Planning to start your baby on solid food this season? Think green: Research shows that babies who eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits before their first birthday are more likely to be veggie-lovers at age six. Here’s how to get more of summer’s best produce on your baby’s plate.
Salad for two
When it comes to trying new foods, science shows that little ones are more likely to eat up if they see you enjoying the food, too. So sit down for regular meals with your baby (another tactic that will help teach healthy mealtime routines) and serve yourself a big helping of greens. Soon enough, baby will follow suit.
Spice is nice
Many parents believe that baby food needs to be bland, but research shows that babies prefer the flavors of foods that they experienced in the womb via mom’s culinary tastes. In one study, babies preferred the taste of breastmilk after their mother had eaten garlic. So don’t salt baby’s food (babies don’t need excess sodium) but don’t shy away from garlic, onions, or aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg that you enjoy. You may discover that your baby loves curry as much as you do.
Sweeten the deal
New parents often hear that babies shouldn’t taste fruits before they learn to like veggies. Thankfully, that old wives’ tale is unproven. In fact, research shows that babies like vegetables more when they’re paired with something sweet. Bring on the pureed peaches!
Your baby’s expression of disgust at her first taste of strained peas makes a Facebook-worthy photo. But happily, it’s not a true indicator of her dislike for vegetables. One study shows that nearly all babies make some sort of funny face upon introduction to solid foods—95 percent squint and nearly half wrinkle their noses—but those adorably shocked expressions are fleeting. In the study, the babies who squinted ate more slowly, but after a little over a week of exposure to the new food, they learned to accept it. Interestingly, the funny expressions persisted throughout the week, even as the babies gradually ate more and more.
Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t gobble down her first serving of carrots. In the same study, parents offered their baby the same vegetable over a period of eight days and found that by day eight, the baby was consuming three times as much as on the first day.
Stay the course
Similarly, don’t be afraid of rejection—researchers recommend offering your baby a vegetable until he rejects it three times, by pushing the food away or turning his head. After a trio of rejections, put the food away and try again the next day. Soon, your little sprout will be asking for seconds.
Malia Jacobson is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three. Her latest book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades