Does eating lots of veges during pregnancy help your child acquire a taste for healthy foods? According to Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green, you can begin to shape a child’s palate even in the womb.
This USA Today article maintains that “babies actually have more taste buds before birth than at any other time of life. They can detect subtle flavors from their mothers’ diet through their amniotic fluid… One study showed that babies of women who drank carrot juice while pregnant were more likely than others to enjoy carrots when they were 6 months old.” (I assume they are referring to pureed carrots!)
While this is definitely something to keep in mind, I think the second part of the article is more important when in comes to training your kids to enjoy fruits and veges. We’re talking about what you feed your kids after they are born. Apparently, infants are surprisingly adventurous when it comes to trying new food, particularly from the age of 6 to 13 months. During this time, they can learn to like almost anything, but unfortunately few parents make the most of this crucial window.
The trick is not to give up after you’ve been refused once or twice. You may have to try offering the same food 6-10 times before baby will accept it.
One new study of kids under age 4 shows that nearly a third eat no vegetables a day. (I would be shocked at that figure if I didn’t have a 4 year old of my own.) Introducing new flavors and textures gets harder as kids grow (I know that’s true! Ican see a clear difference in my almost-2-year old’s eating habits and my aforementioned 4-year-old). After age 2 or 2½, when food preferences solidify, it could take 90 attempts to get a child to like something new– and who has the patience and perseverance for that!
So if you don’t want to end up with a bunch of picky eaters who prefer to fill up on fast foods instead of wholesome home-cooked meals, you need to act fast while there’s still time. Giving your little ones candy and potato chips may prevent him from appreciating the more subtle flavors in healthy foods.
Here are a few tips offered, to help induce your young children to eat fresh fruits, veges, and other nutritious foods:
- Prepare homemade baby food with a food grinder, which is far cheaper than buying jarred foods, and tastes more like the “real” food eaten by adults.
- Children are more willing to try something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. Tending a garden or helping in the kitchen may excite your kids enough to eat the foods they’re working with. (The only times I’ve seen my 4-year old voluntarily eating cherry tomatoes is when she’s picked them from our neighbor’s garden. I need to start planting!)
- Take children to a farmers markets, letting them hold lumpy sweet potatoes and smell ripe peaches. Getting to know their produce is the first step in becoming friends!
- Don’t use sweets and dessert as a prize, especially as a reward for finishing healthier foods.
- Dish out kid-sized portions, not intimidating mounds. For a 1-year-old, a single serving is just two to three broccoli florets or one skinny stalk of asparagus.
- Blend vegetables, such as pureed eggplant or peppers, into spaghetti sauce. Add shredded vegetables, apples or other fruit to meatloaf and meatballs. Sneak vegetables into soups, lasagna and even desserts, such as carrot cake, pumpkin bread or even spinach brownies.
- Avoid juice. Train your kids to drink water when they are thirsty.
- Keep junk food out of the house, or at least out of sight. Limit TV, with its endless commercials for junk food.
image from mychildhealth.net