Why don’t we like eating vegetables in the morning?
“Nobody wants to gnaw on a head of broccoli in the morning. I may be a health freak, but there’s some things that even I wouldn’t do. That’s why I made a pie-flavoured vegetable breakfast. You want to associate it with pie, rather than vegetables.”
“I was known as Berend, that guy with a glass jar full of cauliflower.”
Why are you so interested in health?
“I was obese as a teenager. It was a very difficult time for me, with lots of highs and lows. Ultimately I managed to lose a lot of weight, but I know how hard it can be to live healthily. That process triggered my interest in health and is why I decided to study health sciences. During my studies, I had a job as a personal body coach, because I love helping people adopt a healthier lifestyle.”
How did you come with up Grünten?
“During my studies, I learned that 84% of Dutch people do not eat the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vegetables, because most people only eat vegetables for dinner. 250 grams of vegetables is quite a lot of food, and though you can cram it all into one meal, you’ll be left with an exceptionally high-vegetable meal. It’s definitely not your average Dutch meal, I can tell you that. Sometimes, people will have some soup or a salad for lunch, but it’s more of an exception than the rule. If you eat Grünten for breakfast, you’ll have had 50% of your RDA of vegetables, and it contains just as many calories as a cheese sandwich.”
“I know how hard it can be to live healthily.”
Did your studies help you when you were developing Grünten?
“Health sciences is a very broad field, but a minor I took in Wageningen stands out. It was called Nutrition & Health and dealt with nutrition and health-related behaviour. One of the key messages was that the ability to maintain healthy behaviour in the long term is very closely connected to how easy it is to do so. After my studies, I thought about working for the Municipal Health Service or as a policymaker for the government, but when I realised how slow that process would be, I decided to do something to make the Netherlands healthier myself.
People seem to love it. Why do you think that is?
"It tastes like pie, need I say more? When I was a coach, I learned that food should be healthy, but also easy and tasty. You might be able to last the first three of weeks of January drinking that difficult smoothie that takes half an hour to make, but you’ll quit soon after. You can eat Grünten straight from the packaging. Just stick your spoon in and off you go. Besides, the packaging isn’t made of plastic, but biodegradable PLA.”
“Food should be healthy, but also easy and tasty."
How is the company doing now?
“We now sell our products at Marqt and I’m talking to various supermarkets about introducing Grünten to to-go locations in the rest of the country. People who don’t live in the Randstad area send me e-mails every day to ask me when they’ll be able to get their hands on our products. In a few years’ time, I hope everyone in Europe will be eating Grünten.”
Can you still stand it?
“Absolutely. I used to eat the apple pie version almost every day. Now that there are three different flavours, I can vary between them. I’ve stopped making it myself though. I think I made it over 100 times to get the recipe perfect, so I’m pretty much over that. I just buy it in the shops now.”