Early kick-start helps kids like veggies

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 27th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s the eternal mantra of parents everywhere: Eat your vegetables! Convincing kids to enjoy broccoli and spinach is often the bane of family mealtimes, yet research shows that junior’s positive opinions of healthy fruits and veggies start with mom.

Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center studied the feeding behaviors of babies and their acceptance of fruits and vegetables. They tested infants between four and eight months of age, both breast-fed and formula-fed, to see whether early taste experiences shaped dietary preferences. Breast-fed babies took to novel fruits and vegetables more quickly if their mothers frequently ate those foods. Researchers, writing in the journal Pediatrics, say flavors from foods a mother regularly eats are transferred through breast milk, so her baby is accustomed to them when it’s time to start solid foods.

Babies also ate more veggies if they were offered them continuously, even if they were reluctant to try them at first. Most vegetables, especially the leafy varieties, are bitter to first-time tasters, and many babies display disapproving facial expressions when initially trying them. Scientists say this is a natural reaction, and parents shouldn’t get discouraged. Allow babies to continue trying new foods and eventually many learn to eat them willingly. Veggies really are an acquired taste.

Fruits and vegetables are important for everyone’s diet, as they provide nutrients and help ward off obesity and a host of other health problems. Now we know a mother’s healthy… and persistent… habits can jump-start junior on a lifetime of good eating.