Give Your Baby a Taste for Healthy FoodsKatlyn Joy |14, January 2015
How can we teach our children to love the taste of healthy foods, rather than becoming unhealthy eaters who are hooked on packaged cakes or cookies or salty chips?
How We Teach Baby to Taste
According to some research, our teaching of our children actually begins before birth. Researcher Julie Mennella, who studies infants tastes at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, has published her work in the journal Pediatrics. She did an experiment where a group of pregnant women were divided into three groups; the first drank carrot juice every day of their pregnancies; the second drank it daily during breastfeeding; the third group avoided carrots completely. After the babies were born and were put on solid foods, researchers fed the babies cereal either prepared with carrot juice or water, and were videotaped to record their reactions. The researchers found that babies whose mothers drank the carrot juice either during lactation or pregnancy ate more of the carrot containing cereal and made fewer negative faces while eating it than the group that wasn't exposed to carrot juice via mom.
Dr. Anca Safta, pediatric gastroenterologist, director of endoscopy and assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says, "There's a difference between hot spices, and the aromatic ones. Aromatic ones — such as cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, turmeric, ginger, coriander, dill and cumin — are perfectly fine to introduce to children, even in infancy after 6 months.
When introducing solid food, one should go ahead and try especially the aromatic foods. We live in a society where we think that baby foods have to be bland, but really you don't have to do that."
She states that regarding hot and spicy food, however, the heat isn't so much a flavor as a pain reaction and she is more cautious regarding introducing those types of foods to the youngest eaters, although she acknowledges this is a common practice in many parts of the world.
Vandana Sheth, RD, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers this advice, "First of all, it's absolutely a good idea to introduce spices to babies and young children. We want to try a wide variety of herbs of spices — not only are they adding flavor, they're also providing an antioxidant punch."
She added that it's a good idea to add such flavors as garlic, cinnamon, onion and vanilla to baby's diet. She states adding cinnamon to a baby's cereal will make it more appealing to the child.
According to Tina Ruggiero, MS, RD, and LD, as well as author of the book, "The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet," "If a parent only introduces whole, natural foods to their little one during this time, the child will grow to love and appreciate their flavors."
As she explains it, the first year is when a child has the palate trained. Exposing little ones to a variety of foods and flavors is essential, but it's also as important to focus on real foods, and to avoid processed foods as much as possible. If you don't, your child will develop a familiarity with the taste of processed foods and also develop a preference for this far less healthy choice.
Tips for Teaching Children to Have a Taste for Healthy Foods
- Remember your child will probably need to try a food several times before growing to like it.
- Offer only one new food at a time and choose a time when the child is hungry but not overtired.
- Pair new foods with old favorites to improve the chances of a successful eating experience.
- Be sure to model good eating habits. If you want your child to eat avocado, let them see you eating it.
- Make it fun by playing tasting games or presenting the foods in fun ways like cut into shapes.
- Let the child help you prepare the meals or snacks.
- Engage the child in the shopping experience, encouraging the child to pick out new foods to try from the produce aisle.
- Try to get sweet tastes in the diet through the most natural means, such as sweet fruits. Avoid processed and added sugars to keep baby from growing too fond of it.
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